A short list this month, due to preoccupations with thatching, Test matches, Chelsea Flower Show, thatching …
Sweet Tooth Ian McEwan
The Rose Girls , Victoria Connelly
Crooked Heart , Lissa Evans
The Strangling on the Stage, Simon Brett
Worst. Person. Ever., Douglas Coupland
Here Comes a Chopper, Gladys Mitchell
The Mummy Case, Elizabeth Peters
The Quality of Silence , Rosamund Lupton
Almost English, Charlotte Mandelsen
huskyteer lent me Sweet Tooth and I loved it. I always enjoy a cold war spy story and the heroine is my generation. She’s looking back over her unsuccessful life as a spook. The reader can feel tricked at the end of the book when the narration turns out to be not quite what it seemed (just like the world of espionage) but it’s brilliantly clever. Five stars, I think.
Now for my library books. Worst. Person. Ever. is an incredible account of film making, full of improbable adventures narrated by the said Worst Person. His language throughout is filthy, quite disgusting, so don’t read this if bad language offends you. It is, however, a very funny book.
Simon Brett’s fertile brain keeps coming up with new settings for murders in and around Fethering and in The Strangling on the Stage it’s amateur dramatics. I’ve read the whole Fethering series and still enjoy reading about Carole, Jude and the murderous inhabitants of their part of Sussex. It’s a pity the format of the paperbacks has changed; I preferred the old covers.
For years people have been banging on about the brilliance of Gladys Mitchell, so I gave her a try with Here Comes a Chopper. This is a Mrs Bradley mystery, first published in 1946. I found it slow to get going, then it got macabre and more interesting. I found it irritating, though, that clever Mrs Bradley sees the solution to the mystery from the start but manipulates everyone before being proved right at the end of the book.
I’d read When We Were Bad and enjoyed it while disliking the characters. Almost English is quite different but still didn’t work for me. Teenage Marina lives with her mother and various elderly Hungarian relatives in a flat in Bayswater. Her father deserted the whole family years before. The old ladies are wonderful, with their ‘Darlink’s, their faded glamour and their passion for feeding everyone up on Hungarian delicacies. Marina and her English mother Laura are totally wet. Throughout the book there are hints at a mystery in the family history, but the old dears refuse to talk about it; in fact, no one talks properly to anyone else, the cause of much confusion and distress. For unexplained reasons, Marina is taken out of her London day school and sent to a public school in the west country where she is completely miserable. Her social agonies are excruciating to read about. It’s a coming of age novel, I suppose, for Laura as much as for Marina. There are many acknowledgements at the end of the book but whoever edited it deserves no credit at all. There are errors about the English public school system and more than one reference to trains passing through Blandford Forum (ten miles up the road from me) in 1988. As any fule kno, there have been no trains at Blandford since the 1960s; just see The Slow Train. No excuses.
A while ago there was a great Kindle offer on the first four Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters. At last I got round to the third, The Mummy Case. Considering how much I enjoyed the first two books, I was surprised to be bored by this. There is far too much about how much the Emersons ahem, enjoy married life and not enough crime and murder. Their astonishing son Ramses is entertaining and obviously set to outdo both his parents in brains and enterprise. His spouting learnedly in baby talk is annoying, though. My favourite character by far is ‘the cat Bastet’ as she’s always known. Or, if Ramses is speaking, ‘de cat Bastet’.
Book of the month: Crooked Heart.
In other news, happy 1st June, everybody. Aggers has just reported that cricketers at Headingley are wearing three sweaters. Poor things. At least I'm sitting by a radiator.