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First of the Grantchester Mysteries series, about a Church of England vicar who solves mysteries in collaboration with one of the local police detectives. The first book is a set of six short stories, each a standalone about an individual case, but with an overall arc running through them. I bought it because I'd seen and enjoyed a couple of episodes of the tv adaptation. This doesn't always mean I'll like a book, but in this case I'm very glad I bought it. It's an excellent period cosy mystery, written by someone who knows the minutiae of Anglican clerical life. The ebook for this one is often low price as a hook for the series, and well worth getting.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo
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Mystery novel which I can remember very little about save that I enjoyed it and would happily read more of the series. It's not the book's fault I can't remember the details, as I was somewhat jet-lagged at the time of reading.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo
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Five murdered poker players from different eras are brought back from the dead for one last tournament. The prize is life itself.

The book opens with Wild Bill Hickok finding himself pulled from the grave, his bones clothing themselves with flesh and the flesh with clothes. The reader follows along with Bill as he tries to work out what's going on and why he feels an urge to go to Atlantic City, although the reader has an advantage over him in being able to recognise the present day and just how much time has passed. Another four men from different time periods have the same experience, although one is so recently dead that he is able to convince friends and family that he'd been kidnapped and held incommunicado for several years. As they gradually assemble, they discover that they have been revived for the greatest poker tournament in history - between the greatest players, no matter when they lived.

The result is an atmospheric blend of ghost story and mystery, with some superb world-building going into the strange casino that has revived the men. The characters are well developed, and it's a joy to watch their interaction, and their different reactions to the present day. Those reactions are driven in part by their different reasons for wanting the prize; not just a new life in a recreated body, but what they want to do with that life. A chance at love, a chance at revenge, fascination with this new world they find themselves in... Even for the four losers, their short time walking the earth again allows them to do at least a little of what was left undone.

A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.


direct from Book View Cafe, with excerpts available
Amazon UK
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Amazon Canada
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Regency romance anthology with linked novelettes by four authors, set in a small village one Christmas. The Duke's Arms of the title is the village pub, but there is a real duke as well, plus an earl or two. I've left it too late to write a proper review of this one, alas, but Azteclady's written a good review. I don't agree with her ratings on each story, but that's a reflection of the variety in the stories - if you like historical romances, there's a good chance at least one of these novelettes will work for you.

Amazon UK
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Kobo
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Chicklit mystery set in Los Angeles. Maddie Springer is a young fashion designer who tries to track down her lawyer boyfriend when he goes missing, and finds herself in the middle of embezzlement and murder. I nearly stopped reading on the first page, wherein Maddie describes her behaviour on the freeway when she's late for a meeting with her boyfriend. Almost causing an accident by cutting into lanes and doing her make-up in the mirror at high speed was presumably supposed to make her look adorably ditzy, but I simply found it loathsome. I did keep reading, but it coloured my view of the character for the rest of the book.

It's an odd one for me. The mystery plot was enjoyable if predictable, and there were things I liked a lot, with some good supporting characters; but it was hard work getting to the end and if it had been a paper edition I would have probably been high-speed skim-reading. No more than a two star for me and I'm not inclined to try anything else by this author, even if I can see why other people were bowled over by it.

Kobo
Amazon UK
Amazon US
ARe
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Onward with the book log... Again pretty skimpy, but check out (30) because it's good and it's in the BVC 50% off sale until 6th Jan.

26) Ian Rankin -- The Flood
Picked this one up, and put it down again within a few pages -- not because I thought it was poorly written, but because I discovered that I really wasn't in the mood to read this style of story. I'll probably give it another go at some point.

