- Martin Edwards (editor) - A Surprise For Christmas. Short Crime Stories. A British Library Crime Classic (Published 2020) A range of short stories dating from the first half of the C20.
- Jan Morris - In My Minds Eye: A Thought Diary. Non Fiction. (Published 2018) A daily diary of her thoughts through 2017
- Julian Symons - The Progress of a Crime.Crime Fiction (Published 2020 British Library Crime Classic Originally Published 1960). Based on a true story. This story of a crime which many people saw happen but no one quite knows who did it.
- Dorothy Evelyn Smith - O The Brave Music. Fiction. From The British Library Women Writers Series (Published 2020 Originally Published 1943) Ruan Ashley looks back at her childhood before the first World War. Her young life as the daughter of a Strict Non-conformist Minister, later at her mothers ancestral home and in the background always the moors above the town, the love of kind Rosie and always David , six years older but the one person who understands her.
- Mike Hollow - The Blitz Detective. Historical Crime Fiction (Published 2015) A new to me author as his books have just been re-printed (2020) with new titles and covers. A man's body is discovered in an unmarked van in London and when DI John Jago is called to the scene he recognises the victim as Charles Villiers a local Justice of the Peace. Unfortunately this is the start of the Blitz and a German bomb destroys the van and any evidence.
- Peter Shaffer - The Woman in the Wardrobe. Crime Fiction(Published 2020 BLCC Originally Published 1951). A very strange tale of an amateur detective helping the police sort out a crime in a seaside hotel. Very Poor I thought.
- Anne Perry - Death With a Double Edge. Historical Crime Fiction. (Published 2020) Set in the years before WWI , this is the 4th in her series featuring young lawyer Daniel Pitt the son of Thomas Pitt, the head of special branch who was the main character in a previous long series. These are always well written with a good story line.
7 Books Read in January
- Lissa Evans - V for Victory. Fiction (Published 2020). This picks up the story started in Crooked Heart. Set in wartime London with Noel now 15 still with his "auntie" looking after several lodgers in a house that isn't hers .I've read 3 of her books set in wartime including "Their Finest Hour and a Half" which was made into the film "Their Finest"
- Mary Kelly - The Spoilt Kill. Crime Fiction ( British Library Crime Classic 2020 Originally Published 1961). Written in the first person by Hedley Nicholson a private investigator called in to find out who is leaking designs from the long established pottery of Shentalls . Then a body is found in the liquid clay vat.
- Rennie Airth - The Decent Inn of Death. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). The 6th in a series featuring John Madden, now a retired Police Inspector. This is set in the early1950s.
Only 3 Books Read in February
- Elizabeth Fair - Landscape in Sunlight. Fiction (A Furrowed Middlebrow Reprint 2017 Originally Published 1953). Life in the village of Little Mallin is dominated in summer by preparations for the August Church Fete. The vicars wife - Mrs Custance is in charge but her life is complicated by Mrs Midge and her son Lucan - who really should have gone back to London after the war, and her daughter Cassandra who she would like to see happily married.
- Andrew Wilson - I Saw him Die. Crime Fiction. (Published 2020). The 4th in a series featuring Agatha Christie solving a crime in between writing her own books. In this one she is taking a holiday with her daughter on the Isle of Skye before her wedding to Max Mallowen - something that actually happened. Except in the book she has been asked to help the owner of a big house find out who is planning to kill him - there are many suspects.
- Richard Osman - The Thursday Murder Club. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). If you want a serious police procedural story then don't bother with this but if you're prepared to suspend reality of how the police work then it's just a bit of fun. The four residents of Coopers Chase Retirement Village are of various ages and backgrounds and meet on Thursdays bringing different areas of expertise when looking at old unsolved crimes. When a murder happens right there in the Coopers Chase the club soon acquire a couple of tame police officers to help them solve the crime and when a second murder happens it all gets very complicated.
- Alexander McCall Smith - How to Raise an Elephant. Crime Fiction.(Published 2020). Another in this long series about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and set in sunny Botswana. Things are very quiet at the Agency but then Mma Ramotswe has a visit from a distant relative, new neighbours move in and strange damage occurs to her little white van. This was a quick read and very light reading with no crime this time.
