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BOOK REVIEW: Inspector Morse Book 3, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin Dexter

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Nicholas Quinn is deaf, so he considers himself lucky to be appointed to the Foreign Examinations Board at Oxford, which designs tests for students of English around the world. But when someone slips cyanide into Nicholas's sherry, Inspector Morse has a multiple-choice murder. Any one of a tight little group of academics could have killed Quinn. Before Morse is done, all their dirty little secrets will be exposed. And a murderer will be cramming for his finals.


My Thoughts:


I have been assured by Colin Dexter fans that the Inspector Morse series gets better as it goes along and so I read the third book in the series, though not without qualms. Published in 1977, the book is set in the claustrophobic world of the Oxford Examinations Syndicate and centres on the murder of a deaf academic. The case is as labyrinthine as the earlier two books in the series, but in this instalment Inspector Morse seems less like a bumbling fool and more like a man gifted with the ability to make intuitive leaps of deduction. He and Sergeant Lewis seem more in tune with each other, with Lewis providing the dogged methodical police work. And my major gripe with the series so far – Morse’s sexist attitudes to women – is a little less acute in this book (perhaps because there is only one female character). The books have an oddly old-fashioned feel about them, because of their lack of forensic evidence and modern-day technology, and also because of Dexter’s writing style. He was born in 1930, in the midst of the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction, and his books have the same feel of being a cerebral puzzle as writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers (whose work I admire enormously). It is this aspect of Dexter’s work that I enjoy – the task of pitting my brains against Inspector Morse’s. I have to admit that Morse won. I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end, which offered a most satisfying twist. Of the three Colin Dexter books I have read in recent weeks, this was the most enjoyable. It is up to Colin Dexter fans to convince me to keep on reading the series. 

You might also be interested in reading my reviews of book 1 and book 2 from the Inspector Morse series. 

Have you read this series? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. 



BOOK REVIEW: Inspector Morse Book 2, Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter

Friday, January 19, 2018


The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Valerie Taylor has been missing since she was a sexy seventeen, more than two years ago. Inspector Morse is sure she's dead. But if she is, who forged the letter to her parents saying "I am alright so don't worry"? Never has a woman provided Morse with such a challenge, for each time the pieces of the jigsaw start falling into place, someone scatters them again. So Valerie remains as tantalizingly elusive as ever. Morse prefers a body—a body dead from unnatural causes. And very soon he gets one…


My Thoughts:

I’m giving the Inspector Morse mysteries by Colin Dexter a go, having never read them before. I started with Book 1, which I enjoyed with reservations. I have had exactly the same experience with Book 2. The mystery is interesting, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It focuses on a cold case of a missing girl, who disappeared on her way to school at the age of seventeen. The detective working the case concluded she had run away with a man, but now that detective is dead. Only a few days later, the parent of the dead girl receive a letter from her telling them not to worry. Suspicions are raised, and Morse is assigned the case. He believes the girl is dead, and so he sets out to find the murderer. However, every time he thinks he has come close to solving the case, something happens to up-end all his suppositions.

I don’t find the character of Inspector Morse very likeable in these books. He seems to bumble round, leaping to conclusions, then trying to force the facts to fit his theories. He is also, I am sad to say, a misogynist with a taste for pornography. The depiction of women was my major problem in Book 1, and it is even more marked in Book 2. I understand that the book was published in 1976, and that it is aimed for a male readership, but it still makes me uncomfortable. The saving grace for me with this series so far has been the pleasure Colin Dexter takes with playing with language in his plots – Inspector Morse’s facility with crosswords and other word puzzles adds a welcome intelligence to the plot. 

You might be interested in my review of Book 1 in the series, Last Bus to Woodstock.  

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. 



BOOK REVIEW: PARAGON WALK; RESURRECTION ROW; RUTLAND PLACE by Anne Perry

Friday, June 10, 2016

Anne Perry is acknowledged as the Queen of Victorian murder mysteries, with clever plots, engaging characters, and a great deal of period atmosphere. I’ve read a few of her books over the years, and am now reading my way through her first series (The Inspector Pitt Mysteries) in order.

Paragon Walk is the third book in the series, and sees Inspector Pitt and his unconventional upper-class wife Charlotte investigating the rape and murder of a seemingly ordinary young woman. However, dark secrets lurk behind the elegant facades of Paragon Walk, and Charlotte’s relentless digging sees her facing mortal danger.  

In Resurrection Row, a corpse is found sitting at the reins of a hansom cab … a corpse that simply will not stay buried. A really intriguing mystery that tests Inspector Pitt and his wife Charlotte in unexpected ways. 

Rutland Place begins with a series of petty thefts, and escalates to bloody murder and a troubling denouement. Once again, Charlotte uses her upper-class family connections to dig out secrets that her policeman husband Thomas Pitt simply could not access.

This is not a series to read for pace and suspense. Anne Perry is much more interested in the interior lives of her characters, and in probing the hypocrisy of the Victorians’ attitude to gender, class, and sexuality. The mysteries are always intriguing, nonetheless, and most importantly – it’s quite hard to guess the murderer!

