Tag: crime

Review – Two-Way Murder

Posted July 22, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Two-Way Murder by E.C.R. LoracTwo-Way Murder, E.C.R. Lorac

Unusually for the British Library Crime Classics series, this is a book that was never published before, lightly edited and prepared for publication now given the popularity of Lorac’s books within the series of reissues. It features not one of her usual detectives, but a new group of characters — and on the detection side of things, I have to say I prefer her actually-published books. This felt like it was missing a bit of the warmth and humanity that you feel (however muted) from her usual solid and decent detectives.

I do wonder if I’d have preferred it if Lorac had actually prepared it for publication herself, rather than it being pulled out of the archives and published for the first time. I think she’s likely to have had some changes to make, at least.

That said, it works as a story, shuffling the puzzle pieces around until — click! You’ve completed the puzzle. You have most of the info you need to solve it, but there are a few surprises lurking. I suspect I was partially surprised because this is Lorac, and I’d expected certain things of her characters, too.

I can’t say it’s one of my favourites, but it was enjoyable, and features her usual attention to place and how a place can affect a crime and those all around it.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Checkmate to Murder

Posted July 16, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Checkmate to Murder by E.C.R. LoracCheckmate to Murder, E.C.R. Lorac

Something about the setting and set-up of this reminded me of a previous book of Lorac’s that I’ve read (Bats in the Belfry, I think), but it’s more of an atmosphere thing than a repeat of the plot or something like that. I actually guessed what had happened in the end fairly early on, just from the way certain things were emphasised and leaned on, but I enjoyed the ride of how it gets unravelled and the culprit caught.

E.C.R. Lorac’s books always have a pleasant quality I find it hard to put my finger on. Part of it is competence, and the fact that I can trust her to work out the story in a satisfactory way. Part of it is that she doesn’t usually dwell on the characters who are awful, but on the decent and hardworking people who are trying to put things right, or adjust to the awfulness of whatever crime has been committed. Her detective is always so conscientious and decent — such a complete fantasy, but one I enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Hollywood Homicide

Posted July 6, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Hollywood Homicide by Kellye GarrettHollywood Homicide, Kellye Garrett

This book was really not for me, in the end. It’s narrated by Dayna, an out of luck actress who latches on to investigating a death in a hit and run accident which she happened to witness very briefly, without initially really noticing. Her motive: to receive the reward for turning in information that leads to a resolution in the case.

I don’t mind her motive so much as I mind the whole way she decides to go about it. She doesn’t take it very seriously, and she has clearly no idea about what to do, or any kind of process of problem-solving. Or any kind of reality. She expects to be able to phone up with a piece of evidence and then for an arrest to be made the next day, and she blunders in and accuses people herself without much by way of proper evidence, assuming the police to be incompetent. In this case, lady, it’s not them, it’s you. Very definitely you.

It’s light-hearted and it might turn out quite funny, but I can’t bear incompetence as humour (I get vicariously embarrassed) — so I noped out.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – And Only to Deceive

Posted June 13, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of And Only to Deceive by Tasha AlexanderAnd Only to Deceive, Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily married quickly to get away from her parents — or mostly her mother, who is overbearing and absolutely obsessed with getting her married off safely before she loses her looks. (Ugh.) She barely had time for the honeymoon, though, before her husband went away on an expedition… and never returned, with his friends sending back the news that he was dead, leaving her in possession of all his things, a lot of money, and a lot more freedom.

Over the course of the book it turns out that he was deeply in love with her, and she begins to read his journals and understand the kind of man he was, beginning to explore his interests and what she might have shared with him. This leads to her falling in love with him too, despite knowing he’s already gone. At the same time, strange things are happening and it seems that he may have been involved in something strange, or perhaps even dangerous, a tangle that Lady Emily decides to unravel.

I ended up enjoying this a lot, enough that I immediately got the next book (and by this point I’m gleefully onto the third). I liked the idea of how Emily falls in love with her husband posthumously — it’s feels surprisingly tender and real, and it’s a surprising touch, especially given she does go on to have a new love interest. She’s anachronistic, of course, though not quite so much so as Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell — the book does show some of the ways in which that disturbs people and that makes it feel a bit more real. No surprises that I’d feel a kinship with a heroine who loves books, anyway…

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Murderous Relation

Posted June 8, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of A Murderous Relation by Deanna RaybournMurderous Relation, Deanna Raybourn

This review is inevitably spoilery for certain things, so look away now if you want to be unspoiled — I couldn’t think of a way to comment on some of this book without spoilers.