- Elly Griffiths - The Postscript Murders. Crime Fiction. (Published 2021) The second in a new series featuring DS Harbinder Kaur and set in Sussex. A very good story in which the carer of a 90 year old lady doesn't believe her death was natural and involves another occupant of the old peoples flats, her friend from the coffee shop and also Harbinder in sorting out the mystery.
- Robert Harris - V2. Fiction (Published 2020). The
book is based on fact and set over 5 days in November 1944 and begins on the Dutch coast, in an area still held by the Germans.
It's from this spot in the forest that they have been firing the lethal
V2 rockets to destroy London. The story is mainly about Rudi Graf a
young German scientist whose interests in rockets for space travel
means he is soon involved in the building, testing and firing of the V2
rockets.In London an officer in the WAAF - Kay Caton-Walsh - finds herself surviving one of the rocket attacks while in the home of her lover. Almost immediately she joins a small team of WAAFs sent out to Belgium to help work out from where the V2 rockets are being fired.The last part of the jacket blurb says "But for every action on one side there is an equal and opposite reaction on the other. As the death toll soars, the separate stories of Graf and Kay ricochet off one another until,in a final explosion of violence, their destinies are forced together"Both find they have been lied to by those in charge.
- Chris Nickson - The Molten City. Crime Fiction.(Published 2020) Set in Leeds in 1908. There’s going to be a riot. Detective Superintendent Tom Harper can feel it. Herbert Asquith, the prime minster, is due to speak in the city. The suffragettes and the unemployed men will be out in the streets in protest. It’s Harper’s responsibility to keep order. Can he do it? Plus he's also received an anonymous letter claiming that a young boy called Andrew Sharp was stolen from his family fourteen years before. The file is worryingly thin. A missing child should have been headline news. Why was Andrew’s disappearance ignored?
- Cora Harrison - Death of a Prominent Citizen. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). This is the 7th in a series set in Ireland in the 1920s. The Reverend Mother has been summoned to her cousin's home - along with some other relatives - to find out what wealthy widow Charlotte Hendrick has decided to do with all her money when she dies. Next morning she is found dead.
8 Books Read in March
- Nap Lombard - Murder's a Swine. Crime Fiction (British Library Crime Classic 2021 Originally Published 1943). This is a witty, lighthearted murder set in London in the early years of WWII before bombing started. It reminded me of Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence mysteries. Nap Lombard was a pseudonym of Pamela Hansford Johnson and her then husband Gorden Neil Stewart who both served as Air Raid Wardens and this book starts with the discovery of a body behind sandbags in an air raid shelter.
- Chris Nickson - To The Dark. Crime Fiction. (Published 2020)All of this authors books are set in Leeds but in different periods. This is the 3rd featuring thief-taker Simon Westlow during the 1820's. The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for
Simon and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence
Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river
at Flay Cross Mill.
- Julie Wassmer - Murder on the Downs. Crime Fiction. (Published 2020). The 7th in the Whitstable Pearl series. A controversial new property development is planned in Whitstable which will encroach upon the green open space of the downs. A campaign starts to stop the development but soon one person is dead. A Very Quick Read!
- Mike Hollow - The Custom House Murder. Crime Fiction (Published 2017 and re-named and re-published in 2020) September 1940 and a month into the London Blitz this is the 3rd in a series featuring DI John Jago.
- Robin Blake - Secret Mischief. Crime Fiction (Published 2021). This is the 7th in a series of historical crime fiction set in the early 18C in Lancashire around the Preston area. It features the coroner for the area Titus Cragg and his friend Dr. Luke Fidelis . This story centres around a Tontine which is a way of leaving money to the "last man standing" from a group of friends.
- Anne Hart - Miss Marple; The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple. Fictional Biography. (Published 1986). Using all the Agatha Christie short and longer stories featuring Miss Marple, Anne Hart collects together all the pieces of information to provide a 'biography' of the crime solving sleuth. A small book - quickly read.