27) Agatha Christie -- A Pocket Full of Rye
Re-read of Miss Marple novel, previously reviewed here: http://www.librarything.com/work/29788/reviews/71474847

28) James Blish - Jack of Eagles
"Oh, look, SFGateway is republishing books I haven't read in years!" It has some issues seen through 21st century eyes, but is still a worthwhile exploration of psi powers.
http://www.librarything.com/work/199007
http://www.sfgateway.com/books/j/jack-of-eagles/

29) Francis Durbridge -- Tim Fraser Again (audiobook)
Another case for engineer turned secret agent Tim Frazer, definitely of its time but a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Unabridged on 2 CDs and read by Anthony Head. There are some good detailed reviews on Amazon UK. It's available on Amazon US, but might actually be cheaper to order from the UK at the moment.

30) Chris Dolley -- Reggiecide

(Note: I received a free review copy of this through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.) An entertaining steampunk pastiche of Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories. It's one of a series of shortish stories about gentleman private detective and silly ass Reggie Worcester, his automaton valet Reeves, and his fiancee Emmeline, In this one, the chaps have to investigate the disappearance of Guy Fawkes, who has been revived as a Promethean by one of his descendants. Alas, Fawkes has but one thought left in his head... I found that it worked well even though I hadn't read the earlier stories. Good fun if you like speculative fiction and Wodehouse.

It's also in the BVC sale - 50% off until 6 January... http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/reggiecide/

31) Margery Allingham -- Police at the funeral (audiobook)
Re-listen of an Albert Campion abridged audiobook.

32) Nisi Shawl (Editor) -- Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars
Limited edition fundraiser anthology from Book View Cafe, which is superb and deserves a proper review when I've re-read it. No longer available, alas.
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20) Alexander McCall -- In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Sixth in the series about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The usual collection of small and large puzzles for the ladies to solve, and two new characters for the series. Mma Ramotswe knocks a gentleman off his bike, and thereby gains a new staff member for the joint premises of the detective agency and the garage. Mma Makutsi joins a dance class and thus acquires a new friend. As ever with this series, gentle humour and believable domestic mysteries make this a pleasure to read.
http://www.librarything.com/work/20047

21) Sayers -- The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (audiobook)
Superb BBC full cast dramatisation, with Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter. If you're a Sayers fan, this radio dramatisation is well worth getting.
http://www.librarything.com/work/10709447
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

22) Georgette Heyer -- Venetia
One of Heyer's Regencies. There are several excellent reviews on LibraryThing, so I will merely say that I adored it.
http://www.librarything.com/work/16552/

23) Gladys Mitchell -- The Twenty-third man
Another outing for the inestimable Mrs Bradley, this time on holiday to the Canary Islands, and a cave with a somewhat erratic number of mummies of ancient Kings. As usual for this series, enjoyable murder mystery with a fair bit of macabre humour.
http://www.librarything.com/work/1246526

24) Mark Coker -- Secrets to ebook publishing
The head of self-publishing company SmashWords offers some useful advice on self-publishing via ebooks. While it's slanted to using SmashWords, it's wider-ranging than that. It's free to download, and the contents are useful and well-written. Available from SmashWords, obviously, but also on Amazon and presumably other platforms.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/145431

25) Edward Marston -- The Merry Devils
Second in Marston's mystery series set in an Elizabethan theatre troupe. Enjoyable read.
http://www.librarything.com/work/425601
julesjones: (Default)
14) Oscar Wilde -- The Picture of Dorian Grey
Lots of reviews and critiques out there already, so I'll simply say that I liked it.

15) Gladys Mitchell -- Watson's Choice

28th Mrs Bradley mystery. Mrs Bradley is invited to a weekend country house party thrown to celebrate the Sherlock Holmes anniversary. Naturally, someone provides a real life mystery, complete with a real live Hound of the Baskervilles. The plot wanders a bit, but it's still a lot of fun if you're a Holmes fan. I suspect that it will be less fun if you're not, as the book is stuffed with Holmes references and jokes.

http://www.librarything.com/work/439987
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

16) Mary Stewart -- Stormy Petrel

Romantic suspense set on a remote Scottish Island. the story's fairly simple, and the appeal is in watching the interplay of the characters, and the evocative descriptions of the island and its way of life. It has mixed reviews, and I can see why; but I liked it a lot.

