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A True and Faithful Brother: A Frances Doughty Mystery (The Frances Doughty Mysteries)

Frances Doughty made a decision not to  get involved in any more murder cases.  She has more than enough work to keep her going without having her life taken over by investigating a death.  But she is tempted when Mr Fiske – a former client – asks her to find out what has happened to a missing philanthropist who vanished from a locked room in full view of other men.  The missing man is the father-in-law of the man Frances believes to be her natural father.

Will this case shed some light on her own family background?  Should she stay away from it because of this?  Frances is soon crossing swords with the unhelpful Inspector Payne and wishes it was her friend, Inspector Sharrock dealing with the case.  I enjoyed this well written historical crime novel.  As ever it is meticulously researched.  I like the various series characters – especially the redoubtable Sarah, her friend and assistant.

This is a low key story – though not without its moments of suspense – and it is all the better for not being sensationalised.  It shows how difficult life could be for women trying to make a living in the 1880s but it also shows how intelligent women could make their way in the world.

A Death in the Family (Mrs. Malory Mysteries series Book 17)

Sheila Malory receives a warning that boring cousin Bernard is doing the rounds of the family and wants to come and see her.  He is researching the family tree in incredible depth and annoying and boring everyone by turns.  Sheila finds she is quite sorry for his downtrodden wife, Janet, and when Bernard is found dead in suspicious circumstances her curiosity is aroused.

Could Bernard have discovered something in his researches which others might have wanted kept hidden?  When Janet hands Sheila all her late husband’s research she starts to go through it to try and discover what might have led to someone wanting Bernard dead.

I found this an interesting and gentle read though it does show how potentially dangerous family history research can be.  I like Sheila as a character as she isn’t perfect and doesn’t do everything right all the time.  I also like the background of everyday life where characters still have to do everyday chores and keep the rest of their lives of running as well as solving mysteries.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Book 3

I think this is the most exciting book in the series so far.  Harry Potter runs away from Privet Drive because he can’t stand any more and comes in contact with the large purple night bus – which rescues stranded wizards and witches.  Fortunately there are plenty of people looking out for him and he ends up  staying at The Leaky Cauldron until it is time to return to Hogwarts for the autumn term.

The whole school year is dominated by the incredible escape of Sirius Black from Azkeban and the school must be protected from him by the terrible Dementors.  Hogwarts has a new teacher of defence against the dark arts – Professor Lupin.  Hermione spends the year studying far more subjects than anyone else and Harry wants to go and look for Sirius because he believes he betrayed the whereabouts of his parent to Voldemort.

An exciting year, with some strange creatures and plenty of dangerous Quidditch matches where Harry risks life and limb for his house.  I loved the ending of this book and found I was totally absorbed in it so that I was completely unware of my surroundings.  I’m looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley: Agatha Raisin, Book 4

Agatha Raisin has returned to Carsely after six months in London working for the PR agency which bought out her own business.  She is glad to be back but she wants something to take an interest in and to take her mind off the handsome James Lacey – her next door neighbour.  Then she hears of a murder in nearby Dembley.  A member of a rambling group which is determined to open neglected rights of way is found dead.

Agatha persuades James to help her investigate the case undercover as they join the rambling group.  It soon becomes clear that several members of the rambling group have motives for wishing Jessica dead and some of the landowners seem more than willing to commit murder to preserve their privacy.

I enjoyed listening to this audio edition which is read by Penelope Keith.  I read the book several years ago and it is just as good the second time round.  I think my only criticism of it is that there seem rather too many characters for a book of this length and I found it a little difficult to keep the characters clear in my mind. A minor criticism only as this is definitely a nice light crime mystery to read, or listen to, if you don’t want anything too taxing.  This is the fourth book in the series.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Dursleys are just as obnoxious as they always have been when Harry Potter returns to Privet Drive for the summer holidays he soon wishes himself back at Hogwarts.  He is forbidden, as an under age wizard to practice magic while away from school so he can’t even make things easier by using magic.  Then when it’s time to return to Hogwarts something seems to want to stop him going back to school.  Fortunately Mr Weasley’s flying car comes to the rescue.

That is only the start of what proves to be a very adventurous year at the school.  I love the magic which goes wrong and the way the main characters – Hermione, Harry and Ron don’t always get on though when the chips are down they will always back each other up.  Professor Snape is an obnoxious as always and Dumbledore is, of course, the ideal headmaster.

I like the ghosts and the way they behave – especially Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle.  This is a school story with a difference, a fight to the death between good and evil and a marvellous adventure.  Whatever genre you usually read you are likely to find something to enjoy in this epic story.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

What can I say about Harry Potter which hasn’t already been said many times over?  There isn’t really anything to say.  I enjoyed re-reading this first book having read it several years ago when the first three books had been published and Pottermania was first really getting into the news. I read the next four as they were published.

It is the original story of good versus evil played out between the children and adults in and around Hogwarts.  It is classic adventure with a spice of magic and ghosts and things which go bump in the night.  Designed to appeal to anyone who has an appreciation of adventure stories and is willing to suspend their disbelief in magic and the supernatural.

The characters of course are rapidly becoming classics – Harry himself, who is very much a human child with faults as well as virtues; his friends Ron and Hermione; the teachers headed by Professor Dumbledore and the arch villain Voldemort not to speak of Hagrid with his strange beasts.

The book brilliantly combines adventure, magic and the traditional boarding school story and appeals to readers of all generations – the sign of a good story well told.

While I’m not a huge Stephen Fry fan I enjoyed listening to the audio book edition of this first book in the series and have rapidly moved on to the second and third books.

Seekers Guide To Harry Potter

I originally read the Harry Potter books as they were published and thoroughly enjoyed them and as I enjoy books about books I thought I’d try this one.  It is a truly fascinating look at the alchemical symbolism which lies behind the series.  It also looks at other symbolism in the stories and goes some way towards explaining the huge popularity of the books.  Oddly enough I don’t normally enjoy books in the fantasy genre but this series has something more in it than the usual sword and sorcery elements of many fantasy series.

This book looks at the archetypal characters which populate Hogwarts and the wizarding world and shows how the good and evil are pitted against each other in a battle to the death.  It explains how the books give good examples of how to deal with problems in real life and how with knowledge comes both power and responsibility.  Harry doesn’t always get it right and must suffer punishment for his mistakes.  Many characters aren’t just good or evil but a mixture of the two.

I found this book totally fascinating and it has prompted me to re-read – or rather listen to – the Harry Potter books again with a new understanding of the symbolism behind them and the way they tap into our culture and the unconscious.