- Barbara Whitton - Green Hands. Fiction. (And IWM reprint . Originally published 1943) This fictional account of two Land Girls working hard on farms in 1943. The author worked as a Land Girl in 1939.
- Mike Hollow - The Stratford Murder. Crime Fiction (Published as Firing Line in 2018. Renamed and re-printed in 2020). The 4th in a series set in The London Blitz and featuring DI John Jago.
- Elizabeth Fair - Seaview House. Fiction. ( A Furrowed Middlebrow reprint 2017. Originally Published 1955. Her books are always described as comedies of domestic life. This one is set in a seaside boarding house. A gentle easy read.
- John Coates - Patience. Fiction. ( Persephone reprint 2012. Originally published 1953). This book was banned in Ireland when it was originally published. It's the story of a Catholic girl married to a man 15 years her senior who believes all there is to life is babies and being a good wife who feeds her husband and submits to his attention. Then she meets Phillip and suddenly she falls in love which is very complicated - involving Sin. This is a lovely happy but sad story. Maureen Lipman wrote a new preface and said she hoped Persephone would reprint more of Coates writing but so far they haven't.
- Jane Johnson - The Sea Gate. Fiction. (Published 2020) Saw this mentioned on someone's blog, this is one of those books that moves between past and present. In the present Rebecca is recovering from cancer when her mother dies and on clearing the house she finds some letters to her mother from Olivia, an elderly cousin in Cornwall who needs help with house repairs to enable her to be allowed home from hospital. In the past Olivia is 16 and abandoned in Cornwall by her mother in the middle of WWII. A well written book with an interesting story of family secrets kept for far too long.
- Donna Leon - Trace Elements. Crime Fiction (Published 2020) The most recent of this Very long series set in Venice. Featuring Commissario Brunetti. When a doctor at the Hospice calls to say a dying patient wants to speak to the police, Brunetti finds a story that threatens the water supply of Venice.
12 Books Read in April!
- Nicola Upson - The Dead of Winter. Crime Fiction. (Published 2020)This is the 9th by this author featuring the real life author and playwright Josephine Tey. Josephine and her friend Chief Inspector Archie Penrose are invited for a Cornish Christmas on St Micheal's Mount. Penrose has been charged with looking after famous Actress Marlene Dietrich.The weather closes in and two strange and tragic deaths occur and Penrose has to make sense of it all.
- Robin Blake- Death and the Chevalier. Crime Fiction.(Published 2019). I read the most recent by this author last month and found there was a 2019 book I'd not seen. This is the 6th in a series set in 18C Preston. At this time The Young Pretender - Charles Edward Stuart was trying to take the English Crown from the Hanoverian George II.
- E.C.R.Lorac - Two-Way Murder. Crime Fiction (British Library Crime Classic written in 1950's and Published for the first time in 2021) BLCC have published several by this author but this is the first book that had never been published before. Martin Edwards has written an introduction explaining how this story was found and guessing at why it wasn't published before the author's death.
- Robert Harris - Munich. Fiction. (Published 2017) Set over 5 days in 1938 and mixing fiction into fact. This tells the story of the meeting in Munich between Chamberlain and Hitler. Hitler is determined to start a war and Chamberlain wants peace. Two young men - one British and one German who met at Oxford University have secrets that could be dangerous.
- Judith Cutler - Green and Pleasant land. Crime Fiction. (Published 2014) This is an author I had read before but not lately. Newly retired ex-Chief Superintendent and her Husband Mark - also retired from the police force - are asked to assist a police force to look at an old un-resolved crime from twenty years ago. But no one seems willing to help or tell the truth.
- Elly Griffiths - The Night Hawks. Crime Fiction (Published 2021). Another in the Dr Ruth Galloway series set on the bleak Norfolk coast and the fictional University of North Norfolk. These stories always mix archaeology with modern day crime and are good easy reading.
- Jan Morris - A Writer's House in Wales. Non Fiction (Published 2002). Jan Morris was such a good descriptive writer so this little book really gives a good look at the house in Wales that was her home for so many years.
