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Chord of Evil: Wartime suspense (A Phineas Fox Mystery)
Sarah Rayne
A Grave Misunderstanding: A Simon Grave Mystery - Len Boswell

Well,this is in the first place a locked room mystery and to be frank, it is not a bad one but...there are some inconsistencies,the story feels as if it is written in the fifties(manor house, crust free sandwiches, butler, gardener, maids...)but apart from the family the manor is also inhabited by a dozen or so robots (androids).And the there is the author's ideas about women,they are either drop dead gorgeous (and very sexy)or the ravages of time are clearly visible (and mentioned ).Great!

Furthermore, as this is supposed to be a comedy (I suppose, not really quite sure what it is)the brilliant, witty humour completely bypassed me (and I mean completely !)

2 stars for the murder mystery....

 

 

Graëlfire - Stephen Chamberlain

This is basically a different version of the Holy Grail story. Here the grail(Graël)is a stone from a different universe.The book consist of two storylines and it constantly switches between those two. One happens in present day Switzerland were Lena and a mysterious stranger, Raphael, are looking for a lost Graëlstone once believed to be in the possession of the Cathars. Of course they are not the only ones looking for this stone...The other storyline is situated in the Languedoc and northern Italy in 1245. Here the Cathars are fleeing from the horrible Inquisition . We follow the story of Gideon ,another mysterious stranger, who is looking for the Graëlstone believed to be kept in hiding, by the Cathars, since the fall of Montségur, their stronghold.

Well, it starts very promising,very exciting, a strange mix between fantasy, adventure and mystery but unfortunately it doesn't keep its promise. It just drags on and on, a bit of a never-ending story and I had a hard time actually finishing it. It really is too bad because a new take on the Grail myth is always interesting.... 

The Sin Collector (Masha Karavai Detective Series) - Shelley Fairweather-Vega, Daria Desombre

A brilliant law student (still very much perturbed by her father's mysterious murder and slightly obsessed with serial killers )manages to find herself an internship at Moscow's police headquarters .As bodies (both of unsolved murders in the past as in the present )turn up in different parts of Moscow, Masha discovers a strange pattern relating to medieval texts,maps, New Rome and Heavenly Jerusalem. The storyline is good, the characters are believable and it is a new twist on "the serial killer ".There is however one comment I would like to make, as Moscow plays such a prominent role in this story,a map of the city would have been helpful,handy...As it is,all the characters revolve around maps with different gates, walls and parks...but the reader(not a resident of Moscow) feels a bit lost. 

Grief Cottage: A Novel - Gail Godwin

After the death of his mother, 11 year old Marcus is sent to his mother's aunt who lives in a beach house on an island in South Carolina. A derelict cottage (and it's sad story)attracts his attention.It is in this cottage that he "meets"a ghost. The ghost of a 15 year old boy,who disappeared during a hurricane in the fifties. But this is in the first place a story about the ghost of a beloved (and departed )mother.It is the ghost of grief and bereavement.I think this is a marvellous story,the pace(probably too slow for some )depicts so well the lazy summer and the slow adjustments of this boy to his new situation,to his aunt,to his new life. Grief cottage is a well chosen title !

The Travelling Bag: And Other Ghostly Stories - Susan Hill

This book is actually a collection of 4 short stories:A Travelling Bag,Boy Twenty-one, Ann  Baker and The Front Room. And although they do not occur in a 19th century setting they do have a very Victorian atmosphere. They are absolutely delightful (if one can speak of a delightful ghost story?)If you like your ghost stories bloody, gory and very frightful, then this is definitely not for you. But if you like a ghostly (and mysterious)twist at the end of a good and captivating story,then this is a perfect read!

 

Heaven's crooked finger - Hank Early

Earl Marcus returns to his birthplace, a very rural area in North Georgia, after rumours of sightings of his father(after his death )have reached him. He left this area, his father and especially a rather weird (we're talking ordeals by snakes here)and intense evangelical church community where his father was a very charismatic preacher and leader, some 30 years previously. Not much has changed,the church still has fervent followers, moonshine is still drunk and the whole area still feels pretty isolated from the rest of the world. To make matters worse, young girls go missing and return completely disoriented, anxious and with strange marks on their bodies.

This is a very atmospheric novel,one can feel the claustrophobic sensation and the threat of approaching thunderstorms.But as the story evolves,the storyline starts to unravel and the last half/quarter of the book could do with some serious editing. Pity...

Nine Lessons: A Josephine Tey Mystery - Nicola Upson

There's a serial rapist  on the loose in Cambridge (we're talking inter-war period !)where Josephine Tey is taking care of her friend's house. Meanwhile a body (apparently burried alive)is found in a London churchyard and certain clues are left with this victim .But as more bodies are discovered they all seem to lead to Cambridge, more precisely to King's College and their famous choir.

Fact is, I never read anything by Josephine Tey but I liked the idea of having a real(crime)writer on the premises .The interaction between Miss Tey and a very gallant (and still smitten )inspector is adorable (not corny, not sugary,just from time to time awkward ).The mystery (a serial KILLER on the loose )is of a very sound quality. I,personally, enjoyed it. Who needs more...

