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

Tuesday 2 July 2024

May and June reading

 I was sure I'd posted last month! Then when I looked at the books I had read, I realised some of them were quite a while ago! Anyway, here they all are, many not with the covers I was expecting: 

Carmen Radtke, Ghost and the Haunted House: This had an extra twist on the previous books – a sense of threat towards the ghostly Adriana. There has always been a background hint of ‘solve the mystery of her death and she can rest in peace’, but now Genie and Adriana are such firm friends that that seems like an unhappy ending – and now there’s the extra threat of exorcism! I gather the next book is to be set in Scotland, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cecilia Peartree, An Unfortunate Return: Another Pitkirtly, hooray! This one involves roadworks and a mysterious disappearance in the Alps, Amaryllis’ heroic cat and a good deal of Pictish Brew. Excellent.

Anna Penrose, Death at Castle Wolf: A good, intriguing locked room mystery in a great setting, an island off the Cornish coast. Mal isn’t sure if her friend Jacques can be trusted and this adds to the spice of the plot.

Vaseem Khan, The Lost Man of Bombay: I see this changed its title! A tantalising mystery with links to wartime Dehra Dun but very current murders in Bombay, and Persis struggling with both her father and Archie in her private life.

Vaseem Khan, Death of a Lesser God: one of Khan’s gifts, apart from strong characters and a cracking plot, is the witty simile, like the one about the man’s wig looking like a dead beaver slapped across his skull. Persis gets a taste of Calcutta in this one as she tried to review the case of a man to be hanged for murder, under pressure from his unpopular English father.

Helena Marchmont, Bunberry, A Murderous Ride: I still feel that the hero is a bit of a mystery in these books. They are not first person but are written so much from his perspective that we don’t get to find out anything he doesn’t want us to, but his charming potterings as he searches the Cotswolds for killers while hinting at the griefs of his past are tremendously readable.

James Oswald, For Our Sins: Good to see Tony McLean back in at least partial action here, in a slightly less paranormal case than usual. It’s still a terrific read, with cameos from Madame Rose and Mrs. McCutcheon’s Cat, even if some of the churchy bits are a little garbled.

Jodi Taylor, The Nothing Girl: I’m a fan of Jodi’s St. Mary’s series, of course, but even more I like the Elizabeth Cage books, and this was rather more like them. Hilarious and unnerving in equal measure, this could have been written as a much less original domestic noir thriller, but instead there’s a hint of the supernatural (well, a large golden horse that only the heroine can see), and a lot of humour. I’ve started the next one already.

Jodi Taylor, The Something Girl: The Patagonian Attack Chickens feature in this book, where Jenny is again under threat and the beautiful (and hilarious) golden horse reappears to support her. I regret to say the end of this book had me laughing out loud and then crying – on a crowded train.

Barbara Pym, Some Tame Gazelle: This is a beautifully observed and witty book about two spinster sisters, one in love still with the awful archdeacon she met when they were students, the other obsessed with curates, and each rather embarrassed by the other.

Mick Herron, Dead Lions: The title made me think of the Lyle’s Golden Syrup logo, but this is the second episode in the now famous Slough House series. Spider Webb’s machinations to achieve greatness by building links with a man tipped to rule Russia are interwoven with a plot from the past in a way that will not spell happiness for all.

Veronica Heley, Murder of Innocence: The series turns serious with an assault on a young boy and Ellie’s efforts to bring his attacker to justice. This is set alongside the usual dreadful Diana, daunting Drusilla, and the other lovely characters we’ve grown to know – and hooray for Rose!

Mike Hollow, The Blitz Detective: Another one that has changed its name, this time with a reissue of the series, it seems. I was wary of reading this when I was actually writing a Second World War book, but London is sufficiently different from Aberdeen to make it not too dangerous, and the setting is a good one, well portrayed here. The body of the owner of a printworks is discovered just before it is destroyed by a bomb, and the investigation tries to uncover precisely what he was doing out that night. I enjoyed the book though I felt there was maybe one coincidence too many at the end.

M.J. Lee, The Coffin in the Wall: I liked the main character and the plot was fine. It could have done with another run-through for typos - a Kilner jar turns into a Kelvin jar at one point. I'd like to have known more about the actual coffin, though it was not important for the plot, I suppose. Apart from the main character and one minor character I found the cast rather thin, and ultimately then the murderer a bit unconvincing. Enjoyable, though.

Liz Wildwood, The Melin Murder: One of those books where you find yourself yelling at the heroine not to trust so and so, or not to go to such and such a place, but a very good read with a well-rounded lead character.

And yes, I've been working on sorting out my mailing list and writing a book of three novellas which will be free to those signing up (or re-signing up!). The first one existing members will have seen before, a Murray novella with a very young Hippolyta in it. The second is an episode in Orkney that sees Ketil and Sigrid in terrible danger, and the third is set in 1940 Aberdeen with the death of a shopkeeper whom nobody liked. Now that's all written (and the technology is almost lined up), I'm making a start on the second Cattanach novel, set in September 1940 ish. I hope it's as much fun to write as the last one was!

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