Book Review – Truly Devious

Several months ago I watched a Booktube video which recommended Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious as a boarding school story crossed with Agatha Christie. Naturally, that very much appealed to me but although I made a note of the title I didn’t actually get around to finding a copy. Now of course, I am in the middle of a huge cosy crime phase and am desperate to find new authors to read. Added to that, the onset of autumn always gives me back to school fever and makes me very keen to study so this was the perfect read for me right now.

Publisher’s Blurb

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester.

But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy . The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

I loved this book. It gave me just the right amount of school content and I could really picture myself there. It sounded like a great school too – lots and lots of time for reading!

The mystery was gripping and I didn’t want to stop reading. So much so that I had to get hold of the second book straight away – you don’t see the whole mystery solved in the first book and I for one very much want to figure out exactly what happened. It is now sitting on my desk waiting patiently for me to finish writing this so I can read it instead.

It is wonderful to have found a new series about which I can get excited. There is nothing quite like waiting impatiently for the next book to be published and I just know that by the time book four is published next year I will be more than ready for it.

Book Details

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780062338068

RRP: £7.99

In Defence of Escapism

We all have bad days. Yesterday was quite stressful for me and when I got home all I wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire with my book and a cup of tea. Yes I had a list of chores which needed doing but they would still need doing another day!

This is why I like to have escapist books. People so often scoff at happy books as being ‘just’ escapism but sometimes that’s what I need. If I’ve had a hard day I don’t want to make myself feel worse by reading about someone else being miserable. Books are my happy place after all.

In this instance I was reading Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie which I picked up on my trip to Foyles. It’s a book I had heard of but never really knew anything about – when I found it though I could tell it was perfect for me. I’m halfway through now and I definitely made the right choice!

Just a couple of hours reading settled me back down. Books are the best medicine.

Book Review – The Moonstone

I have wanted to read The Moonstone ever since Kate Summerscale talked about it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – and I read that book years ago!

Somehow though, I just haven’t got around to it before now. When I was in Dartmouth I naturally visited every bookshop I found – including the Community Bookshop. It is a lovely little shop and as I gravitated towards the classics section I found several books with the best covers. They were all published by Alma Classics and I so wanted to have one of those covers! I seemed to own all of the titles already though and it was only a determined second look which unearthed The Moonstone. It’s like it was meant to be!

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Publisher’s Blurb

When Rachel Verinder’s legacy of a priceless Indian diamond is stolen, all the evidence indicates that it is her beloved, Franklin Blake, who is guilty. Around this central axis of crime and thwarted love, Collins constructs an ingenious plot of teasing twists and surprises, and an elaborate multi-voiced narrative that sustains the tension all the way to its stunning ending.

Described by T.S. Eliot as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is an important precursor of the modern mystery and suspense genres.

This was my first proper Wilkie Collins book – I used to have an audio book of The Woman in White but it was a dramatisation and not the full novel.  However, I knew I had enjoyed that so I was fully expecting to like this one too.

I was right – it was an intriguing mystery and although I guessed the culprit fairly early on there were so many twists and turns that I was never quite sure of myself.  I also think that I was basing it more on my dislike of the character than any actual evidence! The methods used to solve the crime were fantastic too and I was very satisfied with the ending.

It was a much easier read than I expected and I very much enjoyed it.  I will definitely be seeking out more of Wilkie Collins’ books.  Perhaps I’ll even finally read the whole of The Woman in White!

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Book Details

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

ISBN: 9781847494221

Publisher: Alma Books

RRP: £5.99

Visiting Agatha Christie

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.

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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!

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Perhaps my favourite thing though was the drawer of imaginatively addressed envelopes which found their way to the house.

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Of these, I was especially fond of this one which is just wonderful.

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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.

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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.

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