I was wondering what Raybourn would do now that the will-they-won’t-they potential should, in theory, be over with after the ending of the last book. Turns out, it’s actually “go straight into another book with very little time difference, meaning they haven’t had chance to consummate their relationship… and they’ll dither for another book about whether they’re going to do it or not”. Granted, that does give her chance for a good payoff scene near the end which is everything you need for the couple getting together; anything else might have felt a bit flat.

In the meantime, the plot goes ahead and entangles Veronica further with the Royal Family and even Jack the Ripper (of course, given the era). It barrels along at a cracking pace, of course, with some anxious moments for certain characters, and the inevitable emotional complexities of Veronica’s every interaction with any member of her family. I enjoyed it a lot, and raced through the book.

I don’t know if maybe the shine isn’t wearing off a little on this series for me, though. Not because the main characters are together, but just because it’s ever more unrealistic for Veronica to be this deeply entangled in the Royal Family’s affairs, and this trusted to untangle them without question… without much payoff, on her part. I kind of want her and Stoker to tell ’em to sod off, and ride off into the sunset. Somewhere that Veronica can catch butterflies and also screw Stoker silly on the regular, since that’s what she really wants.

Not that I’m stopping reading the series in the least — it’s highly entertaining. but I hope Veronica gets some payoff for her tireless efforts on the behalf of a family who regard her existence as an embarrassment and will never give her any official recognition whatsoever.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Death in Fancy Dress

Posted June 6, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Death in Fancy DressDeath in Fancy Dress, Anthony Gilbert

This is one of the British Library Crime Classics, by an author I’ve read before, under another name — Anne Meredith. I don’t recall loving her other book, but I enjoyed this one a bit more, despite there being a fairly strong note of melancholy in the ending, and some real awfulness between the characters.

The mystery was okay: it took some untangling, and I didn’t call the final twist. I wasn’t in love with the characters and their attitudes toward each other — okay, I disliked it quite a bit — and the narrator is pretty much a non-entity (aside from being a Moaning Minnie about everything), and Jeremy seems like a dick. There is something interesting about the mildness of Dennis placed beside his obvious competence and self-assurance, though. I did find the character of Eleanor to be an interesting study, really: that strange utter selfishness about preserving her relationship with her husband, alongside the narrator’s obvious reverence for her.

In the end, it was an entertaining enough read, but not one that will stick with me in any way.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Progress of a Crime

Posted March 1, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Progress of a Crime by Julian SymonsThe Progress of a Crime, Julian Symons

Julian Symons was, I think, a good writer — just one I don’t get along with very well. He plays well with perspective and voice, and he can certainly put together a story — which is not an impression another repeat British Library Crime Classic author I detest gives me (John Dickson Carr, sorry folks) — but I just don’t enjoy his books. This is the third book of his I’ve read, and I think I appreciate them less with each successive book I read. It doesn’t matter that I know he did his research, or even that I’m curious about the true story that germinated the idea for him. I just… don’t like the book.

Which I hate to say, because I’ve enjoyed most of my tour into Golden Age crime fiction to one degree or another (E.C.R. Lorac’s books very much; Gil North’s, not at all)… but Symons’ work just doesn’t work for me. I’m always feeling like I picked up a smooth dry-looking stone and found a craggy wormy maggoty mess under it. It just leaves me feeling icky. There’s no characters you can really unambiguously enjoy, either because they’re fun caricatures or because they’re people you can root for: everything’s just complicated and messy, and the ending feels like a relief just because it’s over with (though it’s not a relief because it ends on a massive downer).

Not the era/genre of crime fiction that tends to end with the world set to rights, clearly!

Rating: 1/5

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Review – Wish You Were Here

Posted February 28, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae BrownWish You Were Here, Rita Mae Brown, Sneaky Pie Brown

Wish You Were Here is another of the books I read to potentially review for the Postcrossing blog someday. It will fit in perfectly there, because the main character Harry is the postmistress of a small Virginian town, and one major clue in the murder investigation she gets wrapped up in is the delivery of a postcard showing a gravestone, with the message “wish you were here”, to each of the victims.

