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October books



The Christmas Sisters, Sarah Morgan
Appleby Talks, Michael Innes
The Ghost it Was, Richard Hull
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J K Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Levanter, Eric Ambler
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix



As you see from the list, I’m having a private Potterfest, with breaks. I may write more about what it’s like reading these books again after so many years but for now, I’ll just say that after Azkaban the books are *too long*. No wonder so much was cut for the films.

The Christmas Sisters, (out today) was not quite the jolly book I expected from one with ‘Christmas’ in the title but all ends happily. Suzanne lives in the Scottish Highlands and is, as always, planning the perfect Christmas for daughters Posy, Hannah and Beth. There’s a tragedy in the past which clever, driven Hannah, in particular, still hasn’t come to terms with. Can she learn to accept the past and to love? How about Beth, with her perfect marriage and children? Will she find a solution to her sudden discontent? I loved the setting of this book and the strong sense of local community. It’s so full of warmth it’s like a cup of hot chocolate. Light reading with characters you care about and romance thrown in. Read thanks to NetGalley.

Appleby Talks, is another of the Agora books I’m getting regularly from the Crime Classics Review Club. This book was first published in 1954 and contains twenty-three stories. The premise is that Appleby spins yarns about past cases to a group of friends who include the Doctor, the Vicar, the QC and other professional types. I personally found this unbearably clubland and Appleby a pompous old bore. Where was Lady Appleby while he was telling these rather tall stories? There is one really good mystery in the book: ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’. This and two other good stories are written as straight narrative, which works much better, I think. Innes can be so good, but this is not one of his better books. I read this thanks to Agora Books and NetGalley.

More from Crime Classics with The Ghost it Was. I’ve enjoyed Richard Hull’s offbeat mysteries and think they’re well worth reviving. ‘The Ghost it Was’ begins too slowly for me. Half way through the book before there’s a body! The first half of the book is taken up with family politics, which are somewhat confusing. James Warrenton, an irascible, wealthy old man lives in an allegedly haunted house and has become interested in the paranormal. He has a niece and a number of nephews, some living with him, some nearby and all but one anxious to inherit. Heated arguments take place as to the existence or not of the Amberhurst ghost. When a death does take place, no one is sure if it was an accident or murder. If the latter, could the victim have been killed by a ghost? Things really pick up in the second half of the book with the arrival of Scotland Yard and the last chapter is a tease, leaving the reader in doubt about the culprit (among so many suspects) until the very end. Good stuff.

And another one from TCCC! The Levanter, reprinted by Agora Books was first published in 1972 but so much of what the book tells you about politics in the Middle East is still relevant today. The chief character, Michael Howell, runs a family business in Syria. He and his colleague/mistress discover by accident that their firm is being used by terrorists as cover for a bomb-making factory. The target is Israel. Howell and Teresa are forced to work for the terrorist leader, whose twisted thinking and casual violence are brilliantly described. Michael secretly fights back but it’s difficult and dangerous and his efforts will probably force him to leave Syria. I found it difficult to get into the book at first because there is so much technical information which was quite beyond me. Once the game’s afoot, it’s a gripping thriller. Ambler was good.
Tags: crime fiction, eric ambler, harry potter, j k rowling, michael innes, netgalley, richard hull, sarah morgan
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