One of my continuing aims in 2014 is to continue to read more non-fiction. I had previous to picking up A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley watched some of the TV series it was written to accompany but I didn’t get to watch it all. What I did see I found really interesting which made me really keen to get hold of this book to find out more.
A Very British Murder follows the British developing macabre love of a good murder mystery which started in the early days with wanting to know all the details of a local murder to reading the weekly ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ which went on to become a booming literary crime market that is still going today. Worsley in particular looks at the influence and popularity of newspapers, novels and other forms of written coverage of murder and crime both fictional and real. Worsley also looks at the other forms that this obsession spawned such as plays, puppet shows, public hangings, wax works, games, songs and the macabre trade in murder souvenirs. And our obsession is still going in novels, plays, films and TV shows today.
A Very British Murder is the first book I have read by Lucy Worsley though I have watched a few of her TV shows. I’m really glad I requested a copy because I thought A Very British Murder was an excellently written and perfectly fascinating book. I had trouble putting it down! Worsley splits A Very British Murder into three main parts. Part One: How To Enjoy a Murder looks at how the British first got a taste for a good murder with the gossip, trial and hanging that would follow it and how this started to influence journalists, authors and other entertainers. Part Two: Enter the Detective looks into the first famous detective Mr Whicher and how he went on to influence some of the best known literary detectives and private sleuths. Part Three: The Golden Age looks into the inter-war years where the popularity of crime and its authors was at its height; including probably our best known crime writer Agatha Christie. I thought each part was well written and structured, flowing well into each other and full of interesting quotes, examples and references.
A Very British Murder is an interesting and enjoyable look into the British obsession with a good murder mystery. As a fan of the murder mystery myself I found it all fascinating and would highly recommend to those who are also murder mystery fans whether British or not. Not sure what other historical non-fiction that could follow this for me at the moment.
Have you read and/or watched Worsley?
I received a copy of A Very British Murder via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
The weather here in the UK is getting ever colder and the nights are drawing in ever earlier. The perfect time I always think to turn to those cosy crimes and period dramas. With that in mind I reached for a novel I was recently loaned by a friend Death Comes to Pemberley by P D James. I thought this could perhaps be an interesting blend of both cosy crime and period drama.
Death Comes to Pemberley joins Elizabeth and Darcy after several happy years of marriage. They have faced down much prejudice because of their union but now they are successfully settled at Pemberley with two healthy sons. As lady of the estate Elizabeth has taken on the mantle of arranging the Lady Anne Ball named in honour of Darcy’s mother who was famed for her wonderful balls. After weeks of organisation and preparation Elizabeth settles down for a pleasurable evening with family and close friends before the big night when disaster strikes. An unexpected coach comes hurtling down the back drive and as it comes to a screeching halt outside Pemberley a hysterical Lydia Wickham bursts forth exclaiming murder! A search is instigated of the woods where shots were heard for Wickham and his friend Captain Denny during which a shocking and bloody murder is indeed discovered. There isn’t a large amount of action in Death Comes to Pemberley but I still found myself completely gripped with all the detail and surprises.
The protagonists of Death Comes to Pemberley are the same as Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and Darcy except now the two are married. I really enjoyed seeing how their relationship, which had barely begun at the end of the original novel, has developed. Elizabeth and Darcy still seem very much in love but also more importantly for me comfortable and happy together. And even when their world is shook by this terrible murder and the scandal it brings they still manage to stand strong together. Death Comes to Pemberley also sees the return of Jane and Bingley, Georgiana, Mrs Reynolds, Mr and Mrs Bennett, Lydia and Wickham, Mr and Mrs Gardiner and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Then there are the new characters of Captain Denny, Dr McFee, Sir Selwyn and many Pemberley servants. Altogether a very interesting mixture of the old and new.
Death Comes to Pemberley is in fact my first novel by the crime legend P D James and I loved it. I thought it was a really well-written and conceptualised novel. This is only the second Austen spin-off I have read my first being Pemberley by Emma Tennant and while I enjoyed that I thought Death Comes to Pemberley was head and shoulders above it. James has got the balance right between her own style and her homage to Austen’s style. I also felt the changes James made to the original character’s personalities and situations were also believable and realistic. As I mentioned above their isn’t a deal of action in this novel very much like Austen’s novels. The real centre of the story is still the characters, feelings, thoughts, and relationships. And how these can change during hard times. I would now really like to see how James’s usual novels compare to the style of this Austen tribute.