The Shock: A disturbing thriller for fans of Jeffery Deaver - Marc Raabe

A woman is abducted in France. Her friend finds her cell phone and with this information he follows her back home to Berlin. There the chase for the abducter, who turns out to be a serial killer, starts in earnest. The storyline is good, up to a certain point,and then it starts to wander. But the style,the writing is lacking something. Perhaps it is due to the translation (it was originally published in German).All in all,after a good start, a bit of a disappointment. 

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau - Graeme Macrae Burnet

This book was written before the highly successful "His Bloody Project "(shortlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize )and it has some of the same characteristics. The atmosphere and setting (in this case a small Alsatian town) have a surreal touch. It feels as if the whole town is caught in a dark time stop (although Mulhouse and Strasbourg,both very much alive, are in the vicinity). Furthermore, the whole town seems to be inhabited by thoroughly unpleasant and yes, slightly weird people(a bartender who hardly says a word, a desk sergeant who's not inclined to do any work, people in bars just staring at nothing (or their glass)).

This book is,although very well written, difficult to classify. The best description (that I can give)is a written film noir with undertones of Patrick Süskind and Simenon. 

The Silent Companions: A Novel - Laura  Purcell

After the untimely (and mysterious )death of her husband, Elsie is sent to her husband's ramshackle country manor. The manor is surrounded by a bleak scenery, an hostile village and a decrepit church.That should be enough to make one feel a bit tense but there is more:a 17th century diary, strange wooden figures and many,many secrets .This is in every sense a classic ghost story (haunted house, forbidden rooms,noises in the night...)but what makes this special is the fact that the ghostly part is very good but there is also an excellent mystery story underneath. 

A Season in the Sun: A charming tale of a Seychelles legacy, village cricket and foul play - Robert A. Rees

Things are not going well in London for Henry Fanshaw (of the Fanshaw dynasty )when he (luckily)inherits a beautiful colonial house and a cricket club in the amazing Seychelles. Being a bit of a pompous Englishman, Henry has to adapt to both this island in the sun and to his fellow club members (a (swearing)vicar and a  priest,a chief of police, a dope smoking top player, a heartbroken captain...)But even in paradise evil lurks, in this case,gambling evil...

This is the perfect read for fans of Death in Paradise and Jerome K.Jerome.And it has the kind of setting that makes you want to book a flight to Mahé right away !

Murder in Little Shendon - H.A.Richardson

An absolute perfect read for a rainy afternoon. A very classic(think Agatha Christie,Ngaio Marsh...)British murder mystery with all the right trimmings:a charming village, eccentric villagers(yes,there is a Major present,a grumpy gardener,a Polish countess and many other strange creatures ...)and of course murder most horrid.And yes,everyone is a plausible suspect...But what is so nice about this story(especially when we are (willingly or not)    immersed in stories with graphic ,bloody details and rather depraved humans)is that,notwithstanding murder,it has a kind and wonderfull atmosphere.Frankly,I would move to Little Shendon right away(or at least spend my holidays there)☺

Continental Crimes (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards, Martin Edwards

Anthologies are, generally speaking, a tricky business. Whether they are written by one author or by several authors. But "Continental Crimes" happily avoids these traps. These are solid British murder mysteries set in different countries on the continent. There are stories by Agatha Christie, Josephine Bell, Arnold Bennett, Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K.Chesterton and many others...Of course, not all the stories are brilliant, but they are very good and some are brilliant which makes this a surprisingly very good anthology. 

Isn't this a wonderful summer dish?Parsley,mint and (an obvious highly stressed)cat...

Smorgasbord: The Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats - Johanna Kindvall

This is a wonderful, unpretentious cookbook .The name says it all ,Smorgasbord, bread(of some kind)on the table.The recipes really do sound good, are not over complicated and feasible for those who don't live in Scandinavia.(I'm thinking pickled dill cucumbers, chicken salad with peppery cress, smoked salmon salad with apples and horseradish,Danish remoulade and many more...)The drawings that illustrate the recipes are adorable but it would have been nice to have some photographs of for instance :different jars of pickled herrings and vegetables, a set table (winter, summer) with all of the trimmings of a real Smorgasbord....

Act One, Scene One—Murder  - R. H. Richardson

This one is definitely for classic British murder mystery fans. A successful playwright invites his actors for dinner on his country estate ( a dark, medieval building)All the usual characters are there:a morose housekeeper, the older, charismatic actor,a highly strung director, a married "ladies man"and his actress wife and many more. And of course, on this cold, rainy november night,murder happens .In order to solve this crime all the guests are asked (ordered)to remain in this gloomy house.

Sometimes it feels so good to read a murder mystery that shouts "Golden Age ",especially if it is a good story.

Highly recommended for Ngaio Marsh fans (and Agatha Christie fans,and...)Just very,very "nice".