The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey & Evan Help Us by Rhys Bowen

This is the second book in the wonderful Constable Evans Mystery series by Rhys Bowen.  I picked this book up from the library having read and enjoyed the first one.  Constable Evans is a happy village policeman surrounded by an interesting array of characters, among them Evans the Meat, Evans the Post, tourists, competing love interests, and of course a murderer.  The mystery begins when an amateur archaeologist stumbles upon what might be the tomb of King Arthur and then has his head bashed in on his way home from the pub.  The mystery leads the reader all through the little Welsh village and then some leads go all the way to London.

The book invokes a well established sense of place.  I love the Welsh mountain village setting.  The characters are well developed and engaging.  I will definitely read more in this series.

I have never read any Josephine Tey books, but having recently heard of her I decided to read The Daughter of Time, which is supposed to be one of her best or most well known books.  The Daughter of Time opens with Inspector Alan Grant being injured and laid up in the hospital.  He is not a happy patient and Marta, who knows of the Inspector’s fascination with faces, provides him with stacks of images to entertain himself.  One of them was the image of RIchard III.  The changeable nature of the portrait captures Grant’s imagination.

Inspector Grant takes up an investigation to discover whether or not Richard III was really guilty of murdering the young princes.  From his hospital bed, Grant conducts his entire investigation.  A fascinating look at history and how it is recorded, particularly when the victor is doing the recording.

This book is number 5 in the series and I have not read any of the others, but it is very able to be a stand alone book. I liked Inspector Grant as a character, even though I suppose in this book he was not entirely himself, since he spent the whole time in his hospital bed and I loved the historical mystery.

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The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere

Picked this up from the library and read it last night.  I recently read another Irish based mystery, Buried in a Bog, and really liked that book, so this appealed to me.  First the good, the book has a, strong female protagonist and interesting writing style, such as using chapters of varying lengths and different points of view (some are only a page long).  The bad is ..well, bad.  The protagonist is 27 or is that 30? Depends upon which section of the book you are reading (not really a bad error over all), the combination of languages the translator speaks is almost completely impossible to believe, especially coming from a relatively small American town where she would not have had the opportunity to be be immersed in them, we are talking about Scandinavian languages, Greek, Hungarian, some Russian, French, Portuguese, Gaelic and so on.    I could understand a large group of Romance languages, but not this combination.  And if by chance she is some unique human language savant, why would she be working hit or miss contract work and struggling for money?

Next, up some of the geography in Ireland, as in the distances is off.  The pay for Maureen Devlin is off for the time period  and some other little anachronisms as well.  The biggest problem with the plot is the back story for the protagonist, Torrey Tunet.  I don’t want to tell the whole thing, but it drives much of the plot in the current story, so the fact that it is far fetched is an issue.

As many problems as there are, the main character is strong and charming, very individualistic, it does leave me wondering if things improve in later books.

Insomnia Mystery Reading Fest

I  Really couldn’t sleep last night and so I finished a stack of mysteries due back at the library anyway.  The first was Murder in House by Veronica Heley.  I am reading this out of order, having read the rest of the series a while ago, my library just didn’t have this one and now they do. 🙂 I love the character of Ellie Quick; she is complex, likable, intelligent and brave, all packaged in the body of a middle aged woman.  Initially, when I began this series I thought of it as a cozy but I would say that it definitely progressed to more of a soft-boiled and this book in particular certainly has dark themes and events.  The plot was complex but what really drives Veronica Heley’s books are the characters. They have complicated, messy relationships, just like real life. The prime example is Ellie and her daughter Diana, which was prominent in this book.  Because the series is so character driven, I would strongly recommend reading it in order (even though I didn’t), as relationships change and develop over time.  If you enjoy cozies with a darker feel or soft boiled mysteries, this is a great series, driven by a great protagonist.

Moving on to the next book, The Burglar in the Rye.  from the wonderful mystery writer,Lawrence Block.  This is another series I read as I came across the books in the library, not necessarily in order.   I have really enjoyed this series and when I came across this one in the library, I didn’t remember the title so I picked it up, but after reading a couple pages I realized that I had indeed read it before.  Disappointing, I thought I had a new Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery to enjoy.  Anyone who has not tried this series definitely should, Bernie is a funny, irreverent protagonist and the cast of recurring characters only adds to the fun.  A quote from the book illustrates Bernie’s thought patterns:  “But old habits die hard, and I’ve never been able to look at something of great value without trying to  figure a way to rescue it from its rightful owner.”

Bernie is a burglar, but with a good sense of right and wrong and loyalty to friends, that makes him a lovable rascal type of character.  He also happens to own a bookshop, so people who like to read books about other bibliophiles have that to look forward to in this series.  His best friend and drinking companion is a lesbian, who owns a pet grooming business.  All in all eclectic, well drawn characters and excellent mysteries with humor drive this wonderful series.

Moving on to M.C. Beaton’s, Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came.  Agatha finds herself bereft when James  and Charles both abandon her,but she acquires a new “partner in crime” in the form of a new neighbor to help with the sleuthing.  This book focused on Agatha working with her new neighbor to solve a murder.  There are red herrings to follow and Agatha gets chastised by…just about everyone for her antics in crime solving.  The mystery  is well done and solved very satisfactorily.  Agatha’s personal life is still a shambles, very much in Agatha Raisin fashion.  I’ve begun to give up hope that she will ever find stability with a partner she loves, but I will keep reading to see if she does.  Charming, cozy mystery series that includes elements of comfortable village life and a more worldly view.  Agatha is really an incomparable character.  She brings much of her grief upon herself, at the same time you can’t help but feel for her as she fumbles through life.  Anyone who has offended someone unintentionally or had their life upset repeatedly can certainly relate to her.  In the end, she is intelligent and well meaning and certainly a capable sleuth.