Death Comes to Pemberley is an excellent crime spin on a classic novel. I highly recommend to those who enjoy crime and period dramas. I look forward to the up-coming TV adaptation even more now.
I made slow but steady progress through more crime, mystery and thriller reading during the darker and colder month of October. After finishing the Danish crime thriller Evil Water by Inger Wolf I straight away reached for the classic Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
Murder on the Orient Express follows the much loved Belgium detective Hercule Poirot as he travels back to England from Syria on the famous Orient Express. Just after passing through Vincovci, Croatia the Orient Express passes into a storm and finally finds itself trapped in a snowdrift. In the morning Poirot and his fellow passengers awake to find the train stationary and that a terrible crime has been committed. Simon Ratchett a first class passenger and millionaire is found dead in his compartment with a dozen stab wounds and his door was locked from the inside. With the snowdrift outside Poirot knows the murderer must still be on the train. Even though there isn’t that much action in Murder on the Orient Express I found myself totally gripped. I loved discovering and collating all the clues with Poirot.
Of course the real star of Murder on the Orient Express is the funny little Belgium Hercule Poirot. He is neat, ordered, eccentric and extremely intelligent. Poirot met the victim Simon Ratchett at the hotel before boarding the Orient Express and took an instant dislike to him. As the plot thickens Poirot discovers Ratchett is not very well liked by anyone and that many of his enemies are on board. The cast includes Ratchett’s young American secretary Hector MacQueen and British valet Edward Masterman, the conductor Pierre Michel, American Mrs Hubbard, Swedish nurse Greta Ohlsson, Princess Dragomiroff and her lady’s maid Hildegarde Schmidt, Count and Countess Andrenyi, British Colonel Arbuthnot, American Cyrus Hardman, Italian-American Antonio Foscarelli, and the young British Mary Debenham. I thought this was a really interesting mixture of characters to get to know.
Even though I have enjoyed several TV adaptations starring the wonderful David Suchet Murder on the Orient Express is actually the first novel I have read by Agatha Christie. I am rather sad it has taken me this long to read Christie because she is really a British writing icon. Now I have read her I can’t wait to read more. Murder on the Orient Express is a slow paced mystery where clues and twists are revealed slowly to the reader. Building up the tension for the climatic final scene where Poirot confronts all the suspects together which he is so famous for. Some readers might not enjoy the rigid structure of the book first chapters leading up to the crime, then chapters on the interviews and evidence, and then a few chapters on Poirot figuring the crime out. I liked this structure because it made the plot flow well, and made for a quick and easy read. I can now see why Christie can be seen as the queen of cosy crime.
Murder on the Orient Express is a classic cosy crime which I loved. I highly recommend to those who enjoy classic crime novels.
I have been making slow but steady progress through more crime, mystery and thriller reading during the darker and colder month of October. After finishing Death Goes Postal by Rosemary and Larry Mild I was keen to carry on so reached for the Danish crime thriller Evil Water by Inger Wolf on my Kindle.
Evil Water follows inspector Daniel Trokic and his team as they hunt a calculating and merciless serial killer in Århus the second largest city in Denmark. The bodies of two women are discovered in two suitcases hidden under a pile of stones on a remote farm on the outskirts of the city. The bodies are badly decomposed but through DNA are identified as Annika Dinesen and Katrine Mikkelsen. Both were young and beautiful women with chestnut coloured hair who were reported missing months earlier. The brutal treatment of the bodies, the mysterious Y-shaped marks on the skin, and the removal of matching little finger bones leads Trokic to believe they are tracking a sinister figure with religious insanity who must be caught before they can strike again. I was barely a chapter into Evil Water before I was completely hooked!. It is full of twists, turns, and intriguing characters and events that keeps you constantly second guessing what on Earth is going on.