The mystery was okay, but I didn’t get too much into it because the behaviour of the cats and dogs bothered me. I have bunnies; I get the temptation to anthropomorphise them — truly, they make it too darn easy. But that doesn’t mean it works for me written down on the page, and sometimes the cats and dogs felt like an opportunity for the author to grandstand about very human concerns. (Though with what I assume and hope are nods toward canine and feline sensibilities in the repeated theme of the cat and dog thinking that mentally ill people should be killed as children, as they would cull sick kittens/puppies from their own litters. This doesn’t come off, really, and I dearly hope I’m correct in attributing this as an attempt to make their narration sound a bit more like a dog or cat.)

Even putting that aside, I also didn’t think the antics of the animals added much to the story. Not much could be communicated between their side of the investigation and Harry’s, and it didn’t read as believable behaviour when they did communicate.

Also, a relatively small niggle, but at one point the police officer in charge of the case goes to the retired doctor to ask him questions about the mental health of everyone in town, which he readily answers, with detail. I’m fairly sure a retired doctor must still uphold medical confidentiality — and even if it isn’t a law, I wouldn’t trust a doctor or retired doctor who didn’t. As a person, let alone as a doctor.

I had a number of niggles like that, like wondering how Harry’s nickname is Harry, even to her close friends since childhood, when it comes from her ex-husband’s surname (not her own).

All in all, it just didn’t come together for me, partly because one of the central conceits left me cold. Fun as a one-off, but I won’t be continuing the series.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire

Posted February 27, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire by M.R.C. KasasianBetty Church and the Suffolk Vampire, M.R.C. Kasabian

I liked the sound of Betty Church, a female Inspector in Britain, in 1939. She’s been injured in the line of duty, losing her arm, which her superiors are trying to use to get her out from under their feet… but she doesn’t want to go, so she has a favour called in and gets sent back to Sackwater, the town where she grew up. So far, so good — and in fact I followed her through her first days back in Sackwater, until her constable arrived.

At which point I tuned out, since her constable is a girl smart enough to cheat her way into the police by using starch in her hair (to make herself look a bit taller) and weights in her petticoats (to make herself a bit heavier)… but silly and childish in every other way. It just doesn’t match up, and it immediately grated on me. It grated on me so much that shortly after she’s introduced, I gave up.

I don’t mind a bit of humour, and up to that point it was fine… but ugh! After that, I just didn’t want to spend any more time with that girl.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem

Posted January 28, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda CollinsA Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem, Manda Collins

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem is a light mystery-romance, where the romance feels like the more important element of the two. Kate Bascomb is a reporter, the owner of a newspaper she took over after her husband died, and she’s determined to champion women and shine a light on things women are kept sheltered from in England of 1865. Andrew Eversham is a detective inspector, and her investigative reporting endangers his career as she quickly finds a witness his team entirely neglected to speak to, with crucial evidence about a string of murders.

Naturally, the two get drawn together personally, particularly after the killings start getting very close to Kate, who discovers a body while on a visit to a friend’s country home. The murders were confined to London at first, but suddenly they seem to have followed her… and thus so does Eversham. The sparks of attraction between them are very obvious, and this was the shakiest part of the book for me: they leapt from lust to love in mere pages, with very little provocation. I’d expected a bit more will-they-won’t-they, but it was remarkably straightforward. At least they mostly managed to communicate like adults, which can be a big bugbear for me.

I thought it was light and frothy and fairly inconsequential, and for the most part, I was fine with that. Kate and her friend Caro were fun, and I appreciated the friendship between Kate and Val, as well — I was very relieved when there was no sign of sexual interest or jealousy on either of them’s part, and their quasi-sibling relationship was rather fun. Much of the setting and characters are sketched in fairly lightly; historical fiction this is not, if that’s what you’re hoping for… and the mystery was fairly light too.

When I try to sum it all up, it all seems pretty thin and like I’m damning it with faint prize, but it was a genuinely fun reading experience, and a nice way to spend my day, picking it up here and there to read a chapter whenever I could. It’s unlikely to stick in my head, but I’d happily read another Manda Collins book or even another book in this series.

Rating: 3/5

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