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Murder in Little Shendon
H.A.Richardson
Progress: 19/256 pages
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".

Birthrights (Revisions to the Truth) - J. Kyle McNeal

This is definitely a book for fans of epic fantasy. We follow a young boy, and his 2 companions ,on their quest to find a mythical figure called "the Stewart". But somewhere in the middle the tension wavers. There are too many storylines, different factions and the story becomes, unnecessary, over complicated. 

Fortunately, the story, and tension, picks up again and it ends( at 553 pages no less) with a feeling that one wants to read the second instalment. 

 

What a perfect day,sunny (mind you ,not too warm),a big bone,no do this and especially, don't do that,no mention of a horrible hair (ear)cut,the cat taking a nap in the flowerpot and she,who sees everything ,quietly reading in the garden.What a perfect day....

Sorcerer's House (Simon Gale Series Book 2) - Gerald Verner

Written in 1956, it has all the elements of a classic British mystery. A village  ( Ferncross),an eccentric amateur sleuth, upper middle class villagers and a mysterious derelict manor house where death happens rather to often whenever a light appears in one of the rooms. 

This village definitely has some murky secrets....I must say that the end was somewhat of a suprise  ( but a good one! )

Especially recommended for fans of British murder mysteries. 

The Serpent Sword - Matthew Harffy

This is the story of Beobrand, a young man from Cantware  ( Kent) who goes North so he can join his brother  ( who has been murdered). Set against the historical background of 7th century Albion, a time when the death of Edwin, High King of Britain, plunges the country in darkness.Albion is more than divided. Several kingdoms are battling for supremacy over their neighbours, bands of warriors are on the loose and the power relations between pagan beliefs and budding Christianity are changing. But this is in the first place an adventure story but also a story about revenge, betrayal, psychopathic warriors  ( yeah, even then....),loyalty, camaraderie and friendship. A fabulous story. 

Some people plant flowers and others.......

10 Short Horror Stories Vol:1 - Steven  Havelock

A collection of short stories always present the same problem, some stories are good, some are not so good.This collection does not really represent horror, as we normally understand it, but is more of a hybrid, horror, yes,but also a faint flavour of mystery and fantasy. Unfortunately the editing isn't quite finished and frankly,that's disappointing...

Still, it's an easy read as most of the stories are very short indeed and therefore never reach the stage were they become boring or long-winded .

The Body in the Ice - Alfred A. Knopf Publishing Company

From the blurb:1796,Kent, a killer at large, a family feud and a house with a secret. Doesn't it sound good? 

The year is 1796,the United States have gained their independence some 20 years previously, the British took part of Canada from the French and the French fleet is ready (or so it seems) to invade Britain. The relationship between the British, the Americans  ( republicans) and the French( revolutionary) is slightly troubled,to say the least. Against this background a small coastal community, and more specifically Reverend Hardcastle  (who is also a Justice of Peace) is confronted with murder  ( and smugglers, French spies and an adorable Irish wolfhound who is not particularly brave  (a rabbit frightened the hell out of him)).The historical setting is marvellous, it is very atmospheric and the main characters are endearing. 

But strangely enough, the last chapters are perhaps a bit long-winded with too much gunpowder, spies and cloak and dagger and somehow it kills all that atmospheric tension. 

Still, all in all, a very good read. 

The Girl from Rawblood: A Novel - Catriona Ward

This is in the first place an attempt to write a classic gothic tale.A family, living in a lonely manor on Dartmoor,is haunted by" something ".All the right ingredients for a gothic success story and yet...the first part, although confusing due to several different timelines, was mysterious enough to keep one's attention but then the book becomes even more incoherent and messy and seems to lose all purpose...

The story  ( if ever there was one) is completely lost. Too bad because it has the right building stones....

The Third Key - Gerald Verner

A classic British murder mystery with all the right ingredients, a bucolic village with cottages and rose gardens, a big manor house, eccentric inhabitants, murder  ( of course) of a mysterious woman and in this case, a very sunny,summery feeling. Perfect, were  it not for the outdated attitude and opinions expressed by the author.They concern women and their place in society, women and divorce, imprisonment, death penalty....Admittedly, it was written several decades ago ,still...

Pity, because otherwise it would have been a perfect reading for one of those sunny afternoons in spring. 

The Devil's Prayer - Luke Gracias

A woman has been horrible betrayed by trusted friends, so in order to seek revenge she concludes a pact with the devil.Well, the first half of the book is quick paced  ( and although the descriptions and details of the revenge killings are unnecessary gory and after the second killing have lost all their necessity) it reads well, barring numerous platitudes such as " more people have died in the name of religion than any other disease ".And then, not only is the devil implicated but also a lot of  ( not always accurate ) historical facts and myths.In this case the Nag Hammadi codices, a 13th century Benedictine manuscript, red monks and to top it off, climate change is brought into the whole lot.The writing doesn't get any better and frankly it feels as if the emphasis lies on writing a blockbuster. And the end is a complete disaster, as a matter of fact,there is no"end".

This book is often compared to Dan Brown 's work, but unfortunately it has the same flaws and pluses.Not very well written, dubious historical data, a certain artificial flavour and yes, it is fast paced, horror and mystery merge and it is an easy read. But just not good enough....

Burning Secrets: A Gripping Historical Thriller With A Great Twist (Scottish Mysteries Book 2) - Clio Gray

Not so much a murder mystery as a great adventure story.Set in 19th century Scotland ,on a remote stretch of western coast, it has the perfect setting.A man is brutally murdered allegedly by smuglers, but there is more to it, nothing is so straightforward. What was he bringing back to his master, who lives as a recluse on a private island surrounded by mysterious structures? And who does the skeleton, accidently found, belongs to? And where did that huge sundial, inscripted with strange languages, came from? Yes, definitely an adventure story! 

To Kill a Wife - J.M. Gregson

The storyline is good, it is a classic whodunit, in a very British style. Most of the characters are elaborated and believable. So far, so good...Unfortunately the investigating inspector and his  ( female) sidekick are particularly unattractive. He keeps referring to the victim as a drawer dropper  (not once but about 30 times or so) and she feels compelled to say " even so..."!!!

Now if this were written in the dark ages, well, a sign of the times and all that nonsense, but it is written in the late nineties, so frankly, a drawer dropper  (and many more funny  (?)remarks) are more than bizarre and definitely outdated.