Murder at Mansfield Park, Lynn Shepherd
Summer Term , Carol Pearce
We’re in the Sixth!, Carol Ann Pearce
St Kelvern’s Launches Out, Carol Ann Pearce
The Deans Solve a Mystery, Kathleen Fidler
The Counterfeit Madam, Pat McIntosh
A Rising Storm, Rachel Hore
Ninepins , Rosy Thornton
A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar , Suzanne Joinson
Friday Nights, Joanna Trollope
Look Back with Love , Dodie Smith
Look Back with Mixed Feelings, Dodie Smith
John & Mary’s Secret Society, Grace James
The Cave of Winds, C Bernard Rutley.
Wedding Tiers, Trisha Ashley
In Murder at Mansfield Park, Lynn Shepherd has taken Jane Austen’s original characters but transposed their personalities, so that Fanny is rich and bitchy and Mary Crawford the heroine. The set-up is convincing and Shepherd captures the Austen tone very well but I felt it took a long time to get to the murder. The most interesting character, surprisingly, is the ‘thief-taker’, sent down from London to investigate the case. He now has a claim to be the first modern detective! I found this book just a little too knowing; for instance, the idea at the end that Mary Crawford will write novels about ‘two or three families in a village’ just like Jane Austen. Nor did I like the occasional joke put in for the modern reader, like the reference to a place called ‘Heath Row’ (if you’ve already read the book, you know what I mean). The murderer is revealed in a melodramatic scene and you wonder how on earth the various Mansfield families can ever settle down again to a normal life. I also thought that Mary chose the wrong man to marry but I guess Lynn Shepherd is playing with us there, criticising Jane Austen’s decisions about her characters’ marriages. I really preferred P D James’ Death Comes to Pemberley.
The Kindle spring sale yielded some great bargains. I was delighted to get The Counterfeit Madam by Pat McIntosh for 99p. It was the only Gil Cunningham mystery I hadn’t read and you can wait a long time for one to appear at the library. I’ve mentioned the series before. It’s set in fifteenth century Glasgow and Gil, a lawyer, is also employed to investigate unusual murders. Reading this instalment, I was at first hopelessly confused by the ramifications of the Scottish kinship system and all the complications of land holding. Once we’d got past that, I enjoyed it as usual. I like the characters and the depictions of daily domestic life. I just wish we saw more of Kate, who has more to do in the earlier books.
Another Kindle bargain was Trisha Ashley’s Wedding Tiers. I really like this author for light reading; there’s always so much about old houses, restoring gardens and other stuff which is right up my street. It’s Katie Fforde territory and in my opinion just as good. Josie lives in the country, apparently blissfully happy with her childhood sweetheart and her Good Life lifestyle. ‘I suppose gardening and cooking are my passions, and I’m sorry if that sounds old-fashioned and sad, but there it is.’ As the reader soon spots, there’s a serpent in Eden and everything changes. Josie’s speciality is making weird and wonderful wedding cakes, hence the title. I should warn anyone who’s dieting that this book is full of descriptions of wonderful food and even includes recipes. Sophy Winter from A Winter’s Tale gets a mention when friend Libby buys an old house needing restoration.
I’ve been enjoying books by another new-to-me author, Rachel Hore, but I liked A Rising Storm less than the others I’ve read. I kept noticing anachronisms. I can’t believe that a girl at boarding school before the war would have been allowed to write to a boy or receive letters from him, for example. It read like a cross between The Camomile Lawn and Carve her Name with Pride and for me it didn’t come off. As for Friday Nights, by Joanna Trollope, I think I’ll just give up on the author. A weak storyline, unbelievable characters.
Children’s books read this month included two of my market finds. Kathleen Fidler was a very popular writer at one time. She wrote a series of books about the Brydons, which I tried and found boring, and another about the Deans. I really liked The Deans Solve a Mystery: ordinary children and (almost) believable happenings. The Cave of Winds is a ripping yarn by a writer famous for them. Quite ridiculous but quite fun and I did read it all. Real Boys’ Own stuff. Still reading through my John & Mary books, which never let me down.