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June 2015




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Jun. 29th, 2015


The Dungeon House, Martin Edwards


I’ve been reading a lot of Martin Edwards recently; not the novels but his excellent introductions to the British Library Crime Classics series. I’m looking forward to reading The Golden Age of Murder, which I intend to get hold of ASAP.

A while ago, I tried one of his Lakeland Mystery series because the books were so highly recommended by other people. For some reason, I just couldn’t get on with it; perhaps I randomly picked the least good one. No such problem with The Dungeon House, which I’ve just read courtesy of NetGalley. It’s not out until September, so existing fans will have to possess their souls in patience until then.

The Dungeon House is occupied by the Whiteley family. Twenty years before this story starts, a tragedy wiped out three family members; a case considered closed. When two young women, both with connections to the family, disappear in the same area, Hannah Scarlett, head of a Cold Case unit, starts to wonder if there are connections. Much of the plot revolves around Joanna, a forty-ish woman who has been very damaged by events in her life, one of which was her link to the Dungeon House murders. Just how much does she know? Has she blocked out some terrible memories? When she sees on the news that the daughter of an old flame has gone missing from the Dungeon House (now renamed), she decides to take a holiday, back to her old haunts. Unluckily for her, this stirs up old memories in people she once knew, none of whom seems pleased to see her.

The unravelling of the two cases is fascinating and, at the end, very dramatic. Hannah is likeable, the police procedure interesting and the whole book a nicely wrapped up detective mystery. Recommended.

Jun. 20th, 2015

Make do and mend

At the market

It was very quiet at the market this morning. Also rather dark and damp; I drove there and back with lights on. Apart from food, the only thing I bought was this bag, new, for a fiver. Bargain! And nice for summer.

Nature watch: rabbit


This morning, for the first time ever, I drew the curtains and saw a large rabbit in the garden. Bunnies are cute but not what a gardener wants to see. Luckily this one was just nibbling grass and I don't have any lettuce or radishes for him.

Jun. 18th, 2015



Call me a boring old pedant, but. I've been constantly irritated in a book I'm reading by references to 'cannons'. Now I've just seen the same usage on the BBC news website in connection with the Waterloo commemorations. Isn't the plural of cannon, cannon? As in
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,

If I'm wrong, I take it back.
garden journal

Flower of the week: Penstemon Riding Hood ‘Delft Blue’


I took these photos before seven this morning, hoping that the early light would give a truer colour than bright sunshine. They still give no idea of the wonderful, intense purple-blue of the flowers. This is a new plant to me and one I’m very pleased with. I bought it at the nursery sale last year and it came through the winter, no problem. Unlike the penstemon I perhaps mistakenly put it next to, it has a very neat, compact habit, so will never flop. Not that the big one flops because I supported it early with one of my hazel wigwams. Penstemons are great garden plants. Flower all summer, drought resistant, easy to propagate. What’s not to like?


Jun. 15th, 2015


New socks!


All the fun of fairisle without the faff. These are knitted in Regia Design Line by Arne & Carlos. The colourway is ‘Summer Night’ but they have a wintry look to me. No sooner had I grafted the toes than I cast on another pair, this time in pale sherbert colours.


In other news, it’s fifty years since Like a Rolling Stone came out. Frightening to think that I was at school then. Wonderful that the record still sounds great. I turned it up as loud as possible, regardless of what the thatchers might think, and shouted out every word.

Jun. 12th, 2015


A Man of Some Repute, Elizabeth Edmondson


I picked A Man of Some Repute as my free Kindle book of the month. Why had I never heard of Elizabeth Edmondson? Here’s someone producing well written, unpretentious, enjoyable novels. Because the books are neither sensational nor ‘literary’, they depend on self publicity by the author and word of mouth by readers to get read at all. As you will have gathered, I loved A Very English Mystery Book One. It reminded me of James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers books.

