As we head into a second lockdown I find that I am more anxious than I was last time. Primarily I think that is down to the combination of the waiting and the uncertainty. Last time lockdown just started – although we knew something would happen – whereas now we have had a few days warning. As I have spent those constantly speculating about how it will affect me personally (I know it doesn’t help but I can’t stop!) I have been very on edge all week.
So much so that my reading – especially in my breaks at work – has suffered. I just can’t concentrate on my book when I’m in the staff room! I am doing much better at home – but there I am sticking to cosy, comforting reads. That definitely seems to be the way forward for me.
Therefore, my plan over lockdown is just to read whatever I feel like at the time. If a book isn’t working I’ll put it down and try something else. Children’s books or cosy crime are probably going to be the best – I am seeing a lot of Betsy-Tacy, LM Montgomery and Margery Allingham in my future. Of course, my cat will also be there to keep me company!
On a side note, when I couldn’t read this week the thing that worked best for me was decorating envelopes for my penpals. It is something I always enjoy doing but I have never been quite so obsessed as I have been this week!
In the early days of lockdown, my Mum and I found our own way of coping – every weekday we sat down together to watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. It was a small bit of routine which really helped – and, crucially, it made us laugh.
I have been a fan of Richard Osman for quite some time, so when I heard that he had written a crime novel I knew that I had to read it. I was therefore incredibly excited to find that I had been sent a reading copy by Penguin Books.
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
I loved this book. It is a great cosy crime novel (and we all know how much I enjoy those!) and the characters really lived for me. It is just as funny and clever as you might expect – the plot takes some brilliant twists and turns.
Very excitingly for me, Richard Osman had an event at the Appledore Book Festival last week. For obvious reasons all of the authors signed their books before the events and couldn’t meet the audience members. One of the perks of working there though was that I could meet him from a safe distance and get my copy personally signed. He was just as nice as he seems on television and I am now eagerly awaiting book two.
I’ve realised that I have been talking a lot about cosy crime books recently – it seems that in times of stress I really do find them comforting. I generally revert to old favourites – Margery Allingham, Catherine Aird, Dorothy L Sayers… At the moment I am mostly (but not exclusively) reading familiar authors but have been seeking out new to me titles. They have the double advantage of seeming comfortingly well known whilst still being exciting new stories.
I am not alone either. I remember early on in lockdown reading a piece by Robin Stevens about how the reading of crime fiction always increases in times of crisis. Apparently it is because it is (perhaps subconsciously) reassuring to read a book which has very human problems we know will be neatly solved by the end. I think we can all see the appeal of that!
For me, there are some stricter rules. I do not like books where it turns out the narrator – or someone whose thoughts we can follow – is the murderer. That breaks one of the rules of golden age detective fiction, although it is one Agatha Christie was happy to break – she is well know for breaking many of them! I do hate getting emotionally attached to the villain.
I also like to have a fair chance of solving the murder myself. All the detective’s clues should be available to me otherwise it just isn’t fair. I love Ngaio Marsh but Alleyn has a terrible habit of saying something along the lines of, ‘I’ll tell you on the way.’ to Inspector Fox and we never get to see that scene. It’s a bit infuriating sometimes.
I do also have an issue with books where it turns out the murder was in fact a suicide. This is a problem which is very specific to me but I just don’t enjoy those stories nearly as much.
I have however been having a lovely time indulging my taste for cosy mysteries. They are a balm I can highly recommend.
I am always on the lookout for new (to me) cosy crime books. They are just so comforting and the best kind of relaxation so when I heard about the Mystery Bookshop series by V M Burns I had to try it out. It is set in a mystery bookshop after all!
Samantha Washington has long dreamed of owning a mystery bookstore. And as she prepares for the grand opening, she’s realizing another dream–penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and stocks her shelves, her imagination also gets to work as her heroine, Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling’s charms. When one of Daphne’s suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.
In the meantime, however, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in Samantha’s backyard, and the police suspect her–after all, she might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an ensemble of enthusiastic retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind?
I very much enjoyed this book. It is light, easy reading which is perfect right now. The mystery kept me guessing and I especially loved reading about Nana Jo and the girls. I only hope I’m half as active and resourceful as them when I’m their age!
I hadn’t realised that half of the text would be taken up by the crime novel which Sam is writing. That did throw me a bit to start with but I actually really like the way it was woven into the main plot. There were however some aspects of the portrayal of life in 1930s England which grated and I did feel that perhaps some more research could have been done here.
Overall though, I thought it was a fun book and I will definitely be reading more in the series.
The Plot is Murder by V M Burns Publisher: Kensington Publishing ISBN: 9781496711816 RRP: £11.99
I have been a fan of Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series for years so, although I am very sad that Death Sets Sail is the last in the series, I was incredibly excited to receive a review copy from Penguin Random House.