Daniel Trokic the main protagonist of Evil Wateris an inspector in the Danish police force. Daniel is a middle-aged and intelligent man. He has never been married or really settled into a serious relationship even with his current much younger girlfriend Christiane. Like many detectives/inspectors we meet in crime fiction there is an element of being married to the job but also in Daniel’s case there is the urge to shun responsibility. I really liked Daniel he is a flawed but likeable man. His flaws inevitably made him more believable and likeable. As well as trying to find a calculating and merciless killer Daniel is also faced with the responsibility of reports, paperwork, and budget control that comes along with his promotion. A poignant issue to be addressed as here in the UK there is much concern that a policeman’s time is wasted on paperwork rather than actually being on the streets. Daniel is definitely more a traditional get out there and do something sort of inspector which I liked.
Evil Water is the first novel I have read by Inger Wolf an emerging Danish author who I first heard of over at the lovely blog Dot Scribbles. I am very glad I have been introduced to Wolf though as I thought Evil Water was an excellent thriller. I have already mentioned I was hooked after only a chapter because of all the twists, turns and events. I also thought Evil Waterwas very well-written, thought out, and brought to life. Scarily the more I read the more I could believe in the characters, places and events. I’ve never been so pleased not to have chestnut coloured hair! I know Scandinavian crime thrillers are only rising in popularity and I am pleased to have tried my first one. I think I would definitely like to read more.
Evil Water is a well-written and gripping crime thriller that I highly recommend to those that enjoy this genre.
I received a free copy of Evil Water from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
What mysteries/thrillers have you been reading recently?
The October weather here in the UK has been cold and is now rather miserable. Perfect weather for a good mystery novel. After finishing Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart I browsed my shelves and found Death Goes Postal by Rosemary and Larry Mild which sadly has been sitting there collecting dust for sometime. It was obviously the right time for it.
Death Goes Postal follows married couple Dan and Rivka Sherman when they find themselves offered the life changing opportunity to buy and run The Olde Victorian Bookstore. The Shermans thought the only pain would be giving up their professional careers instead they find themselves embroiled in a murderous mystery. Professor Abner Fraume the brother of the former owner of The Olde Victorian Bookstore has been brutally murdered for some rare and priceless printing artefacts. The murderer is on the loose and is heading straight for the bookstore looking for the clues which will help them discover their prize. If you read this blog regularly you will know I love a good mystery. Death Goes Postal is a good mystery with plenty of secrets and clues to follow. Although we know who the murderer really is we don’t know him when he is in disguise and what cover name he has taken. I particularly liked the bookshop setting which is where the Shermans are to meet all the potential suspects.
The protagonists of Death Goes Postal Dan and Rivka Sherman are an older couple who have been happily married for many years with grown up children and a new granddaughter. I think Dan and Rivka are nice people but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with them. I actually preferred Edythe the former owner of the bookshop but sadly she is only in the first quarter or so of the novel. Then we have the villain Emil Kravitz a man who can flip and commit a brutal murder in a blink of an eye yet seems to have a real problem with swearing. In a threatening scene with a maid he calls her the very inappropriate ‘ninny’. Do people seriously use that word? On the whole though there was a good mixture of characters and suspects several with Jewish and Holocaust links which added an interesting element.
Death Goes Postal is the first novel I have read by husband and wife writing team Rosemary and Larry Mild. I thought Death Goes Postal was a short and easy read with a good mystery concept. The weakness for me was the dialogue. As I mentioned above the villain uses the inappropriately unthreatening ‘ninny’ but unfortunately that wasn’t the only example for me. The book for me is littered with scenes where the dialogue used jars with the seriousness of the situation. I think this is perhaps because the Milds were trying to create a cosy crime novel by using light-hearted dialogue but I’m afraid it didn’t quite work for me. I would have preferred a balance between action and dialogue instead of completely relying on the dialogue. This meant for me that Death Goes Postal ended up being a good read but I didn’t love it like I expected to when I heard the premise.
Death Goes Postal was an easy and interesting mystery to read. I recommend this if you enjoy your crime with some light-hearted banter.
