callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

November books

The Sentence is Death , Anthony Horowitz
Middle England , Jonathan Coe
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J K Rowling
Lady Macbeth, Nicholas Freeling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling
All for Love, Jane Aiken Hodge
Constable Goes to Market, Nicholas Rhea
Buried in the Country, Carola Dunn
Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield

My Harry Potter-fest is now over and I miss it! I like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because it’s so much about school and work and teenage relationships. In my opinion, the action in these books should be set at Hogwarts as much as possible, since what makes the books work for me is that they are real school stories with a ‘three chums’ thread which works. All the camping out and doing nothing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gets rather tiresome. The good thing about this book is of course the vindication of Snape, whom I had faith in all along. Although I read the first three books longer ago than the later ones (obviously), I found I remembered them much better; there were whole scenes in the later books I’d completely forgotten. Since I started clicking on pictures of Alan Rickman (*sighs*) when browsing Pinterest, the home page keeps throwing Harry Potter at me. Some sweet pics but some ghastly slash cartoons. Snape and Hermione? No! Stop showing me these awful things, please.

Lady Macbeth, was last month’s Crime Classics review club book. Freeling wrote the Van der Valk books, of which I’ve read one: Because of the cats. Lady Macbeth is part of a series about Henri Castang, a French detective. I found it very difficult to read and totally confusing. The book begins with a straightforward murder case before moving on to the main story: a murder which may not have happened at all. An Englishman called Guy is married to Scottish Sibill. He’s an artist and garden designer, she’s the secretary and business brain. One day they are driving in the Vosges, lose their way and have a row. Sibill gets out of the car and walks away; Guy continues his drive. That’s his story. Someone who knows them gets suspicious about Sibill’s total disappearance and tips off the police. From there on, it’s chaos. There are multiple narrators, each giving his or her opinion on the case. They have a tendency to start talking about something else completely, without notice. It’s rather as though Castang had compiled a dossier containing all these papers and chucked the lot at the reader, saying, ‘Here, see if you can make a book out of this’. Clever and tricksy, I suppose, but I don’t like to have to work that hard when I’m reading and I’m thankful that the truth is out in the end, and is very surprising. I did like Castang and I’m sure Freeling wrote better books than this.

All for Love (Agora Books again), was recommended by Geranium Cat and on reading her review, I immediately snagged it from NetGalley. Although I’ve read books by Jane Aiken Hodge, I didn’t realise she had written so many regency romances. This one is set in Savannah in the early nineteenth century. Two cousins, Josephine and Juliet, as alike as twins, have moved to America from France. Josephine has married a rich man, while Juliet is destitute after the death of her father. Josephine has a hare- brained scheme which leads to many unforeseen complications. The setting is unusual and the book is frothy fun. I’d like to read some more of these.

Yet another from Agora Books, Constable Goes to Market nearly sent me to sleep in bed when I started it. This is my second ‘Constable’ book and it’s a meandering tale like the first one I tried. Reading this book, you can learn a lot about the many arcane laws relevant to market trading in the UK. Constable Rhea knows the law so well, you wonder why he hasn’t been promoted. If you’re looking for a ‘nice, quiet book’, this is it. Personally, I could do with a lot more liveliness in the style. Some of the events described are really funny, yet they don’t make you laugh. A potentially really dangerous incident is treated no differently from daily chores like rescuing cats from trees or finding lost dogs. Mr Rhea (Peter Walker), may not have been PC Plod, but he was a plodding writer.

Buried in the Country is Cornish Mystery No.4, so I must have missed the third one. Like Hazel Holt’s Mrs Malory, Eleanor Trewynn is surprisingly tireless and energetic for a person her age but it’s a nice change to have books with older heroines who aren’t at all glamorous. There are two stories here. One deals with Eleanor called in by an old (and very important) friend to help out with a sticky diplomatic problem. The other is a murder which she and her DC niece, Megan, get caught up in. A car chase over foggy Bodmin moor is very exciting and Eleanor’s knowledge of local routes is vital. Needless to say, her involvement doesn’t please Megan’s guv, Scumble, but as usual he’s forced to admit that interfering Mrs Trewynn has helped the police.

I was irritated by a factual error which could have been checked. Winchester Cathedral was *not* by the Beatles but The New Vaudeville Band. I know it’s pedantic to point out something like that but such mistakes temporarily hold up my reading while I’m feeling annoyed about them.

I finished Once Upon a River just in time to include it in November’s reading. It’s brilliant! It won’t be out until January 17th but I’ll be reviewing it soon.
Tags: carola dunn, crime fiction, diane setterfield, j k rowling, jane aiken hodge, netgallley, nicholas freeling, nicholas rhea

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