Death at the Bar, Ngaio Marsh
Name to a Face, Robert Goddard
The Go-Between , L P Hartley
The House that is Our Own, O Douglas
Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary, Ruby Ferguson
The Tapestry of Love , Rosy Thornton
The House on the Hill, Eileen Dunlop
Children of the Archbishop, Norman Collins
The Education of Hyman Kaplan , Leo Rosten
Not Just Love-Letters, Rosy Thornton
Vanishing Point, Patricia Wentworth.
Poppyland, Raffaella Barker
The Stolen Voice, Pat McIntosh. A Gil Cunningham Murder Mystery
Mr Rosenblum’s List , Natasha Solomons
Several detective stories this month. Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh is set almost entirely in an English country pub (the title is a pun) and has all the village characters you’d expect. It has a nice twist at the end. I’ve said before how variable I find Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver books. Vanishing Point was a lucky find at the market, a hardback copy. There are so many Miss Silver books I can never remember which ones I’ve read, so I was pleased to find this not only new to me, but one of the better ones. Again set in an English country village and hurrah! Miss Silver is sent down there to spy quite early on in the book. Rather a disturbing story. Geranium Cat first put me on to the Gil Cunningham murder mysteries by Pat McIntosh. I haven’t been able to read them in order and grabbed the latest, The Stolen Voice, when I saw it in the library. I wouldn’t expect to enjoy books set in fifteenth century Glasgow but I do, very much. Gil and his clever wife Alys are attractive characters and I like all the domestic details. The language is Scots but nothing a southerner can’t follow. In this story Gil investigates the mysterious disappearance of several church singers. Not quite detection but Robert Goddard writes some of the best page-turners around. Name to a Face was not as good as the last two I read but this excerpt sums up very well what happens to the hero of a Goddard novel:
Exactly how his life had become so complicated in the course of a single weekend was a mystery Harding pondered as he disembarked from the helicopter at St Mary’s Airport. It had seemed such a simple errand at the outset. But at every step he had uncovered a disturbing secret.
From detection to romance. I was very disappointed in the last novel I read by Raffaella Barker, whose Summertime I love so much. Happily, I really enjoyed Poppyland. Two people meet by accident one evening in Copenhagen. Nothing happens yet neither ever forgets the encounter. We learn that each has a particular reason for avoiding Norfolk. In the end, in a beautiful circle, they and several other characters turn out to be connected. By Norfolk, of course. After reading The Tapestry of Love I wanted more by Rosy Thornton and picked Not Just Love-Letters. Letters and emails between: two MPs, two primary school teachers, one of the teachers and her gran. How do you turn these into a romantic novel? By being clever and funny, that’s how. I didn’t like it as much as The Tapestry of Love but it’s a quick, enjoyable read.
Now for a curiosity: Children of the Archbishop by Norman Collins
The wonder of this book is that I ever managed to get through it. The children of the title are orphans living at the Archbishop Bodkin Hospital in the 1920s and 30s. Only at the end do we realize that the whole book has really been about the most boring and irritating character in it. Norman Collins is best known for London Belongs to Me, recently reissued as a Penguin Classic. Somehow I’ve never read it and the Archbishop has put me right off doing so. The tedium, pomposity and attempts at humour of the whole thing are beyond belief.
The children’s book I read this month I found more gripping than most books for adults. I love Eileen Dunlop’s A Flute in Mayferry Street so I was pleased to spot The House on the Hill. Two children, related but previously unknown to each other because of a family quarrel, have to live temporarily with their great aunt. The eponymous house is large and still dominated by the presence of Aunt Jane’s late father. The children soon notice strange happenings which they investigate in spite of being realistically scared. Gripping stuff, with believable children.
I re-read the Ngaio Marsh mentioned above and also two delightful books: The House that is Our Own by O Douglas and Ruby Ferguson’s Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary.