I’ll start with the best, although it won’t be out until August. I enjoyed Ambrose Parry’s first two books about Dr Will Raven, practising medicine in grim nineteenth century Edinburgh. Sarah, now widowed, has returned from a trip abroad chastened, believing her dream of studying medicine is over. She also finds that in the meantime Will has met a woman he wants to marry, the daughter of an eminent doctor. But why does the doctor seem so pleased to get her off his hands? This mystery will last for most of the book. There are two murder themes here. One is the sudden death of an important, unpleasant Edinburgh figure and the arrest of his son for the murder. The other is about the ghastly trade of baby farming and the heartless murder of babies. These two stories turn out to be strangely connected and yet again Will and Sarah work together to solve the murders, in spite of the new woman in Will’s life. As in the first two books, the atmosphere of Edinburgh, with its extremes of wealth and poverty, its snobberies and hopelessness, is very well conveyed. Reading it, I was constantly thankful for modern medicine and shuddered every time a doctor began treating a new patient without washing his hands. A brilliantly original series. I read this thanks to NetGalley.
Earlier this month, Dean Street Press brought out ten crime novels by Anne Morice. Unusually, these are not pre-war ‘golden age’ books but were first published in the 1970s.
The fascinating ingredients of gaiety, ingenuity, fine characterisation, mystery and terror,‘the words of the Manchester Evening News, appreciating the long-running series of mysteries featuring sleuth Tessa Crichton.’
Death in the Grand Manor introduces Tessa Crichton, actress and amateur sleuth. In this first book of the series, Tessa goes to stay with her cousin and his wife in the country. She finds a local feud against the neighbours, a murder and a handsome young man she meets in the pub …She gets into danger (don’t they always?) but solves the case. Edmund Crispin described this as ‘a remedy for existentialist gloom.' In the second book, Murder in Married Life, Tessa has married the handsome stranger, who turned out to be Robin Price, a Scotland Yard detective. They are well off and Tessa is much more famous than she appeared in the first book, although little time has elapsed. There is a complicated plot (I found it hard to follow in places), which involves both murder and blackmail. Tessa gets so much wrong that you wonder why the series bears her name but in spite of that, the books are amusing and entertaining. They’re also cheap for the Kindle. Each has an introduction and afterword by Curtis Evans.
More news from Dean Street soon, about the latest Furrowed Middlebrow books. I have two and am really looking forward to reading them.
The latest book from the Crime Classics Review Club is The Deadly Truth by Helen McCloy. This is another mystery featuring psychiatrist Dr Basil Willing. I wrote about the other one I read here. In this book, Dr Willing is on holiday by the sea, living in a fisherman’s hut, his nearest neighbours a house party in a big house. How hard it is for a detective to get any peace! Of course, there’s a murder and he has to get involved. I’ll be honest, what I like about these books is that they’re American and therefore very different from the usual British village/country house murder. I like to read that when Willing returns to New York, women have stopped wearing white shoes (must be after Labor Day!) and other aspects of life which the American reader would take for granted.