Mrs. Pargeter’s Point of Honour by Simon Brett

 

Just finished another in the Mrs. Pargeter’s series, the sixth and final book to my knowledge.  In this outing, Mrs. Pargeter is trying to do a favor for the widow of one of her deceased husband’s friends…return all the artwork he had “acquired” during his career to the rightful owners.  We follow Mrs. Pargeter and her loyal band of ex-associates of her husband, Hedgeclipper Clinton, Truffler Mason, Gary the driver and some new additions.  In this book, we also meet a DI Wilkinson, who spent most of his less than illustrious crime fighting career trailing along in Mr. Pargeter and crew’s wake.

The story takes twists and turns and more than one villain is uncovered along the way.  Mrs. Pargeter weathers it all, maintaining herself as a lady despite the company she keeps.  The book is humorous in places, Mrs. Pargeter’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge that her husband was a criminal, and thrilling in others, the hiccups in the well laid plans.  I have enjoyed this series immensely both as a humorous cozy and as a social satire.

M.C. Beaton: Death of a Kingfisher & Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam

I am working on getting up-to-date on two of my favorite mystery series, Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth, coincidentally or not by the same author, M.C. Beaton.  I picked these two up from the library and read them last night.    What I found interesting is that somehow both of them had strong references to fairies, just seems funny that I am in two different places in the series and happened to read books from both of them that had to do with fairies, in some respect back to back.

Agatha Raisin is one of my very favorite sleuths.  I love that you can’t keep her down.  She is always trying to solve her problems, even though sometimes in very ill advised ways.  In this book, she is trying to get over James, still, yet again and so decides to move away from her little cottage and move to a village, Fryfam, in Norfolk.  Of course, being Agatha once she arrives there is a murder in the sleepy little village which she has to solve.  Her loyal sidekick, Sir Charles Fraith assists again in the investigation.  Mrs. Bloxby is also regularly consulted about the  “James” situation and village goings on in Carsely.  The mystery is neatly resolved, although the good folks of Fryfam are not so happy with the resolution.  There is also another twist in the Agatha and James romance but you’ll have to read it to see.  In my opinion, you do need to read this series in order to appreciate the references to past events and the relationshp between Agatha and the other recurring characters, Mrs. Bloxby, Charles and James.

Death of a Kingfisher seems to me to be a darker outing in the Hamish Macbeth series.  There is still humor particularly in the relationship between Hamish and his constable, Dick, an incomparable game show contestant and trivia buff.  There is more than one crime occurring and many twists and turns on the way to the end.  Some truly disturbing, darker  characters are part of the cast.  Par for the course, Hamish is unlucky in love, or as Patty, the Millionaire Matchmaker, would say – “his picker is broken”.  This was not my favorite in the series but still a good read, that being perhaps Death of a Poison Pen or Death of a Cad, i can’t really choose, I really liked so many of this series.

Birdman by Mo Hayder

 

I picked up this book from the library because I had read about it on a book blog.  The writer had said it was a really scary book.  I don’t think I would call it scary in the sense of horror, which is what I thought they were referring to in the post.  This is a thriller police crime novel.  So understand it was not what I was expecting which of course was my fault, I should have read up about it before just picking it up on a whim.

After all that, the novel was well written and it definitely was a thriller and Detective Jack Caffery is certainly a good example of the “tragically flawed” protagonist.  He keeps making mistakes in his personal life based on a  traumatic event that occurred in his childhood and that he seems to keep reliving today.  The villain was decidedly twisted and evil.  Rebecca, as a love interest, is strong enough to fight jack Caffery’s demons and is an interesting character in her own right.  The rest of the cast is rounded out by a other police personnel, prostitutes, an obsessive girlfriend, and Jack’s personal demon, neighbor Penderecki.

I have a hard time discussing a book such as this, in which I recognize the strengths of the book, however I still did not enjoy it.  I will just have to say it was not for me, brutal depictions of torture and mutilation, I don’t really find scary just disgusting.  I’m sure that if you don’t mind your thrillers with graphic violence against women, this would be a good read.

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne & Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden by M.C. Beaton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my book clubs selected The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, better known for being the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh.  This well crafted mystery  showed that A.A. Milne was not a one trick pony.  This was a traditional British mystery with a full complement of  “upstairs downstairs” characters set on an estate in a locked room.  We have the sleuth, Antony Gillingham, and his not so sharp sidekick.  There is misdirection in the form of disguise and assumed identity.  Very clever mystery with dry humor and a classic feel, Agatha Christie-esque.  The copy I picked up from the library is not the edition pictured, it is the 1962 edition printed by E.P. Dutton  & Co., Inc and there is a wonderful dedication page from A.A. Milne to his father:

My Dear Father,

Like all really nice people, you have  a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there is not enough of them.  So, after all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you is to write you one.  Here it is:  with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.

A.A. Milne

Highly recommended read!

My second read of last night was another outing in the indomitable Agatha Raisin series, Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden.  Poor Agatha is in poor shape, unlucky in love more than once, the victim of  a vengeful hairdresser and stuck in a senior living facility disguised as a hotel.  Still Agatha manages to find a murder or two, trace down the clues, adopt a cat and along the way she gets some things muddled and meddles in some other people’s lives.  The character of Agatha Raisin is really the star, Agatha strives for love and companionship.  She wants to be liked but comes across as prickly and even high handed at times.  The mystery is fun and fast paced as is the whole book. I heartily recommend this series.  I do think you will appreciate it more if you read the books in order.