Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

3069345  I saw a tweet about Dorothy Whipple from @Persephonebooks and realized that I had never read anything by her.  I picked up Someone at a Distance to rectify that situation.

This plot seems at first straightforward, the story of  the breakdown of a marriage and its far-reaching impacts.  The strength lies in the authenticity of the voices.  This was such an immersive novel.  I was pulled into the lives of Ellen and Avery and their children and of course the manipulative and cunning Louise with her long-suffering parents.   The characters are so well written that they stand as real people and the world built in the novel flows seamlessly around the reader.  The character of Ellen stands out to me as similar to one of Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women” as she picks herself up and soldiers on with the business of family and life.  The line acknowledging  that hope is a dangerous thing was  particularly  perceptive. Themes of familial love, entitlement, forgiveness, and regret are all wrapped up in this extraordinarily well written novel.  Highly recommended read!

So far this week…


Three of these are by M.C. Beaton, two in the Hamish MacBeth series and one in the Agatha Raisin series.  The Hamish books were both short fun mysteries.  Hamish, as usual, attracting the attention of the ladies, usually ones he’s not interested in, as he strives to solve murders in the small quiet village of  Lochdubh.  Sometimes solving them in spite of the higher-ups in the police force rather than along with them.  The Death of a Travelling Man, refers to a travelling con man trying to gain the benefit of laws protecting Irish Travelers, bringing distrust and mayhem to the quiet village.  The web of chaos he weaves eventually results in a murder that Hamish must solve. In the midst of this Hamish is saddled with a junior officer, who billets with him at the police station bringing disruption to Hamish’s quiet, somewhat lazy life.

A dating agency for the wealthy and/or titled is the subject of Death of a Glutton.  The Glutton being a woman with appetites that are larger than life.  The dating agency hosts a gathering at the Hotel, bringing with it the victim and a whole host of suspects. A new recurring character is introduced at the end of this book, sure to bring some aggravation to Hamish’s life.

There goes the Bride sees our indomitable Agatha attending James’ , her ex-husband’s wedding.  As usual, where Agatha goes, murder usually follows.  Between the bride’s family, the villagers, and the guests, there are a host of suspects and clues to muddy the waters.  Toni, Charles, and Roy Silver are all along for the ride.  The ending sees Agatha looking to make some big changes!  Fun mystery read in a great series.

I ordered Web of Belonging, after watching the ITV movie based on the book titled, Belonging.  A slice of life and the story of the end of a marriage, the feelings here are deep and authentic.  What happens to a family when the one marriage that is holding it all together destructs?  Jess is the glue of the family, the mother, the caretaker of her husband Jacob and the “oldies”, a group of Jacob’s elderly relatives who all live with her and Jacob and need varying amounts of care.  One day Jacob simply doesn’t come home.  A little heavy-handed with religion for me, but otherwise a very good picture of aging and the impact of care taking on a person and a marriage.

The Rules of Magic is a book club read and the prequel to Practical Magic.  I have never read Practical Magic, but I’ve enjoyed the movie a few times.  The Rules of Magic occurs in the same universe and builds up the background of the family and their magical inheritance.  Very well done magical realism and storytelling about the Owens family siblings, Franny, Jet and Vincent.  In many places a sad tale, with  messages about family, loyalty, being true to who you are, and especially love.  I enjoyed it and might pick up Practical Magic to continue.


Kissing Christmas Goodbye, A Spoonful of Poison, & Ditched 4 Murder

I am continuing to work my way through the Agatha Raisin books that I was missing.  Kissing Christmas Goodbye and A Spoonful of Poison both see Agatha tackling cases though her detective agency with the assistance of her employees.  There is an additional staff member, Toni,  who adds a great deal of interest.  I believe that she reminds Agatha of herself in her youth.

In Kissing Christmas Goodbye, Agatha is hired by a woman who believes she is about to be murdered.  When her client does die, there are plenty of suspects and motives to sift through in this manor house type mystery.  A Spoonful of Poison sees Agatha working for a village fete, which ends in murder.  Agatha feels obligated to investigate as she is being blamed.  Lots of twists and turns and suspects to choose from here.  Both were fun, cozy reads in a wonderful series.