One winter’s night in 1947 (the worst winter of the last century), the Earl of Selchester leaves his family and house guests and apparently walks out into the blizzard, never to be seen again. Move forward to 1953. Lord Selchester is still missing and his unpopular daughter Sonia waits impatiently for him to be declared dead so that she can inherit the castle and ‘lots of lovely money’. The castle and the nearby Hall were used during the war for ‘statistical research’, which everyone in Selchester knows means secret service stuff. Sonia’s cousin Freya, who still lives in the castle, is informed that a new worker at the Hall is to be billeted on them. Enter Hugo and his schoolgirl sister, Georgia.

No one knows what Hugo did in the war, nor that the leg injury which has restricted him to a desk job was received while working in the field for the Service. He’s pretty fed up, what with the pain in his leg and being banished to the provinces, as he sees it. His work at the Hall is to seek out traitors, in the wake of the Burgess/Maclean defections. Before long he has another, unofficial role seeking out the murderer/s of Lord Selchester, assisted by Freya, precocious Georgia and wise Uncle Leo, who is a priest. Could the two investigations be linked? This is a perfect set-up: country house murder with added spy interest, just the thing to please me.

The post-war atmosphere is completely believable, the citizens of Selchester as gossipy as you’d expect and everyone at the castle, likeable. By the end of the book two mysteries have been solved but there are several loose ends and a new, surprising twist. Elizabeth Edmondson writes, ‘My aim is to enthral, delight and amuse readers as they are transported to a different era.’ She succeeds for this reader, and I look forward to the second book in the series, which will be out in October. It’s for you if you fancy a book with ‘a touch of Downton Abbey, a whisper of Agatha Christie and a nod to Le Carré’

Jun. 11th, 2015


Flower of the week: Geranium ‘Brookside’


It’s too windy today (again!) to get a decent photograph but I’ve done my best. Several hardy geraniums have started flowering this month. ‘Brookside’ is one I like so much that I brought some with me from my old garden. It will sprawl in dry weather but is usually a neat plant and no trouble at all. A bonus is that once the first flush of flowers is over you can cut it to the ground, after which tough treatment it will regenerate and give you more flowers in September. More information here. At one time I grew about one hundred different varieties of geranium, so I think I'm in a position now to say which I think are the best.


Jun. 10th, 2015


Capital Crimes: London Mysteries ed. Martin Edwards


This is another book in the British Library Crime Classics series, with its lovely covers. As the title tells you, the theme here is that all the short stories are set in London. Make it a Sherlock Holmesian London of rain and fog, fill it with mean streets and dark alleys, drop in a few well known place names and you can hardly fail to write a story of interest.

Some of the authors are famous: Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Ernest Bramah, Anthony Berkeley, Margery Allingham. But who knew that John Oxenham (father of Elsie J.) or E M Delafield had written detective stories? The Oxenham is terrible, in my opinion; it’s hard to believe what a popular writer he was in his day. You wouldn’t think a story about a serial killer at loose on the London Underground could possibly be dull, yet Oxenham makes it so. The best thing about it is that you can recognise the station names and picture the scenes clearly. The E M Delafield story is a distinctive one. I think that, given that story blind and asked to guess which of the authors here had written it, I’d have guessed correctly.

Martin Edwards’ introduction is excellent, as are his prefaces to each story. It’s fascinating to learn more about some of the less well known authors, their various pen names and their connection to The Detection Club. This is really invaluable research and Martin Edwards has done all lovers of crime stories a favour.

The collection of stories in Capital Crimes is one of the best I’ve read in the BLCC series. Surprisingly, the stand out story in this anthology for me is by Hugh Walpole, the once popular author of the Herries Chronicles and the Jeremy books. In The Silver Mask there is no murder within the timescale of the story, no police or detectives. Yet it gave me the horrors.

I read this courtesy of NetGalley.

Jun. 4th, 2015

garden journal

Flower of the week: foxgloves


I love foxgloves and now is their prime time. They’re all over the garden, mostly two to three feet high and in an array of pinks. I’m slightly disappointed that there will probably only be one white one this year. I plant out a row of these in front of the shed each year and one has turned into a monster. I’ve already had my photo taken with it, to show that it was a foot taller than I am. It keeps on growing and is now above the guttering and touching the roof. Luckily the recent storms haven’t damaged the foxgloves at all. That’s what we like: tough plants which are good doers.
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