- Rebecca Schiller - Earthed. Non Fiction. (Published 2021) . Rebecca, her husband and their two children have moved to a 2 acre smallholding in Kent but the stress of having to work so hard both on and off the holding have put a strain on her already fragile mental health. This book goes through a year as she struggles to find out why she feels this way. The eventual diagnoses of ADHD - apparently very under diagnosed in women - helps her see a way through.
8 Books Read in May
- Alys Clare - The Lammas Wild. Crime Fiction.(Published 2021) I raced through this as it has been a very good series of mystery, magic and crime and this is the last one. It is the year 1100 and Lassair the healer from the Fens has is returning from Spain where she has been for 7 years learning more about the mysterious skills she possesses. Before she can return to her family she has to retrieve a chest that was left for her by the Kings spy.
- Josie George - A Still Life. Non Fiction (Published 2021) This is a memoir about her life with an unexplained painful illness that sometimes reduces her to having to rest for days on end. She writes about her small world between her home, her son's school, her friend's home and the community centre . It is beautifully written, noticing all the small things and taking joy in life as it is for her.
- Stuart Pawson - The Judas Sheep. Crime Fiction (Published 1996) I read a couple by this author many years ago . They now seem very dated. D.I. Charlie Priest is on sick leave but gets called back to help with the murder of a wealthy tycoons chauffeur and disappearance of the mans wife - about which he doesn't seem to be at all bothered .
- Jacqueline Winspear - The Consequences of Fear. Crime Fiction(Published 2021). London 1941 and 12 year old Freddie Hacket is a message runner for a government office. On one errand he sees two men fighting, quickly hides and realises he is watching a murder and then is terrified to discover the man he has just seen is the person to whom he has to deliver the message. The police do not believe him so he turns to Maisie Dobbs - the private investigator. This is the 14th in this series and once again Maisie uses all her skills to find the answer while still working secretly for the Special Operations Executive.
- Danie Couchman - Afloat. Non Fiction. (Published 2019). Fed up with flat sharing and the rush of central London, on one of her walks Danni finds the Regents Canal and after a while she buys a Narrow boat. Moorings are too expensive so she has to be a continuous cruiser, moving every 2 weeks along the canals through London. In between all the work involved in owning and moving a boat she is a continuity broadcaster and voice over person for many different TV channels and advertising companies. Underlying the whole story is something that happened years ago that she has struggled to come to terms with.
- Jini Reddy - Wanderland; A Search for Magic in the Landscape.. Non Fiction. (Published 2020).One review says " A witty, gentle, original and very modern quest for the magical(not the mythical) in Britains landscape." Jini travels all over the country finding unusual people and places.
- Griffiths Family with Alun Gibbard - Life in the Coal House. Non Fiction. (Published 2010). Just a small book with the story of the Griffiths' family during their time as the stars of the BBC Wales Coal House series.. This book relates the story from the perspective of various members of the family. Why did they go on the show? What was it like to live in such conditions?
7 Books read in June
- Rachel Hore - A Beautiful Spy. Fiction. (Published 2021) A quick read , not as good as her previous books I thought. This is a fiction but based on a real person - Olga Grey who really did work as a spy for British Intelligence during the 1930s and brought Percy Glading to trial for treachery in 1938 for sharing secrets with the Russians
- Mary Paulson-Ellis - The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing.Fiction (Published 2019). France 1918 and in the final weeks of the war a group of British Soldiers shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. They pass the time by placing bets using whatever objects they possess. Then tragedy. 100 years later Heir Hunter Solomon Farthing is tipped off about the death of an old man in a care home who possesses nothing except an old pawn ticket and £50,000 sewn into his burial suit . I found this a complicated read trying to work out what was happening and who was who in the two timelines.
- Ruth Hogan - The Keeper of Lost Things. Fiction. (Published 2017). Anthony Peardew was once a well know author of short stories and has spent half his life collecting and lovingly caring for things other people have lost. As he approaches his last days he leaves his house and the collection to his assistant Laura - giving her the task of finding the owners of all the Lost Things. This is a gentle story of co-incidence and serendipity.