I received a free copy of Death Goes Postal from the publicist in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have been ploughing on with my new-found love for short story collections in 2013. I read and adored The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at the end of 2012 and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes at the beginning of this year. Since which time I have been very keen to get my hands on more Sherlock Holmes stories. I was lucky enough to download the complete and free collection of Sherlock Holmes to my Kindle. Not long after I started reading the next short story collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes as I’d been rather missing the adventures of our famous sleuth.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of another thirteen Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and published in The Strand between 1903 and 1904. These were the first stories since 1893 when in The Final Problem Doyle killed off his popular creation. The most famous adventure from the collection would have to be The Empty House as this is where we see the ‘return’ of Sherlock Holmes and his explains where he has actually been. I very much enjoyed The Empty House as well as the adventures of The Priory School, Charles Augustus Milverton, and The Six Napoleons. That being said again there were no adventures in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the four I have named though particularly captured my imagination.
Like previous collections I have read I thought The Return of Sherlock Holmes had a good range of stories which were varied and well-balanced. There was also the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. I did again find I was most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson in this collection. As much as I love the mind and foibles of Holmes it is his down-to-earth companion Watson that I find I really connect with. I think it is a very clever device of Doyle to have Watson narrate the stories even though Holmes is the main protagonist. I just don’t think these stories would be as popular if the poor reader had to be literally in the mind of Holmes!
While the length of each story varied quite dramatically in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes for The Return of Sherlock Holmes the length had returned to the more standard length like those found in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which I much preferred. I am still really enjoying reading the short story collections of Sherlock Holmes. As the shorter length of the stories means I can easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. I do now however have all of Doyle’s Holmes novels and I would like to read them in the not so far future too. For now I look forward to reading the next short story collection His Last Bow.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes was another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. I highly recommend to those interested in classic crime. This is my 15th read off my Classics Club list. On finishing this collection I started reading Unfinished Tales by J R R Tolkien to keep things diverse. Although I do hope to return to the adventures of Holmes and Watson again very soon.
Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?
I have been ploughing on with my new-found love for short story collections in 2013. At the end of 2012 I read and adored The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I adored it so much that I immediately started another of Doyle’s collection, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. The weather has taken a bitter turn here in the UK. Most nights I have been very keen to tuck myself in bed and lose myself in a mystery, hence me having finished off another collection so soon.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of the next twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and had published in The Strand. The most famous story from the collection would have to be The Final Problem where we see our intrepid sleuth take on his finest nemesis Professor Moriarty. I very much enjoyed The Final Problem as well as The Stock-Broker’s Clerk, The Musgrave Ritual, and The Naval Treaty. That being said again there were no stories in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the four I have named though particularly captured my attention.
Like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes had a good range of stories which were varied and well-balanced. There was also the wonderful chemistry between his two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. I did find I was most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson in this collection more than the previous. In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes I discovered there was a more sympathetic side to Holmes while in this collection I think we saw more of his unusual behaviour again. I imagine that difference is just down to the choice of stories in each collection.
I am still preferring reading the short story collections of Sherlock Holmes, as the shorter length of the stories means I can easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. Although I did find the length of the stories in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes varied more with The Naval Treaty being a lot longer than the rest of the stories in the collection. While the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were of a more standard length. As much as I enjoyed both collections I think The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes just has the edge for me because of the standard length of the stories and how I think the choice of stories slightly captured my imagination more.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. This is now my 9th read from my Classics Club list which means I am well on my way to my target of 10 books a year. On finishing this collection I started The Complete Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales for a bit of a change, although I hope I will be able to return to Sherlock Holmes again very soon.
Have you read The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes? What’s your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?
I have become quite a fan of short story collections recently, as I now see the advantages of being able to read one or two stories at a time. At the beginning of December I read and enjoyed Aesop’s Fables when I finished that I decided to start The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I thought this might be a match made in heaven of two of my loves; short stories and crime. I read this collection alongside The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley. Between the two I spent many a happy hour curled up in a blanket in my mother’s conservatoire reading over my Christmas holiday.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of the first twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and had published in The Strand. The most famous story from the collection would have to be A Scandal in Bohemia where we are introduced to the infamous Irene Adler, one of the few people to ever best our intrepid sleuth. As much as I enjoyed A Scandal in Bohemia I would say my favourite stories were The Five Orange Pips, The Speckled Band, and The Copper Beeches. That being said there were no stories in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the three I have named though particularly captured my imagination.
