Posts Tagged ‘Judith Cutler’

Staging Death

I have read several books by Judith Cutler and have especially enjoyed her Fran Harman and Lina Townend series. This book is a standalone crime novel narrated by ‘resting’ actress Vena Burford who manages to keep her head above water financially by showing clients round upmarket houses for sale in the Warwickshire area for her brother’s estate agency and by carrying out interior decorating commissions.

When the same selection of houses are viewed by couples behaving unlike couples in search of a house Vena starts to wonder what is going on.  Then she thinks she is being followed and feels threatened by one of the couples she is accompanying on a viewing.

It seems little enough information to take to the police but when someone breaks into her car she decides she is going to have to do something about it.  Vena has definitely stumbled across something criminal.  The way the people behind the crime are finally tracked down makes interesting and exciting reading.

Vena herself is a strong woman with a nice line in humour and self-deprecation and I warmed to her immediately I started reading the book.  I can’t help feeling it is a pity there isn’t a series featuring Vena Burford.  This is an enjoyable read and it shows that crime novels can still be valid even if they do not include murder.

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Head Start (Jane Cowan)

I have read several other books by Judith Cutler and enjoyed them all, especially her Lina Townend  series and Fran Harman series so I was pleased to see she had started a new series.  Jane Cowan has had to change her name and move more than once to escape the clutches of her abusive ex-husband Simon.  Now he is in prison for a long stretch she feels she can start building a new life for herself as head teacher of a primary school in Kent.

But the governors seem antagonistic, some of the teachers seem to want to undermine her and she has no heating in her rented house next to the school because someone has stolen the heating oil.   In addition some of the pupils seem old beyond their years and their behaviour seems odd at the very least.  Then Jane herself is chased by the police and ends up in handcuffs for a while because the police suspect her of breaking into her own school after an anonymous call.

Can things possibly get worse?  Well yes, actually they can.  What follows is a fast paced story featuring a brave and resourceful woman with a sense of humour who is determined that her past won’t ruin her future.  I really enjoyed this book to the extent of nearly missing my stop on a train and letting a cup of coffee get cold because I just had to read on.  Jane Cowan is no one’s victim and she battles against the odds and against an unseen enemy to make something of the school and to make a life for herself.

As you can tell – I loved Jane herself and really enjoyed reading about the other characters and about the trials and tribulations – and the joys – of teaching.  The children, the staff and the parents really come alive in this well written novel.  I especially liked the fact that the characters weren’t easily separated into those for and those against Jane.  They varied according to the issues involved.  This made is difficult to spot the villains but it also made the book more realistic.  I am looking forward to reading more about Jane Cowan.

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Guilty as Sin: A Lina Townend Antiques Mystery (A Lina Townend Mystery)

Lina Townend interrupts an attempted theft from a country church and narrowly escapes injury herself though she does manage to take some photographs of the robbery in progress.  It soon becomes clear that the gang have it in for Lina especially when she is attacked while visiting another country church in her lunch break while running an antiques stall with her business partner, and adopted grandfather, Griff.  Griff is worried about an elderly friend of his who seems to be fading fast and who is not receiving the care she needs from her paid carers.

Lina soon gets involved in helping to make like more comfortable for Dodie and strikes up a friendship with the old lady.  But where are her family in all this and why do Dodie’s possessions keep disappearing?  This is in an exciting and well written addition to this interesting series which is something out of the ordinary in crime fiction.  Lina herself has a somewhat chequered past and is still battling with various psychological problems though her life is generally on a more even keel these days.  She is still keeping her reprobate father out of trouble and using her instinctive skills at spotting fakes in the antiques world and restoring valuable china.

