The Shortest Journey & The Secret of Annexe 3

So, anyway I had the flu this weekend.  My town’s free flu shot clinic is October 19th and I guess waiting for that was not a good idea.  Lots of adults and kids out at work, so I guess I am lucky that I seemed to have had the worst of it over the weekend.  I read these two while I was sick and that may not have been the best idea.  I don’t think I enjoyed them as much as I should have because I just wasn’t concentrating. I got completely confused with the Colin Dexter, whose writing I usually love and I found Hazel Holt’s The Shortest Journey, somewhat depressing.  I just will chalk this up to the flu and the meds I was taking and not any fault with the books.

The Secret of Annexe 13 is an Inspector Morse mystery involving a private hotel hosting a special holiday event complete with masquerade party.  The guests were mainly staying in the new annexe, hence the title, and of course one of them winds up dead after the party.  The guests have various secrets, including infidelity and false identities, that leave Morse and Lewis, his sidekick, following trails and piecing together what really happened and who did it.  All tied up neatly in the end.

The Shortest Journey, other editions titled Mrs. Malory’s Shortest Journey, is by Hazel Holt.  I have just started reading the Mrs. Malory books and I really enjoy the character and her sleuthing style.  In this book, Mrs. Malory is visiting ladies in an old age retirement/care home.  One of them, Mrs. Rossiter, seems to be there more for the convenience of her daughter than for any particular need.   Mrs. Rossiter goes missing and causes a great deal of upheaval due to the contents of a family trust.  Sheila Mallory realizes that Mrs. Rossiter’s family is only concerned with the money and doesn’t really care about Mrs. Rossiter herself.  Sheila takes it upon herself to investigate and find out what has really happened.   I guessed the ending, however that didn’t really spoil the book for me at all.   I did find the subject matter a little depressing, senior women losing control of their own lives, being depressed at the end of life, and having no family or anyone that cares about them.

 

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See How They Run & The Deep End

I read these two, very different books on my Kindle when I couldn’t sleep the other night.  The first,  See How They Run by Tom  Bale concerns Harry and Alice, a young married couple , and their infant daughter Evie.  Harry and Alice are terrorized and their daughter’s life threatened by masked men in the night in their own house.  The men are looking for someone, Edward Renshaw, a man unknown to them.  At first, relieved the event is over and no real harm done, the couple assume they can put it all behind them.  But strange events and people who are not who they seem start popping up in their life.

Soon Alice is on the run with Evie and Harry is wanted for questioning in their disappearance.  An exciting thriller with twists and turns and double crosses to keep you turning the pages.  When you suspect everyone and everyone has an agenda, who can you trust?    I loved the sense that every story has two sides and you don’t really have a way to know who is telling the truth and who is lying.  Fast paced enjoyable read.

The Deep End was fun, quick, perhaps not quite cozy due to some of the subject matter, read.  It is essential to this story to get yourself in the 1970s mind-set.  Swinging singles, wife swapping “key” parties, and the country club life style all feature heavily into the story.  Ellison is a woman in an “open” marriage.  Open in the sense her husband sleeps around and they are just waiting for their child to grow up to divorce.   She is a successful artist and  he can’t quite handle it.

There is murder obviously, but also blackmail, sex clubs, jealousy, and fraud.  I grew up in the 70s and quite enjoyed the setting and the story line.  Ellison shows growth through the course of the book and becomes a protagonist you really want to root for by the end.

 

 

Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen

22930914  I received a free ebook of this title, Dying for Christmas, from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

Jessica is being held captive by a blue-eyed stranger for the 12 days of Christmas.  Each day he provides her with a present to unwrap usually connected to some horrific story of his past.  He embarks on some horrifying and some disgusting tortures for her and alternates between moments of seeming concern to deep cruelty with whiplash speed.

Jessica has secrets of her own.  What does she know that no one else does?  Her connection to her kidnapper and other characters we meet is revealed mainly in the second half of the book, a before and after effect.  It is difficult to say much  more about the plot or even some of the literary devices without giving away some key twists.  Jessica as a character is easy to feel sympathy for at the start of the story.  She is in the hands of a deranged man, her family doesn’t really seem to understand her, and neither does her live-in boyfriend.

The other principal character is Kim, the police woman looking for Jessica in the midst of her own domestic crisis.  She seems unable to learn the hard lesson that sometimes you really can’t have it all.  I found her a pretty unsympathetic character, but she was a good counterpoint to Jessica as the story unfolds.  Fans of The Silent Wife, Girl on the Train, etc.  will probably like this one.

 

3 Books – Just Finished…

Busy week with back to school and excruciatingly hot weather and un-air conditioned building, but I did finish these three

I picked up Black Dogs at a used book store and was happy to find an Ian McEwan  book there.  Obviously very well written although transparent in places, this is not my favorite of his, but it was still very good.  This is an outsider’s, if you consider a son-in-law as an outsider, view of a marriage enmeshed in philosophical differences.  Jeremy is Bernard and June’s son-in-law and he appears more concerned with and interested in them, particularly June, than their biological children. Jeremy has been searching for replacement parental figures ever since losing his at a young age.  He undertakes writing June’s memoirs in an effort to understand her and  what went wrong with her marriage.

