Mystery of the Walled House, Frances Cowen
Solitaire Mystery, Jostein Gaarder
Beatniks, Toby Litt
Living Dangerously, Katie Fforde
Coroner’s Pidgin, Margery Allingham
The Case is Closed, Patricia Wentworth
The Morning Gift , Eva Ibbotson
A Song for Summer, Eva Ibbotson
Found Wanting, Robert Goddard
Dying to Tell, Robert Goddard
Uncle Samson, Beverley Nichols
Clothes-Pegs, Susan Scarlett (Noel Streatfeild)
Wedding Season, Katie Fforde
Death in the Andamans, M M Kaye
The only children’s book I read last month was Mystery of the Walled House by Frances Cowen. This leapt off the shelf when I was quiz clue-hunting and I can’t remember reading it before. Twice the author writes ‘trite’ when she means ‘terse’, tsk. Nevertheless, I have a great fondness for downmarket children’s books of the fifties and sixties. I like Cowen’s Secret of the Loch and Secret of Grange Farm, both easily available in The Children’s Press editions.
huskyteer lent me two books. Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder I’m afraid I abandoned. It’s charming but I wasn’t in the mood for magical fairy tales. I nearly gave up on her second choice for me, Beatniks by Toby Litt. I didn’t like the characters and I’m getting tired of reading books where I shout, ’Grow up! Get a job! Join the real world!’ at the young(ish) characters. I went back to it, enjoyed the American section, then was furious to find there’s not a proper ending. I hate that! Toby Litt does write well but I think he’s not for me.
I seem to have been reading books in pairs. Looking for light reading I picked Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde. This was very disappointing and will go straight back to the charity shop it came from. Wedding Season was so much better! There are three heroines, which makes a change and gets Katie Fforde out of her formulaic rut. It’s very well researched and reinforces my conviction that modern weddings are ridiculous: personalized confetti, I ask you!
Next a couple of classic detective novels. I find some of Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver mysteries much better than others. The Case is Closed is the kind of Miss Silver book I don’t like. I prefer her to be knitting away from the start of the book and it’s too long before she appears in this one. Also, it features one of those stupid heroines who put themselves in danger for no good reason (except that they’re stupid) and then have to be rescued by the male love interest. What a relief to re-read the utterly reliable Margery Allingham’s Coroner’s Pidgin.
The delightful pair of Eva Ibbotson novels, A Song for Summer and The Morning Gift I’ve already discussed elsewhere. Robert Goddard never fails to write an utterly gripping story and I’ve just read two more by him: Found Wanting and Dying to Tell. Each has an unsuspecting person caught up in spin-off events from a real life historical mystery. In Found Wanting it’s the Anastasia story and in Dying to Tell, well, I’ll just say certain events in 1963? Each of these was read in a day as I could hardly put them down.
Uncle Samson, by Beverley Nichols, is a curiosity. Nichols wrote a great deal of non-fiction about politics, travel etc. and this book, published in 1950, records a visit to America. (See also his earlier book, The Star Spangled Manner.) I imagine he was on a lucrative lecture tour and then cashed in by writing up his impressions as a journalist. He is much exercised by ‘the color question’. Like other British visitors he finds it hard to understand how otherwise liberal Americans could defend segregation. See here for a BBC 4 programme next week marking the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird. As a reviewer writes on the back cover, Nichols ‘can’t fail to entertain’ but I doubt if I’ll keep this book. When I moved, I got rid of all his books except Twenty Five and those about his houses and gardens, which I still love. There’s some background on Beverley Nichols and photos here and I’ve borrowed the picture from the site.
Another reprint from Greyladies: Clothes-Pegs by Susan Scarlett (Noel Streatfeild). It’s a standard ‘lower class girl courted by a lord’ romance but is lifted by the descriptions of the clothes at the fashion house where the heroine works. Plenty of detail, that’s what I like. I also enjoyed the depiction of lower middle class home life. Noel Streatfeild was good at families.
M M Kaye’s Death in the Andamans is very evocative of place; you can almost feel the oppressive, clammy heat and the spookiness of Government House where, needless to say, murder takes place. I enjoyed it but my favourite ‘Deaths in …’ is still Death in Berlin.