- Donna Leon - Falling in Love. Crime Fiction (Published 2015) This is another in the series featuring Commissario Brunetti and set in Venice. Flavia Petrelli is an opera star and used to adoring fans but when she is inundated with yellow roses - even some left inside her locked apartment she begins to feel frightened. Luckily Brunetti is an old friend and is soon on the case.
- Cal Flyn - Islands of Abandonment:Life in the Post-Human Landscape. Non Fiction (Published 2021) "This is a book about abandoned places:ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man's lands and fortress islands - and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim it's place. From Chernobyl to a Scottish Island, Cal Flyn has visited places that for various reasons are now not inhabited by humans. In many places nature is reclaiming the land or has adapted to move in. A fascinating book both frightening and hopeful.
- Cora Harrison - Murder in an Orchard Cemetery. Crime Fiction. (Published 2021). Another in a series set in Cork in Ireland in the 1920s. The Reverend Mother is on an annual retreat although this year it has changed as the Bishop has invited the 5 people who are hoping to be elected Alderman. When a bomb goes off killing one of the men it's initially thought to be the IRA. But maybe not........
- Ronald Blythe - Stour Seasons. Non Fiction. (Published 2016). The 10th collection of his writing that first appeared in The Church Times. From his home on the Suffolk/Essex border (once the home of Artist John Nash) He writes about his garden, the countryside, the people he knows and knew - now in his nineties he knew many famous artistic people, - his travels and the Church year.
7 Books Read in July
- Hope Bourne - A Little History of Exmoor.(Published 1968). An interesting easy reading book with history of Exmoor from the earliest times, through the Domesday book right up to when Exmoor became a National Park
- Martin Edwards-(editor) - Guilty Creatures. Short Stories (Published 2021) A British Library Crime Classic collection of stories dating from the early 1900's up to the 1960s. Not one of the best collections in my opinion.
- Charles Foster - The Screaming Sky.Non Fiction. (Published 2021) A study of Swifts. As they migrate across the world Charles Foster follows them. A fascinating informative book by an author obsessed with these birds.Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing 2021.
- Chris Nickson - Brass Lives. Crime Fiction. (Published 2021). Another one in the series set in Leeds and featuring Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper This one has moved on to 1913.
- Neil Ansell - The Circling Sky. Non Fiction (Published 2021). Coincidentally this is another book long listed for The Wainwright Nature Writing Book Prize. Neil Ansell like to do things on his own - his first book Deep Country was about his 5 years in a remote Welsh cottage. This time he is walking in the New Forest. He's love of the area started as a child and in this book he re-visits places he knew as well as parts of the forest he didn't know before. He visits over 30 times in 2019 recording all he sees - although his main interest is birds.
- Hilary McKay- The Swallows Flight. Children's Fiction (Published 2021). This is a follow up to The Skylarks War. Although these are classed as children's books they are rather books about children. The children are now grown with children of their own and this story is mainly about two young girls in England and two young boys in Germany growing up in the interwar years and their time in in WWII. A lovely book.
- Sarah Maine- Women of the Dunes. Fiction (Published 2018). In the present day Libby is an Archaeologist who gets the chance to work on the coast at Ullaness in West Scotland. She has been told tales of this place from her grandmother back in Canada. Ellen is a servant girl in the 1800's getting unwanted attention from the eldest son master of the house and back in 800AD Ulla lands here fleeing from her lovers killer.
- S.J.Bennett - The Windsor Knot. Crime Fiction (Published 2020). Her Majesty the Queen Investigates crime with help from her trusted Personal Secretary Rozie. The morning after a dinner party one of the guests is found murdered in his room and the police suspect the Queens loyal servants. The mystery needs solving before the news is leaked to the press. This is a well written lighthearted book with much details about the inside workings of Windsor Castle. This is the first in a series.