The characterization of June and Bernard as idea driven people provided a great counterpoint to Jeremy as a relationship  driven person.  Jeremy had been through one of the most traumatic events that a young person can face, loss of parents and then chronic instability.  He then revisited this event on his sister’s child in an act of self-preservation.  June and Bernard had their illusions and ideas shattered and it seemed to impact them almost as severely.  It is interesting that I found it easy to feel sympathy for and root for Jeremy, but I really didn’t connect with Bernard and June.  Good short read, however I prefered On Chesil Beach to this.

I read the novella The Vanishing by Tim Krabbe at the insistence of my daughter.  She is a big novella fan, while I am not so much one.   This book has been made into a couple of movies, one American and I think the other was French.  It follows a young couple on a vacation in France.  They stop to refuel and when Saskia goes into the store she never comes out again.  She simply vanishes.  Rex becomes obsessed with discovering what fate has befallen Saskia.  For years Rex searches and posts notices up hoping for a clue, a witness, anything.  Rex’s hunt draws the attention of the one person who knows what happened to Saskia.  This book presents to me such a terrifying ordeal.  I have often said that it would be worse to lose someone by having them just disappear than to murder.  I can clearly see how the not knowing would drive anyone mad.  Well done and with really the only logical conclusion.

Original Sin by P.D. James is book 9 in the Adam Dalgliesh series.  This mystery involves an old-established publishing firm housed in a building more suitable for a museum called non-ironically Innocent House. The firm seems to be facing more than its fair share of death and mischievous pranks.  Are the deaths and the pranks connected?  Are the suicides really suicides?  Are the deaths even connected  to one another?  There is a complicated cast of characters each with their own desperate tales,  loss of a family during the war, unrequited love, desire to prove himself to a war hero father, fear of impending old age and decline into nothingness, and fear of loss of job, status, ability to meet one’s obligations.  Gerard Etienne is not the most likeable character, but it is his death that draws Dalgleish and his team into the affairs of Innocent House.  The publishing firm and the house itself given a well-defined sense of place rife with nostalgia, family and secrets.

A great mystery, with twists and turns, connections to the past to understand the present, and a tragic ending.  I can’t wait to read the next in the series!

 

Vigilante by Kerry Wilkinson

17181872  I received a free ebook copy of Vigilante by Kerry Wilkinson from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

This is the second book in the DS Jessica Daniel series.  Jessica has moved on from her friendship with Caroline after the events in the first book.  She has made new friends on the force and is trying to find her footing after solving her first murder case and being promoted to DS.  She gets pushed headlong into a new murder case that turns into multiple murders and smacks of vigilantism to the police force and the media.  The forensics turn up a seemingly impossible suspect for Jessica to investigate.  The victims have all committed crimes and more than one person thinks the killer should be thanked, but Jessica meets their families and wants to see justice done for them.

Jessica finds herself at odds with her old best friend, a tentative romantic interest, and her immediate supervisor.  Is she succumbing to paranoia from sleep deprivation and the stress of the case?  Or is she getting close to a killer on the inside?  The plot had some great twists and turns before racing to the finish.  Jessica is developing as a character and as a DS.  The relationships among the various team members and supervisors are well thought out and add to the tension and realistic feel.  Great suspenseful read!

Apple Tree Yard: A Novel by Louise Doughty

17452179  The book starts off with our narrator in the box being cross-examined for murder.  It then sets out to narrate what led to that moment in time in which a married scientist, wife and mother ends up on trial for murder.  A very compelling read built up around not particularly likeable characters.  There is infidelity, the one-off and the serial variety, a “bunny boiler”, a pornography addicted rapist and a character with some undisclosed mental health issues.  All these characters weave together to form a complex set of relationships and reactions.

The protagonist is a woman who is definitely hard to like. She is a scientist and a mother and seems to blame her mediocrity at science on motherhood and her mediocrity at motherhood on science.  Swimming in an ocean of denial about her husband, she meets a man who will change the course of her life.

This is the second Louise Doughty book I have read and both of them have been more along the lines of asking how and why, rather than who “dunnit”. Very well written, with an ease in transitions between time and place, that kept the story flowing.  A compelling and quick read that drives you to finish.

The Cruellest Month by Hazel Holt

1269179  The book opens with Sheila Mallory dropping her son, Michael, off at Oxford.  She is staying in Oxford herself visiting with a friend and doing research for her work at the Bodleian Library.  A death has occurred at the library and for Mrs. Mallory and her godson Tony, something does not seem right about calling it an accident.  Mrs. Mallory’s investigation takes her back to events that happened in the war, to her own Oxford days and her first love Rupert, and to present day motives and machinations.

What really shines through in this book is the sense of place and the obvious love for Oxford and the Bodleian Library.  The reader is transported there and seeing it all through Sheila Mallory’s eyes and her sense of nostalgia.  The whole feel of the book is that you  are immersed in this pristine academic setting that has been sullied by murder and the weight of secrets from long ago.  The sense of regret and lost youth permeates many of the characters, thus the reference in the title, The Cruellest Month.

Well written mystery, the denouement seems a little anti-climactic but still satisfying.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.