The ninth and final novel in the number-one bestselling, award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are in Egypt, taking a cruise along the Nile. They are hoping to see some ancient temples and a mummy or two;what they get, instead, is murder.
Also travelling on theSS Hatshepsutis a mysterious society called the Breath of Life: a group of genteel English ladies and gentlemen, who believe themselves to be reincarnations of the ancient pharaohs. Three days into the cruise their leader is found dead in her cabin, stabbed during the night.
It soon becomes clear to Daisy and Hazel that the victim’s timid daughter is being framed – and they begin to investigate their most difficult case yet.
But there is danger all around, andonly one of the Detective Society will make it home alive…
I have been waiting for this book for so long that I was afraid I might have built it up too much in my mind and I would be disappointed. I needn’t have worried though – this is a great book which definitely lives up to the rest of the series.
Of course, I am well above the target age for these books but even so I found the plot had a lot of unexpected twists and I only guessed the murderer a few pages before they were revealed. That’s the best kind of mystery – it’s satisfying to be able to work it out but only if it’s right at the last minute! I also loved the fact that the book is set in Egypt and I especially enjoyed the Agatha Christie references.
The characters have grown a lot over the course of the series and I will be sad to see them go. Hazel in particular has developed so much and I found myself cheering for her several times in this one. Robin Stevens has just announced a new series which will begin in 2022 and will focus on Hazel’s little sister May – I will be very much looking forward to that. In the meantime if you haven’t read Murder Most Unladylike yet I would highly recommend giving it a go.
I am taking a few days annual leave this week. I have only been back at work for five weeks but it has been exhausting and I was more than ready for the break.
Of course, there are still things I need to get done this week but I was hopeful that I could spend a good chunk of the time reading. So far I have done pretty well and have read two of the Albert Campion series by Margaret Allingham – Traitor’s Purse and Coroner’s Pidgen. I have read both before so knew I would enjoy them and I have been revelling in them.
I would have moved onto the next one but it is new to me and I need to wait until I actually have a copy. Instead, I have been drawn to another cosy mystery – The Plot is Murder by V M Burns. I don’t know a huge amount about this one but it was recommended to me and it is set in a mystery bookshop. How can I not like it?
I have written several times before about my love for audiobooks. Now we are stuck at home with the lockdown my audiobook consumption has reduced somewhat – I can no longer listen on my way to and from work.
I do still listen when I am doing yard chores for the ponies though and also whilst working on my crochet. I love to crochet but normally I don’t tend to make enough time for it. However, as soon as the lockdown started I just wanted to make things – I crochet when we sit down for a cup of tea and a chat and if we watch a film in the evening I am almost guaranteed to be hooking away. Of course, at other times of day, listening to audiobooks is a perfect accompaniment to crafting. It is amazing how quickly a project will progress if you work on it consistently!
All of which means that I am still listening, just in a different way. I am also strictly listening to cosy books – I am currently re-listening to the Needlecraft Mysteries series by Monica Ferris. Set in a needlecraft shop, I discovered them last year and absolutely loved them. This year they are the perfect comfort read and I am so enjoying listening to them. Apparently crime fiction always increases in popularity at times of stress. We love to read books where there’s only one thing wrong – the murder – and that always has a comforting solution. If you are looking for gentle mysteries to read I would highly recommend trying these.
I am just back from a week’s holiday in Dartmouth. I had a lovely, restful time and got to do a lot of reading.
No trip to Dartmouth would be complete without a visit to Agatha Christie’s house Greenway. She described it as, ‘The loveliest place in the world,’ and it really is beautiful. You can see that the views when she lived there must have been amazing, although the trees have grown up a bit now and obscure the view somewhat.
Some of the nicest things about the house are the bookshelves. A great many National Trust houses have libraries which are filled with books bought by the yard – all matching and never read. The books here were completely mismatched and looked very well read which made me so happy. There were naturally many different editions of Agatha Christie’s own books and I fell in love with this little bookcase on the landing. I want one!
Perhaps my favourite thing though was the drawer of imaginatively addressed envelopes which found their way to the house.
Of these, I was especially fond of this one which is just wonderful.
Of course, we had to walk down to the boathouse which features so prominently in Dead Man’s Folly. We had been listening to the audio book on the way down to Dartmouth and I finished it after our visit. I have read it before but it was fascinating to read it again and be able to picture the scene exactly.
Once in the boathouse we spent a long time watching the river from the balcony. It is such a peaceful spot and it is a lovely place to sit. There is a fireplace inside so I should think it would be wonderfully cosy in winter too. Whilst there I also got to sit in Agatha Christie’s own chair – it was made especially for her and she used to sit in it to look over her manuscripts. One couldn’t read anything but Dead Man’s Folly there and there was a handy copy lying on the chair with a useful label pointing me to the relevant pages.
We left by ferry and so walked down to the quay through the woods – the shortcut which so infuriated Sir George Stubbs. It was a lovely day and I’m sure I will be back again in the future.