Ditched 4 Murder is the second in the Sophie Kimball Mystery series.  Sophie is a bookkeeper for a private investigation firm.  She moved to Arizona to be closer to her mother and family, as well as for the job.  A body turns up near to her mother’s house, when everything is already in an uproar due to her aunt’s wedding.  Soon there is another body and Sophie finds herself, and her aunt’s fiancée embroiled in the mystery.  Lots of the humor fell flat for me and I wasn’t crazy about the portrayal of the older relatives.  This was an okay cozy mystery.

Death of a Hussy & Death of a Prankster

Much like the Agatha Raisin series, I’ve read quite a few of these but not in any particular order and  it was quite a long time ago.  I’m going back now and trying to fill in some gaps.

Death of a Hussy follows a young cancer survivor taken in by her not so benevolent aunt, the so-called Hussy of the title.  The aunt is older now but had quite a colorful past which she intends to tell the world about in a no hold barred memoir.  Hamish must sort through all the suspects and try to find a motive for the murder while fending off the unwanted attentions of the lonely, somewhat desperate Alison.  I found Hamish to be somewhat more standoffish in this book than I remembered him from earlier reads, but I enjoyed this quick cozy mystery.

Death of a Prankster takes place on a country estate, where a group of people gather to try to ensure their place in the will of bullying prankster of a relative.  This is a take on the classic manor house mystery, with everyone a suspect and few iron clad alibis.  Hamish must sort through the suspects and their backgrounds to solve the murder.  A quite humorous reveal scene at the end of the book.  Another very quick cozy read in an excellent series.

Original Skin by David Mark

16158497This is book 2 in the Aector McAvoy series.  Aector gets permission to look into a death with an open verdict.  What he finds leads to a twisting, turning case involving very important people of the political variety and secret (or not so secret) sex clubs.  Aector juggles this case along with an outbreak of violence due to a drug turf war in Hull under the supervision of Trish Pharoah, his boss in the Serious and Organized Crime Unit.  Themes of bigotry, power, love and family are all explored here.

The depiction of the relationship between Aector and his wife, Roisin is particularly well done and is such a strong and moving relationship.  They truly are a couple united against all the forces that want to see them apart.  I am really enjoying this series and looking forward to reading more.

3 Agatha Raisins and Dying Light


I have been trying to fill in gaps in M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin .  These three were actually all in a row and represent the time in the series in which Agatha opens her own detective agency.  This introduces some new recurring characters in the form of Patrick and Harry, who help at her agency, while keeping the mainstays of Mrs. Bloxby, Sir Charles Fraith, and James.

Agatha’s agency goes through the gamut of cases from lost dogs and cats, missing teenagers, divorce work (which Agatha really doesn’t like still stinging from her divorce) and of course the odd murder or three.  James really shows his true colors through the course of these three and Mrs. Bloxby comes into her own, more than she had in earlier books.  Really enjoyable mystery reads, with great characters and intriguing story lines.

Dying Light is book 2 in Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series.  There is a so much going on in the form of characters, connections, twists, turns and red herrings, so you really need to pay attention.  McRae has been transferred to a screw up squad based on the outcomes of book 1 and has a new boss, DI Steel, who I found thoroughly unlikable.  The case begins with a prostitute beaten to death and that is only the beginning.  The bodies stack up at an alarming rate leaving McRae to try to make connections to get ahead of the killer(s).  Just a FYI to readers, there is “on-screen” torture and the murder of children, very much a brutal book, but a good read.

Death Takes a Priority

24611752  I am feeling back in a cozy-ish mood and picked up this one when I was out at Barnes and Noble.  I love the idea of the theme, the postmistress in a small town.  I have a small town near me that had a town post office and it was the hub of the town.  There was quite a protest when it was moved outside and people could no longer stop by there on their walk through town.  Needless to say I was eager to read about this.

So, I liked the theme and the main character, I read other reviews and some people didn’t seem to find her likable, but I didn’t have a problem with that.  The mystery was well paced with some red herrings to keep you guessing about  who the killer actually is.  Those were the positives for me.  On the other hand, I found some aspects of it too unbelievable.  Cozies can often stretch your ability to suspend your disbelief, but some of this went beyond my ability.  Still there is enough here to like to say that I would read another.

