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Before Lunch (VMC Book 2216)

Jack Middleton has agreed to his sister and her two stepchildren staying at the house next door to where he lives for the summer.  Jack himself is not an easy man to get on with if only because he never stops talking.

His sister Lilian talks a lot as well but she does listen to other people.  Her stepchildren, Denis and Daphne are soon fitting into the neighbourhood and becoming part of everyone’s lived.  The neighbourhood is indignant about proposed plans to build on a local beauty spot and vows to stop the owner in his tracks.

This is a delightful social comedy which made me laugh out loud at some of the descriptions and dialogue.  There are misunderstandings, star crossed lovers – both young and older – and plenty of snobbery and one-up-manship.

If you enjoy authors such as Nancy Mitford, Ivy Compton Burnett and Jane Austen then you will probably enjoy Angela Thirkell.  It is good to see these books available again.

The Leper Of Saint Giles (Chronicles Of Brother Cadfael Book 5)

A marriage is about to take place in Shrewsbury between a powerful lord and a young heiress in the care of her aunt and uncle.  Brother Cadfael watches the procession as the both bride and groom ride into the town with the bride and her entourage staying at the abbey.  He thinks the bride is not too keen on the marriage and wonders whether there is more behind it than meets the eye.  A leper is struck out of the way of the procession by the bridegroom though in the main the town is tolerant of the lepers at St Giles hospital.

When the bridegroom is found murdered a young squire of his is under suspicion but Cadfael doesn’t believe him guilty and sets out to find out the real murderer.  This is an entertaining mystery with some interesting sub plots and some well drawn characters and situations.  I like the historical background and can almost feel as though I am in twelfth century Shrewsbury while I am reading. This book has interesting information about the treatment of leprosy at that date.

If you enjoy historical crime stories then this series is a good one to try.  The books can be read in any order though some of the characters do reappear in other books.

The Mermaid's Feast (The Darina Lisle Mysteries Book 10)

This is the tenth and last book in this entertaining mystery series.  Darina Lisle is offered a free cruise round the Norwegian fiords in exchange for doing a cookery demonstration and advising the chef on Scandinavian dishes.  It seems like a good opportunity for Darina and her detective husband William to get away from it all for a fortnight.  But it turns out to be a bit of a busman’s holiday for William when a crew member disappears and it seems as though he could have thrown himself overboard.  Did he fall or was a he pushed?

Darina finds herself left to her own devices when William is asked to help with the investigation. She soon discovers that there are all sorts of tensions between the passengers and some of them have been on the same cruises before.  Can she discover what is going on before William?

This is a well written and interesting crime story with a particularly vicious murderer at the heart of it. I enjoyed the food background and the descriptions of Norwegian scenery as well as life on board a cruise ship.  If you enjoy crime stories without on the page violence and with interesting and informative backgrounds then this series is worth a try.  The books are best read in the order of publication.

Saint Peter's Fair (Chronicles Of Brother Cadfael Book 4)

The Abbey and town of Shrewsbury are looking forward to the annual St Peter’s Fair as a respite from the battles of the civil war.  Then a wealthy merchant – come to sell his goods at the fair – is found dead and it looks as though violence hasn’t gone from the town at all.  Brother Cadfael witnessed a violent incident which may have led to the murder but as ever things are not as they seem and it will take all Cadfael’s intelligence and ingenuity to discover the truth.

I like Cadfael and I always feel when reading these books that I have been transported back to the twelfth century – a period of history I know very little about.  I thought the plot was well constructed though I did work out who was at the back of the series of deaths though not why the murders were happening.

If you enjoy historical crime novels then this series is definitely worth reading.  I think the series can probably be read in any order though if you want to follow the development of minor series characters then you need to read them in order of publication.

The Anatomy of Murder

This is a collection of essays covering seven crimes – all baffling in some way or another – written by seven of the Golden Age of crime writers including Dorothy L Sayers. One case is from Australia, one from New Zealand and one from France and the rest from the UK. I was particularly interested in the Wallace case as I haven’t read much about it before and Dorothy L Sayers clearly went into it in some detail.

The Rattenbury case was totally unknown to me and while I didn’t particularly appreciate Francis Isles’ (Anthony Berkeley)  comments on the nature of women I am sure his views were very common at the time and more common than many of us like to think in the twenty first century. He draws parallels between the Rattenbury case and that of the better known Thompson and Bywaters case.

I was interested to read about the famous French case – that of the serial murderer Landru – about which I knew nothing but the name.  It was also good to read about Adelaide Bartlett and I shall definitely be reading more about this case.  Many readers today will be familiar with the case of Constance Kent because of the book The Suspicions of Mr Wicher.   Overall this is a well written collection of long essays on seven real life crimes which their authors make just as enthralling as their own crime fiction.

Product Details

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

Kyle Gammage – a teenage boy – finds the murdered body of a young woman in the woods.  Kyle works part time for Tony the vet and his brother Scooter works for Alex Duggins at the Black Dog.  As  a result of trying to protect the two young boys Alex and Tony and drawn into yet another murder investigation.

This is a well written and interesting crime novel and having read the previous three books in the series I’m getting to know the main characters.  I’m still not sure about Alex herself as she always seems a little flaky to me and she seems to worry about trivialities and about what might happen far more than a very good business woman would do in reality.  Mainly I forgive her her foibles because the plots are good and the other characters are interesting – Harriet and Mary who keep a bookshop/cake shop, Lily – Alex’s mother who runs the restaurant at the Black Dog and Hugh and the other pub staff.

If you’re looking for a new crime series set in a small rural community then you could do worse than read this one.  The series is best read in order of publication.

The Silk Stocking Murders: A Detective Story Club Classic Crime Novel (The Detective Club)

This is an extremely clever classic mystery featuring Roger Sheringham.  He receives a letter from a Dorset clergyman asking him to find out what has happened to his daughter who seems to have disappeared in London.  Roger’s interest is aroused and he soon discovers that the girl is already dead – apparently she committed suicide but Roger isn’t convinced.

When other girls seem to have followed the dead girl’s method in all its details even though not all the details were revealed to the public it becomes clear that there is a serial killer at work and Roger and his friends as well as Scotland Yard must work together to track down the killer before he strikes again.  I have to admit I was pretty sure I knew who the murderer was very early on but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story as it was interesting to see who the killer was tracked down.

I think the denouement is one of the most frightening things I’ve read for a long time.  My only criticism of the book is that there is no real psychological explanation for the killer’s actions which would of course have been present if the book had been first published today.  In spite of the absence of the psychology it is still worth reading for the plot and the way the tiny details all build up to make a case.