This is not my first foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes, previously I have read A Study in Scarlet the first novel to include Holmes and his faithful companion Watson. Sadly several years have passed since I read this first novel but I was very keen to read more so when I joined The Classics Club I made space for Doyle’s work on my list. I am really glad I did because I just love delving into Doyle’s intricate mysteries and witnessing the chemistry between his two protagonists. I was a little hesitant because I hadn’t read any short stories by Doyle before but in fact I think I enjoyed this format more than I did the novel. The range of stories in this collection was varied and well-balanced. While the shorter length of the stories meant you could easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break.
From my experience of reading A Study in Scarlet I found I was most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson. As much as I find the workings of Holmes’s mind fascinating, the down to earth narration of Watson is what made the story more relatable for me. I found a change in my opinion from reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because I think in some of the stories we see a more sympathetic Holmes. The modern film and television adaptations tend to only focus on his intelligence and clinical thinking, while I feel Doyle’s original stories show Holmes can be compassionate. As much as I like the adaptations I’ve watched I think I now prefer the Holmes from the stories.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was a fascinating read with an interesting mix of adventures to discover. I also found my return to Doyle’s well-loved sleuth rather comforting. On finishing this collection I started The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes straight away. This is now my 8th read from my Classics Club list, I am very proud of my progress so far.
Have you read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? What’s your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?
With my recent blues I have not been in the mood for brand new reads, choosing to get lost in childhood favourite The Hobbit instead. Once I had finished that I decided to move onto Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because I thought it would be a good go-between of the new and the familiar. I have never read the novel before but it is very hard not to know the story of the little orphan Oliver due to the musical, films, and television adaptations. This turned out to be a wonderful choice. I found a lot of comfort in discovering known to me characters in their original context.
Oliver Twist is a harrowing adventure that follows a young orphaned boy trying to survive in Victorian England. Oliver is born in the work house which in Victorian times then places a stain upon his character by others in the community. A stain Oliver finds very hard to escape from. While I have always felt sorry for Oliver from other sources I have seen the character in, I was not prepared for how much more the novel would make me feel. Any child in Oliver’s position would be heart-breaking to read about but Oliver is no ordinary child; he has such a pure and honest heart that many in the novel just don’t wish to acknowledge. I found it hard to put this novel down because I was so keen to see Oliver escape his situation, but as he seems to escape one bad situation he falls into other just as bad situations. Dickens highlights very successfully in this novel what a vicious cycle life could be like for a pauper child in this time period.
Before reading Oliver Twist I had only read one other novel by Dickens which was Nicholas Nickleby. This was some years ago now. I do remember enjoying the story and characters however I found the language hard to get into. With several more years of reading experience I was hoping I would have better luck with my second foray into Dickens work, and I was right. I still feel Dickens’s use of language is rather convoluted and highly detailed but it didn’t take me long to get into the flow of the style. Once I was into the style I found I was free to just get lost in the story. And boy, can Dickens weave a wonderful story.
What I was surprised about how much of an adventure Oliver Twist turned out to be. Before reading this I always imagined all the story took place in the back streets of London but there are in fact many locations and situations Oliver finds himself in. What I feel really makes the story though are all the interesting and colourful characters that Oliver meets during his journey. The pompous and silly Beagle Mr Bumble, slimy Noah Claypole, the slick Artful Dodger, the kind and patient Mr Brownlow, the angelic Rose, the fallen Nancy, the dark and brutal Sikes, and of course the one we all know; the sneaky, conniving and ruthless old Jew Fagin. And that is only mentioning about half of the characters! I think the variety of strong characters is maybe the secret as to why Dickens novels have been so well-loved and adapted over the years.
Oliver Twist is a wonderfully touching and insightful fictional look into a world gone by. I highly recommend reading this novel. This is now my 6th book towards The Classics Club. I am now really looking forward to cracking open my copy of Great Expectations.