8 Books Read in August
- Clare Leighton.- Country Matters. Non Fiction. (Little Toller Reprint 2016 Originally Published 1937) These pieces were written after she moved to the Chilterns in the 1930s. She was already a well renowned engraver.They tell the stories of a village at the time - The local pub, the flower show, chair bodgers, the village witch etc.
- John Lewis-Stempel - Woodston; The Biography of an English Farm. Non Fiction. (Published 2021) The story of a farm situated on
the Herefordshire/Wales border from Neolithic to the present. Using old
books and records he finds the owners through history and details of the
way they farmed the land. His family have had links to the farm from
times long gone and his Grandfather became Farm Manager there in the
1930's and he, himself, has farmed not far away for many years so is
ideally placed to write this fascinating book.Amazon describes it well....................With his combined skills of farmer and historian, Lewis-Stempel digs deep into written records, the memories of relatives, and the landscape itself to celebrate the farmland his family have been bound to for millennia. Through Woodston's life, we feel the joyful arrival of oxen ploughing; we see pigs rootling in the medieval apple orchard; and take in the sharp, drowsy fragrance of hops on Edwardian air. He draws upon his wealth of historical knowledge and his innate sense of place to create a passionate, fascinating biography of farming in England
- Rory Clements - A Prince and a Spy. Fiction.(Published 2021) The fifth in a series featuring Tom Wilde, an American Cambridge Don who is also now working for for the USA government during WWII. The book is based around the fact that Prince George Duke of Kent and brother to the king was killed in a plane crash over the Scottish Highlands in 1942. On behalf of President Roosevelt - a friend of the Duke, Tom Wilde is sent to find out the hows and whys of the crash. This is so well written and a really good fiction story based on some facts.
- Helen Hoover - A Place in the Forest. Non Fiction (First Published 1969) In the mid 50's during a summer holiday in the wilds of Northern Minnesota, Helen and Ade Hoover decide to buy a cabin and not return to their well paid jobs in Chicago. This book tells the story of the first years when they had no money and no wilderness skills. The locals laid bets on them not lasting the first winter. There are lovely descriptions of a simple life in the woods filled with animals through snow covered winters and beautiful summers. The book isn't all about a perfect life as they sometimes live on very little variation on food, the summers have biting black flies and a fire burns down a storage cabin. I really enjoyed this book.
- Kate Ellis - The Stone Chamber. Crime Fiction. (Published 2021). The umpteenth book in the series featuring DI Wesley Peterson and set in the West Country around Dartmouth (called Tradmouth in the book). As always these stories include history and archaeology - this time with writings "found" from the 1950's and the 14th century.
- Donna Leon - The Golden Egg. Crime Fiction (Published 2013). A Commissario Brunetti story and set in Venice as usual. When a local deaf-mute man is found dead with an empty bottle of pills it looks like suicide but when no record of the man's birth or life are found the case looks more sinister.
6 Books Read in September
- Ann Granger - The Truth Seekers Wife. Crime Fiction. (Published 2021) This is the 8th in a series set in Victorian times featuring Inspector Ben Ross and his wife Lizzie.
- Matt Gaw - Under The Stars; A Journey into Light. Non Fiction. (Published 2020). The author lives in Bury St Edmunds and visits various parts of the country at night to find the darkest places for star-gazing.He also visits London at night to see how the light affects wildlife.
- Anne Perry - A Darker Reality. Crime Fiction (Published 2021). This is the 3rd in a series featuring Elena Standish, a photographer now working for MI6, between the wars. A really well written story - as are all her books.
- Margaret Kennedy - Where Stands A Winged Sentry. (Non Fiction) (Originally Published only in the USA in 1941. This edition published with Notes and a Forward in 2021 by Heldheld Press) Margaret Kennedy was already a well known novelist before she wrote
this during the 6 months in 1940 between the evacuation of Dunkirk and
the Start of the Blitz. It's a journal of her thoughts and experiences as she moves her children
from Surrey to Cornwall. At the time things were very tense as an
invasion was expected at any time so she writes about what the
government and the people are saying . Because she writes so well and
right in the moment, the fear and uncertainty really come through. A very good read.