The Unquiet Dead

22545465  I have no idea why I ordered this from the library, I have no memory of doing so and the book rings no bells. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway I am glad that I did because it was a very good mystery read and a very meaty story overall.  A man is killed who may or may not have been who he seemed.  Esa Khattak who works for a community policing organization to deal with culturally sensitive cases is assigned and he brings along his partner, Detective Rachel Getty.  The death is bound up in history, specifically war crimes arising from the murder, rape and torture of Muslims in the Srebrenica massacre.  I am admittedly not entirely clear on the history of the region and other than knowing of the attempted genocide I don’t really know much else.

The historical details are woven in elegantly, it is not heavy-handed at all.  There is no “brain dump” of facts to bring the reader up to speed, instead there are flashbacks to the events at the time.  There are side plots involving the “victim” and his fiancée and her two daughters and Detective Getty and her dysfunctional family.  Really a fascinating read, I did feel that one part of Esa’s story was a little far-fetched, however I see that it was needed to bring about healing with him and his former best friend.

Overall a very well written mystery with an unfamiliar (to me) context and fascinating characters.  Highly recommended!

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

278557  This is number 14 in the delightful Agatha Raisin series.  I am continuing to fill in books that I missed from the series.  In this outing, Agatha and her new neighbor Paul, begin by investigating a house haunting. After putting aside the case as hoax, they end up finding themselves with a murder to investigate instead.  I am more and more charmed by Agatha as this series progresses.  Her vulnerability and desire to be liked is so human and relatable.  The scenes where she dithers about getting ready to go out feel particularly real.  Her new neighbor (and love interest) is as usual undeserving of Agatha and their interactions are humorous and engaging.  Lovely cozy read in a great series.

More Summer Reading…


Getting ready for Season 2 of Agatha Raisin on AcornTV, I am filling in some gaps that I have in the series.  I originally read many of these out-of-order which I regret, as Agatha’s personal life is a continuing storyline from one book to the next.  Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate picks up with Agatha in a rather low place due to the end of her marriage with James. She has a new neighbor, who enthusiastically joins in as Agatha’s sleuthing partner when the new curate is murdered and the Vicar is suspected of killing him out of jealousy.  Great story, great characters and wonderful village setting with all the attendant residents to fill in the cast.

The Pick, The Spade and The Crow was this month’s read at the Kindle English  Mystery Club on Goodreads.  This follows the story of SI Joanne Stuart new to the Behavioral Sciences Unit of a National Crime investigation agency.  Jo is caught up in an investigation that has far-reaching implications and links to numerous missing men over a period of years.  The Masons (not the stoneworkers) organization  is explored as  a part of the case. The first part of the book was slow and somewhat heavy-handed with all the introductions to the team members.  The book did pick up steam in the second half and it ended well.  The character of Jo was a strength of the book, as was the plot line.  I was unclear as the “team” because they really didn’t seem to function as one.  There is good here and it definitely improved as the book went on.

Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George is book 7 in the Lynley series.  This is a series that gets better as it moves along.  This book had great characterizations and managed to make even unlikable characters sympathetic.  There were no winners here as the twisting and turning events came to a rather sad conclusion, much like one would expect in real life.  I would caution readers that there are discussions of animal cruelty, which I find difficult to read and they are central to one character’s storyline.  Overall, a really good read in a series that continues to improve, with more complex plots and in-depth character development.

I’ve had A Fatal Twist of Lemon on my Kindle for quite some time and hadn’t read it.  I think I just wondered if it would be too much like Laura Child’s series, which I’ve read quite a few of and really enjoyed.  I finally started it the other night and read it straight through.  It is a delightful cozy mystery. with a strong female lead in Ellen, the proprietor of the Wisteria Tea Room.  There is also a great love interest, Detective Tony Aragon, who has a couple of chips the size of boulders on his shoulder.  I enjoyed the interactions between them.  I ended up finishing this book and immediately ordering the second in the series,  A Sprig of Blossomed Thorn, right away which was equally as engaging and fun to read.   The series does address some sensitive topics in terms of bigotry and relationship between the non-hispanic and hispanic residents of Sante Fe.  Well done, I will be reading more in this series.