http://www.librarything.com/work/96426
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

17) EM Forster -- Where Angels Fear To Tread

There are plenty of other reviews, so I will only note that I liked part of the novel, but it didn't quite gel for me even though I like this sort of social satire. I don't regret the time spent reading it but am not inclined to re-read. It's out of copyright in some countries, and thus available on public domain sites.

http://www.librarything.com/work/20427

18) Agatha Christie -- Death on the Nile (audiobook)

Abridged audiobook on 3 CDs, read by David Timson. Heiress steals friend's fiancee, friend starts blatantly stalking, even unto the honeymoon cruise on the Nile. Heiress is found murdered, and as the husband points out, the ex-friend has an obvious motive. The one problem is that she couldn't possibly have done it. Nor could any of the other people the heiress has provided with motives. The abridged audiobook has been well edited for the plot, but does by necessity skimp on the character development and social observation. There's also an unabridged audio edition, read by David Suchet, which I've not yet listened to.

http://www.librarything.com/work/29995
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

19) T Baggins -- Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay)

Contemporary m/m romance, and yes, the title's riffing off That Book. What it isn't is a rip-off of That Book. It's a thoughtful and well-written look at men coming to terms with their sexuality, seen through the eyes of a young actor who takes on male escort work to pay for his sister's chemotherapy, even though he's straight. The blurb for the book tells you all you need to know about the plot, and there's little point in rehashing it. It's a plot that has the potential to be very cliched, but Baggins shows what a skilled writer can do with the concept, and the book is a joy to read.

It's an m/m romance, so of course the POV character isn't straight after all. But this isn't a gay-for-you story. There's a solidly laid foundation for a character who is in deep denial about his bisexuality, and has good reason to be that way. It's Andrew's story, so we see his character grow and change the most; but there are also good portrayals of men who aren't in denial to themselves, but are closeted to their family and have different ways of coping with that. Perhaps it edges over into fairytale territory with how quickly Andrew comes to accept having gay sex without accepting that he's bi, but the story's good enough to carry it.

Be warned that it has the potential to be triggery for readers who've had to deal with cancer. Baggins doesn't dwell on the reality of living with cancer in a loved one, but doesn't gloss over it either -- the one that got me was the comment about neighbours who insist on showing their neighbourliness by just popping in to see how you are even though they're not well themselves, and infectious. But with that one caveat, thoroughly recommended.

http://www.librarything.com/work/13260408
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US
julesjones: (Default)
Second of the long-running Mrs Bradley mystery series, and the first I've read. I bought a set of nine of the novels recently re-published by Vintage (Random House) because I adored the BBC adaptation starring Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon. Unsurprisingly, the books differ significantly from the tv series, but are equally enjoyable. And I think the tv adaptation is faithful to the tone of the novels; even if Diana Rigg is far too elegant and glamorous to be the physical Mrs Bradley of the books, she's got the personality right.

Mrs Bradley is elderly, wealthy, eccentric, and a talented and experienced psychologist who uses her skills to solve crimes. As other reviewers have noted, there's a distinct resemblance to what you'd get if you turned Miss Marple into a wealthy woman who has married and divorced three times, and divorced at least one of those husbands for being boring. The ones I've read so far are enormous fun.

The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop is fairly gruesome, in that the body of one Rupert Sethleigh is found neatly butchered and laid out as cuts of meat in the local butcher's shop. Sethleigh will not be missed by Wandle Parva, and there is a large and varied selection of people with motives to do away with him. Adding to the fun and games, many of those people have reason to protect each other, and their attempts to do so only confuse the issues. General silliness ensues as Mrs Bradley disentangles methods, motives and opportunity, frequently by deliberately poking the suspects to see what they will do.

LibraryThing entry
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(No, I have not missed a book -- got my numbering wrong last month, with two numbered 69, and have now corrected.)

