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March 2019



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October Books

I haven't had time to write many proper reviews this month but I have read a few books.

The Clothes on Their Backs, Linda Grant
Home for the Wedding, Elizabeth Cadell. She lived from 1903 – 1989, so was in her late sixties when this book was published in 1971. I suspected that, because it reads more like 1951 than 1971. Like D E Stevenson, the author is loved by many people as a writer of the superior type of romantic fiction. Possibly her earlier books are better; this one is straight out of The People’s Friend.
The Only Good Lawyer, Hazel Holt. An example of the perils of reading series books out of order. In the first books I read, Sheila Malory is a grandmother. In this one (1997), her son is still living at home with her. She’s a character I’m getting fond of.
Still Here, Linda Grant
Death Under the Drier, Simon Brett. Another Fetheringham novel.
Pond Lane and Paris, Susie Vereker. Entertaining, especially the French woman you love to hate.
Summertime, Raffaella Barker
Hens Dancing, Raffaella Barker. Lovely but I think Summertime is even better.
No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club, Virginia Ironside
A few chuckles, a few ‘How very true’s but on the whole I found this at the same time depressing and smug. Depressing? Perhaps it was the aggressive atheism and the ending. Smug? The narrator borrows from the Daily Mail the acronym SWELLS: Sixty, Well Off, Enjoying Life, which sums up her and her friends. My sympathy is with the SPAMS (my acronym): Sixty, Poor And Miserable. I’d rather read about Sheila Malory (a Swell but rather a gracious one) than about an oldie who’s never got over the sixties.
The House at Riverton, Kate Morton. What a tease: we are kept waiting to the very end of the book for the scene which will reveal the mystery surrounding the death of a WWI poet in 1924. The narrator is Grace, 98, who started work at Riverton as a housemaid when she was fourteen. Her memories gradually reveal the secrets which have been so well kept, about her own life as well as the lives of her former employers. I don’t want to be too unkind about this book, as I was interested enough to finish it and I never reached the end of Still Here, which is brilliantly written. I have to say though that it’s full of anachronisms; the research into country house life seems based on viewings of old episodes of Upstairs Downstairs although there is a lengthy reading list at the end of the book. It is also badly written and edited: ‘cowered’ for ‘cowed’, ‘presumptive’ for ‘presumptuous’; people constantly inhaling or exhaling, rather than breathing in and out like normal folk. Oh dear, I could give many more examples; nor was I convinced by Grace’s transformation from housemaid to archaeologist.
Opening Night, Ngaio Marsh. I was surprised to find a Ngaio Marsh book I hadn’t read. Aspiring young New Zealand actress Martyn is penniless in London. She walks into a theatre, gets taken on as a dresser and steps into a role in a new play. Then the murders start. The London theatre background is familiar from Marsh’s other books and it’s more than half way through the book before Alleyn and Fox arrive and things get more interesting. Vintage Murder is a much better theatre thriller. I think I’ll get rid of all Ngaio Marsh’s books except early ones like Overture to Death and Death in White Tie. Next up, I have a new Miss Silver novel to read: good!


I picked up a full set of Ngaio Marshes at a boot sale for 20p each, and started reading them in order, but I gave up about half way through when it was taking longer and longer for the murder to happen and Alleyn and Fox to arrive - I don't mind a bit of scene-setting, but it was getting ridiculous.

I haven't read The House at Riverton yet, but I did read the next on, something about a garden, and got very irritated by the constant moving from time to time, always with a cliff-hanger to keep you reading - I wanted to tell her to just get on with it!
taking longer and longer for the murder to happen

Quite; it annoys me in Miss Silver books, too. I prefer the story to start with her and her knitting.

A full set was good going! I saw what looked like a complete run of Jalna paperbacks in a charity shop the other day but they were 50p each so not such a bargain and I didn't get them.
I used to read a lot of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh in my teens and I really liked the fact the murder happened several chapters into the book and that the detective only appeared at that point. I liked reading about the characters and various troubles and intrigues pre-murder and wondering who was going to be bumped off before working out whodunit. I haven't revisited these books in years (no, decades) and would probably struggle with the pace in these days of crime novels starting with the cops arriving on the murder scene. I think we never build up our own picture of the victim nowadays - we only ever see them through the eyes of the various witnesses/suspects etc., and I quite miss that perspective.
I don't like Agatha Christie and apart from Dorothy L Sayers, who is in a class of 1, my favourite classic detective author is Margery Allingham.

There's a difference, I think, between the whodunnit as a puzzle in which the victim doesn't really matter and the psychological mystery.

Edited at 2008-11-02 07:28 pm (UTC)
Shame about the Riverton book - it sounds a great plot, though I initially thought it might be a lost John & Mary.
If only! My first thought when I see that name, too.
A full set of Jalna books for 50p each - oh, sigh...why don't I live in a part of England with proper charity shop bookshelves? There's only chick lit and thrillers in ours (except once when I found a first edition of Beverley Nichols).
You're not missing much: our charity shops are like that, too. You very seldom see an *old* book these days. The days are long gone when a person might find a first edition Beverley Nichols!
Glad you enjoyed Pond Lane and Paris, and somewhat relieved!

Actually I liked the House at Riverton, despite the errors. It was chosen by Richard & Judy and sold very well. Rather less keen on her next book.
Congratulations. Lovely cover, too:-)

Riverton's been a huge success, hasn't it? I see W H Smith's is still promoting it when you can buy it in any charity shop.


Sheila Malory novels by Hazel Holt

So glad you like Hazel Holt's novels! I interviewed her for Exmoor Life and her Sheila Malory novels are just joys to read if you like cosy crime! And if you like Hazel's books you might like Veronica Stallwood's Kate Ivory crime novels, too.
Margaret Powling

Re: Sheila Malory novels by Hazel Holt

Thanks for the tip.
I've just started reading my first Miss Silver book - not sure what to make of it yet...
They're variable, I find and I don't like them as much as some people do. Since I started reading her books, I've been astonished to find just how prolific Patricia Wentworth was.

Edited at 2008-11-02 07:32 pm (UTC)


Crime novels

I've just ordered my first Miss Silver novel (the first in the series) from Amazon. Received the first of Simon Brett's Fethering novels yesterday but after reading the first sentence, about Fethering being a town close to Tarring, I'm immediately put off by such silliness. I just hope that from here on in it will improve although I have my doubts.
Margaret Powling

Re: Crime novels

I don't mind a bit of silliness and I like the humour in the books.