Death in the Holy Orders by P.D. James

3825  This is book 11 in the Dalgliesh series by P.D. James.  In this mystery, Dalgliesh is called to reopen a case that  concerns a small religious college that is known to him from his youth.  He is surprised to find the warden of the school still on the premises and he even gets his old room back for the duration of his stay. The case involves the death of a student that originally had been thought to  have been an accident, but was it suicide or murder? and why?  Someone thinks so.  Enough so they sent a letter to the young man’s family telling them to investigate.  The college is in danger of being closed and the death being investigated may be connected or not.

The story unravels at a steady pace. Dalgliesh investigates thoroughly uncovering clues and inconsistencies as he goes.   There are  interwoven plotlines about  expensive art, unknown family connections, religious artifacts, guests and staff with their own secrets and agendas, and power struggles within the church hierarchy. These all come together to make for a compelling mystery read.  Another great book in this series!

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After Rain by William Trevor

493323  This is my second William Trevor read and it is a collection of short stories.   This collection  shines with the quality of William Trevor’s wordsmithing.  His  writing was exquisite in this collection and I enjoyed every one of these gems, from the The Piano Tuner’s Wives, a story about a man’s second wife usurping the memory of the first to The Potato Dealer,  about a man paid to marry an unwed pregnant girl with unexpectedly melancholic consequences.  My favorite was probably A Day, a slice of life of a wife keeping her husband’s secret, even from him.

I would highly recommend this book, even if you are not normally a reader of short stories.   The stories feel like a window into  people’s lives, their hopes, dreams and fears.  There is a sense of authentic emotion in the writing.    William Trevor is definitely a master of his craft.

 

Detective Inspector Huss, Last Respects, and A Second Course in Homemaking

These are three of my library sale scores.

Detective Inspector Huss is the first in a Nordic Noir mystery series which I really expected to enjoy.  Unfortunately, I could not even finish it.  I generally enjoy  Nordic Noir. I picked it up and attempted it multiple times over a two-week period but just couldn’t. At first I thought perhaps it was the translation, I have encountered other books in which the translation has made for a bad read in English but after reading other reviews, I have found that this translator, Steven T. Murray, is excellent and not the cause of the issues.
1 – repetitive sentence structure, often short and choppy.
2 -confusing point of view switches at times
3 – lots of telling, little showing – as in, you find out how the investigation is progressing through the staff meetings where they discuss the investigation.
4- not much in the way of character building so there is little to care about in the characters
5- The writing has a very “freshman” feel to it – lots of adverbs

I almost never DNF but this is one that I could not justify spending any more time on. It is putting me behind on my reading challenge.

Last Respects by Catherine Aird on the other hand was excellent.  The mystery opens with the discover of a floating body by a local fisherman.  We soon discover that the mysterious corpse did not drown and so the hunt for the murderer is on.  Throughout the search, we meet a recently widowed local architect, his young niece whose fiance has just deserted her, DI Sloan, treasure hunters, and local boating men and fisherman.  The crime was well planned out and interesting.  The characters, especially Frank, Elizabeth and Horace are well drawn and engaging.  A quick engaging mystery read in a series that I look forward to reading more in.

A Second Course in Homemaking by Mabel Hyde Kittredge published in 1915 was a fascinating read for me.  I love to read vintage cooking and homemaking books.  There were chapters on preserving food, child care, cooking, laundry, cleaning, health, budgeting, and dealing with household refuse.  It is amazing to think that people were able to consistently cook and bake on ovens that they tested temperature by putting a piece of paper in the oven and  timing how long it took to burn.  It is also makes me wonder how many people today could do half of the modern-day comparable skills, even with the equipment now available, that these young girls were being taught to do.  I think the removal of home economics courses, including the budgeting portions, from curriculums has been a detriment to young people.

 

 

The Santa Klaus Murder

25571847  I’ve been on a bit of  a reading slump, mainly due to an ongoing battle with migraine headaches.  I seem to be getting a bit of a handle on  them now with some new medication so, fingers crossed :).  Anyway, this is the first read of 2017.  It was part of one of my Xmas presents, a set of 23 British Library Crime Classics gifted to me from my daughter.  The Santa Klaus Murder was  one of the Christmassy themed ones so I picked it to read first.  I’ve read one other mystery by Mavis Doriel May in this Crime Classic series.

This is a classic manor house mystery with an extended family and the staff brought together, an unexpected death, a plethora of suspects,  and of course the question of  an inheritance of substantial assets as part of the storyline.  What does the will say?  Is it the real will?  Is it what the victim intended?  Who knew about the contents of the will?  How was Santa Klaus involved?

The chapters have varying points of view but the narrators are clearly laid out in the chapter headings so there is no confusion regarding who is speaking at any given time (I really liked that).  The ending of the book  has a postscript which very neatly lays out why the culprit obviously had to be the guilty party and all the clues leading to his or her feet.

I enjoyed this book much more than the first book I read by Mavis Doriel May and now I look forward to reading more by her.