Abridged on 2 CDs and read by Anthony Head. This has a slightly complicated pedigree -- it's the abridged audiobook of one of a series of novels about amateur sleuth and crime novelist Paul Temple, which themselves are novelisations of a long-running series of radio plays. The book was published in 1971, but the radio play was first broadcast in 1948-9, and the book has a strong period feel. Great fun.

http://www.librarything.com/work/4616336
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20th in the Inspector Wexford series. A man lies awake worrying about his daughter who's out late. She's often out late, but that doesn't stop him worrying, and this time he's right. When he goes out at first light to look for her, what he finds is her murdered body.

Wexford's worrying about his own daughter, who has announced that she's going to be a surrogate mother for her ex-husband and his new partner. The murder of a teenage single mother is a little too close to home for him. And that's before there is a second murder of a young woman. The murders are clearly linked, but how?

The plot's good, but I didn't enjoy this book as much as I have some of the earlier Wexfords. A major part of this is that Wexford's sidekick is such a cardboard stereotype of a humourless politically correct social justice activist who can't see her own prejudices that I felt I was being lectured. I nearly abandoned the book because I found it so irritating. I don't regret sticking with it, but it's not one I'm inclined to re-read.

http://www.librarything.com/work/45471
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First of what is apparently a trilogy of thrillers about Tim Frazer, engineer turned secret service agent. As the book opens, Frazer is dealing with the aftermath of his erstwhile partner in their small engineering firm having treated the company funds as his own. Harry Denston has disappeared as the firm is liquidated, but Frazer receives a message telling him to meet Denston at a remote fishing village, as Denston has got onto a new source of income.

Frazer might not believe the story about money, but he wants to find Denston -- both to kick his backside and reassure himself that his former partner is all right. But when he arrives, there's no sign of Harry. What he does find is an interesting selection of odd happenings, and a temporary job offer from a rather secretive office in Whitehall.

Competently written and entertaining; while there's nothing out of the ordinary here, it's an enjoyable bit of escapism.

http://www.librarything.com/work/1728993/
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Abridged on 3 CDs and read by Philip Franks. Albert Campion makes the casual acquaintance of an American judge on board a trans-Atlantic liner, by waffling his way into saving the judge from an unfortunate accident. It's only the latest of a string of attempts on the judge's life, and Campion is recruited to help the judge in his quest to stay alive long enough to identify the mastermind behind a ruthless and effective criminal gang. Campion parks Judge Lobbett at a country house, but even that isn't sufficiently remote to keep the judge safe.

It's an entertaining enough listen, but the who is so clearly telegraphed that I thought it was a red herring. At the same time, the how is obscured to the point of being irritating. It's really more of a suspense novel than a mystery. Nevertheless, there are some nice set pieces in this novel, and the final confrontation between Campion and the villain is very atmospheric.

http://www.librarything.com/work/113274
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Danny Roke has made a success out of running a stud farm in Australia. He's devoted to the stud, because he's devoted to the younger siblings he's raised since their parents died, and the stud brings money and stability. What it doesn't bring is a sense that this is what he wants the rest of his life to be. When the Earl of October arrives one day and offers him enough money to keep the stud running without him, he's intrigued enough to take the job offered -- going undercover as a stablehand to investigate a suspected racehorse doping racket in English racing.

Danny knows going in that the job could be dangerous. Fatal, even. But he finds enough to convince him that there *is* a racket, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it, if only to prove to himself that he can do the job.

It's a wonderful piece of writing, with solid characterisation and a well-plotted mystery. Highly enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

http://www.librarything.com/work/42762
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Abridged on three CDs, and read by Nigel Anthony. A famous Poirot story, but one I'd never read before. Beautifully pulled off, although I suspect it suffers a little from the abridgement. Even with the abridgement issues, I loved this. And that's all I'm going to say about it.

http://www.librarything.com/work/3011
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Three of Christie's short stories, adapted into half hour radio plays and updated to a modern (at the time of broadcast in 2002) setting. I found this volume rather disappointing, and thought that the adaptation of "Philomel Cottage" was very poor. I wasn't familiar with the stories, and wasn't sure what was supposed to have happened at the end of Philomel Cottage. Having looked up the story online, I found that my impression of what happened was quite different to the original text story. Having re-listened to the last few minutes, in case I'd simply misunderstood -- no, it still gave the impression of the ending having been re-written.

