Work has been insanely busy but I have managed to get in some reading.
I am working my way through the Morse books by Colin Dexter and this, The Wench is Dead, is number 8 in the series. This was an excellent Morse book, focused on Morse’s declining health, due to his rampant abuses of his body. Morse is hospitalized and becomes fascinated with a 100 year old murder case and investigates from his hospital bed. Very much an homage to Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time in which her Inspector Grant is laid up in hospital and investigates Richard the III.
Morse is as always an unapologetic character with a keen mind and a talent for investigation. He would have been a gentleman detective type from an earlier age with his snobbery, penchant for opera and literary references. Long suffering sidekick Lewis appears here as frequent visitor to Morse, but the book is focused mainly on Morse himself. Really well done and engrossing read. I can see why it won the Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel.
I am beginning to feel in the holiday spirit already and so I picked up Quiet Murder from my local used bookstore purely based on the cover. It is part of a series which I have not read or even heard of before. The story is centered around the torture and murder of an old age pensioner, indeed most of the characters are old age pensioners from the same area of London. It is refreshing to read a book in which the aged are not just sitting by the fire or needing protection from the evils of the world.
There are lots of interesting elements here, references to war crimes, theft of Jewish assets during the war, fate of the elderly poor, and the interaction between Mavis and GDH Pringle. And I certainly didn’t solve the crime before the reveal. I just felt that it lacked some suspense or tension to keep the reader turning the pages. A quiet, cozy mystery with dark themes (torture, war crimes).
Poison Parsley by Anna Clarke was another impulse purchase. I like to find American cozies with themes I am interested in since you often tend to read as much about the theme as the mystery. This is about herbology and for the murder part, natural poisons. The parts about the plant life and the dangerous plants around us was really interesting and well done. I just found the relationships between the characters hard to take, Rosalind and her son Martin, Bernard and Jane, Jane and basically everyone else. Some of the characters were one-dimensional and it made it difficult to get involved in the story.
Deadly Lies is this month’s bargain book over at the Kindle English Mystery Book Club. There are times that the writing seems a little awkward or perhaps just doesn’t seem to flow naturally, however I felt the plotting was well done and the storyline was engaging and kept my interest. The writing of the main character, Anna Barham, was a particular strength of the book. The writer was brave enough to write a character who many people would find issue with and yet she did so unapologetically. There is no overused characterization here of a drug or alcohol dependency issue, rather Anna simply has abdicated responsibility in a way that some might find cold-hearted, in the pursuit of career success. I found this well done, maybe because I know people IRL in this situation.
I also found it interesting that the author has gone against the current trope of the autistic savant that seems to be prevalent in crime fiction and has instead given us a darker look at autism and the impact on a family. While I wouldn’t say this was on the level of a PD James or Colin Dexter, there is still enough here to make this a decent bargain read.