I’ve read all the books in this series and in my opinion this is one of the best.  Both Lina and the reader have to make up their minds which are the trustworthy people who come into her life and what she needs to do to secure her own future.  There are plenty of clues and plenty of red herrings and for a change from most crime novels, there is no murder.  If you want something different in crime fiction with an interesting background, a well constructed plot and well drawn characters you could do worse than read this entertaining and well written series.  This story can be read as a standalone novel but it is probably best read as part of a series. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review

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Still Waters

Fran Harman and Mark Turner have problems both at home at work.  Mark has moved into Fran’s cottage allowing his daughter to move into his house temporarily with her two children while she sorts out her marital problems.  Mark is convinced there is something wrong with the water supply in Fran’s cottage and it seems other villagers agree.

ran and Mark need to sort out a firm to renovate and restore their newly purchased Georgian former rectory and Simon Gates – former protégé of Fran’s and now her boss – suggests a firm he knows. That’s all ignoring the crime side of things.  Fran is tasked with reviewing a case which is coming up for appeal and she soon finds that even though two men were found guilty of murdering the wife of one of them there was very little evidence.  She’s also curious about an apparent suicide.

Definitely more than enough for both Fran and Mark to be going on with and things can only get worse before they get better.  This is a fast paced and well written crime story with plenty of interweaving strands and themes and an interesting background.  I enjoyed reading it even though I read it completely out of the published order of the series.  This is number three in the series.  Clearly the books can be read out of order but I think they are best read in order of publication as this one leads straight into the next one which is ‘Burying the Past.’

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Cold Pursuit

Chief Superintendent Fran Harman is asked to put off her planned retirement when a colleague falls seriously ill.  There is a particularly unpleasant man going around assaulting school girls and there is also a rash of happy slapping cases which seem to be more than usually unpleasant for the victims.  Fran herself becomes involved in a happy slapping incident though fortunately she isn’t too seriously injured.  Then a young TV reporter asks for Fran’s help as she thinks she is being stalked.

I was hooked on this book from the very first page and read it in less than a day.  The plot with its intertwining strands, is very well constructed and the police characters are interesting and likeable.  I think the problem often with books featuring more senior female police officers is that the characters lack a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves.  These are not qualities which Fran Harman lacks and it makes her all the more endearing as a character.

I have read this interesting and absorbing series completely out of order because of the order in which the books have become available as e-books and can confirm that you don’t lose anything by reading them out of order.

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Guilt Trip (A Lina Townend Mystery)

Lina Townend’s business partner, Griff is missing his own partner, Aidan who is in New Zealand visiting his sister.  When someone from Griff’s acting career asks him to take on a role in the play she is acting in and directing, Lina sees it as a good way to cheer him up until Aidan returns. Lina’s own long distance relationship with DCI Morris who is now seconded to Interpol and working in Europe is feeling the strain of the their separation and now Griff is occupied with rehearsals she has fewer opportunities to pop over to Europe for weekends.

But there are problems in the air for the antiques trade with a new and dodgy shop opening up and stalls at fairs stocking badly restored items as unrestored and naturally Lina is curious to find out who is behind things and why someone keeps trying to force her into taking a job with him by fair means or foul.  This is a complex story with plenty of strands to the plot and to the personal lives of the series characters.

I found I was turning the pages faster and faster as the tension mounted in the last fifty pages of this entertaining and well written story.  As ever the background of the antiques trade is thoroughly researched and I found the book compulsive reading.  It is the fifth book in the series by can be read as a standalone novel as there is enough detail about the backstories of the characters.  I love Lina as a character and the way she battles her problematic childhood and upbringing and how she attempts to, and largely succeeds in living up to certain standards.

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Guilty Pleasures (A Lina Townend Mystery)

This is the third book in this entertaining series I’ve read and the fourth book in the series.  Lina Townend spots a couple of good things at a church fete held in aid of one of her friend Robin’s churches.  She decides that the little silver box she has bought may just be worth more than she thought it was when someone tries to steal it.  This is a running theme throughout the book with mysterious strangers trying to get their hands on the box which is actually a very old silver snuff box.

Then people keep saying they’ve seen Lina in places she knows she definitely wasn’t and she starts to wonder if she has a double somewhere and whether that double is related to her.  Lina ends up having more contact with the police than she really wants and she wonders whether she is going to escape from it all with her good reputation intact as someone – at least one person – seems to have it in for her.

I found this book entertaining reading and thought the background in antiques was very well done.  The plot is well constructed and the characters are believable and likeable.  The series characters grow and change through the books which makes them more realistic too.  If you like something a bit different in the crime genre then try this series.  The books can be read in any order.

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