Magnolia Blossom has been updated, but I think has not been greatly changed, going by the plot summaries I've found online.

Swan Song has been significantly re-written, but in a way that preserves the basic point of the plot. I suspect that the modernisation is going to annoy a lot of readers, but for me it worked well.

In hindsight, I'd have probably enjoyed this CD set more if Philomel Cottage had been last rather than first of the three plays. It annoyed me so much that it rather put me off the other two. I'm in two minds as to whether the set would have worked better for someone who was already familiar with the stories - I think I would have got on better with Philomel Cottage had I already known the story, but that the alterations to Swan Song might have been irritating. Overall, I don't really regret spending the time to listen to this set, but I'm glad I only paid remainder price for it. and am disinclined to listen to it again.

http://www.librarything.com/work/8332809/
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May's books under the cut -- mostly brief notes, plus a short review of the Radio 4 dramatisation of "Whose Body?".

Read more... )
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Fifth installment of the series about Inspector Singh of the Singapore police, forever being shipped off elsewhere to get him out of his superiors' hair. This time he's on compulsory sick leave, and thus can't claim pressure of work to avoid being dragged by Mrs Singh to a family wedding in India. But the Singhs arrive only to find that the bride-to-be has disappeared. The last thing her immediate family want is the police involved, because of the social stigma -- the obvious motive for the young woman's disappearance is to avoid an arranged marriage. For the family patriarch, worried about his granddaughter's welfare as well as her reputation, an investigation by a family member who just happens to be a member of another country's police force is a much more appealing prospect.

Then a corpse turns up, and the local police are involved whether the family likes it or not. But Singh keeps digging, and finds a tangle of motives that he's not willing to ignore.

Once again Flint has blended a police procedural with a sensitive look at the ramifications of a real life tragedy. This book is deeply rooted in Sikh culture, and that includes the ongoing after-effects of the 1984 riots and massacre in India. But the latter does not overwhelm the book -- it is only one strand in a complex story about a complex society. A particular feature of the book is that it is quite openly an outsider's view of India, complete with an outsider's prejudices and reactions -- but the outsider here is not a white European, but a member of the Indian diaspora of Singapore. Singh finds India at once both alien and familiar, and this colours his reaction to the things he encounters during his investigation.

Singh is a joy of a character to read about, and Flint has created yet another fascinating twist to her series hook of a police inspector who frequently ends up investigating murder well outside his official jurisdiction. The Singaporean Sikh is a marvellous addition to the ranks of maverick detectives in mystery fiction, and I'm very much hoping that there will be a sixth book in the series.


http://www.librarything.com/work/11236931
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Abridged on three CDs, and read by Jenny Funnell. This is a standalone mystery without any of Christie's regular characters. It features a pair of bright young things who become suspicious about the circumstances of an accident and decide to investigate. Naturally, they don't take their suspicions to the police, and in various other ways prove themselves too stupid to live, including walking into really obvious traps. None of which actually matters, because it's very amusing watching them being too stupid to live. Christie very gently sends up her characters while keeping them sympathetic. The dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, but I had a lot of fun picking my way through the red herrings. Not her best work, but still an enjoyable way to pass three hours.

http://www.librarything.com/work/3137/
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Audiobook of the second Dalziel and Pascoe, abridged on 3 CDs and read by Warren Clarke, who played Dalziel in the late 90s tv adaptation. I've previously reviewed the novel itself here. This is a good abridgement, and Clarke is an excellent reader, but of necessity it does leave out some of the character development. An enjoyable version but probably better for those already familiar with the book.


http://www.librarything.com/work/2010902

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