BOOK REVIEW: THE CATER ST HANGMAN & CALLANDER SQUARE by Anne Perry

Thursday, March 24, 2016


THE BLURB: THE CATER ST HANGMAN

Careless of both murder and manners, Charlotte Ellison and her sister, two determinedly unconventional young women, ignore Victorian mores and actively join the police investigation, led by young Inspector Thomas Pitt, into the murder of their servant girl. 




THE BLURB: CALLANDER SQUARE

Murders just don’t happen in fashionable areas like Callander Square–but these two have.

The police are totally baffled. Pretty, young Charlotte Ellison Pitt, however, is curious.

Inspector Pitt’s well-bred wife doesn’t often meddle in her husband’s business, but something about this case intrigues her–to the point that staid Charlotte Pitt is suddenly rattling the closets of the very rich, seeking out backstairs gossip that would shock a barmaid, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder.


WHAT I THOUGHT OF THESE BOOKS:

I love a good Victorian murder mystery, and Anne Perry is the queen of the genre.

Her books are full of brooding atmosphere and intriguing mysteries, and I particularly love this series, with the ugly but kind lower-class detective and his outspoken upper-class wife.

The Cater St Hangman is the first in the series, and introduces Inspector Pitt to Charlotte Ellison, when one of her family’s maids is brutally murdered. The denouement is really very clever (though I guessed the murderer), and the romance is subtly done.

Callander Square is the second in the series, and sees Charlotte and her sister, Lady Emily, helping Inspector Pitt with the gruesome murder of two newborn babies. 

The books are not very long, and swiftly paced, so its possible to read on in a couple of hours.

I have read the first few, but there are now 31 books in the whole series, and I plan to read them all. Watch this space. 

HOW MANY ANNE PERRY NOVELS HAVE YOU READ?  WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THEM?


BOOK REVIEW: WRITERS' BLOCK by Judith Flanders

Friday, February 19, 2016



THE BLURB:

You know when you have one of those days at the office? You spill coffee on your keyboard, the finance director goes on an expenses rampage and then, before you know it, your favourite author is murdered. 

When Samantha Clair decides to publish journalist Kit Lovell's tell-all book on the death of fashion designer Rodrigo Aleman, she can scarcely imagine the dangers ahead. 

Cue a roller coaster ride into the dark realms of fashion, money-laundering and murder, armed with nothing but her e-reader and her trusty stock of sarcasm.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

Judith Flanders is best known as the author of brilliantly researched historical non-fiction about the Victorian era. I have quite a few of her books, and return to them again and again for my own research. 

WRITERS’ BLOCK could not be more different. It’s a darkly funny contemporary murder mystery set in a London publishing house.

It made me laugh out loud once or twice, and I roared through it in a single sitting. 

HOW MUCH DID YOU ENJOY READING THIS BOOK?


BOOK REVIEW: CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith

Friday, January 22, 2016


THE BLURB:

Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.


When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.


Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.


With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…


Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

The third in the series of detective novels written by J.K. Rowling under the pen-name Robert Galbraith, CAREER OF EVIL is a gripping and atmospheric page-turner.

It begins with the delivery of a severed leg to the office of private detective Cormoran Strike, addressed to his pretty and about-to-be-married sidekick Robin. What follows is a desperate race against time to find the murderer before he kills again … with Robin as his next target. 

I’ve just been loving this series, which has the perfect mix of mystery, suspense, and character development.  


I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR IF YOU LOVED THIS BOOK TOO!

BOOK REVIEW: INDIA BLACK (MADAM OF ESPIONAGE#1) BY CAROL K CARR

Saturday, December 12, 2015


THE BLURB

When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.


Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents-and the attraction she starts to feel for the handsome conspirator.


WHAT I THOUGHT:

India Black is the name of the central character is this rather charming Victorian murder mystery. She is a madam, in the sense that she runs a brothel, and she is only reluctantly drawn into the investigation of the murder of Sir Archibald Latham, an important official in the War Office, because he dies in the bed of one of her tarts.  The foggy underworld of Victorian London is vividly if a little wildly drawn, and the pace rarely falters. The chief enjoyment of the book is the acerbic and witty voice of India herself – whip-smart, amoral, and always ready to see the humour in a situation. 

I WOULD LOVE TO GET YOUR FEEDBACK ON THIS BOOK

SPOTLIGHT: Josephine Pennicott on Picnic at Hanging Rock

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Today on the blog, Josephine Pennicott talks about the haunting Australian classic Picnic At Hanging Rock and how it helped inspire her new Gothic mystery, Currawong Manor, which is set in the Blue Mountains.

Please welcome her! 



A Dream within a Dream” – Joan Lindsay and some other influences on Currawong Manor.

One of the cinema experiences that haunted me throughout my adolescence was Peter Weir’s 1975 film of Joan Lindsay’s mystery novel Picnic At Hanging Rock (1967). The dreamy, surreal juxtaposition of Victorian schoolgirls and the Australian bush seemed to imprint itself through my being. Even discovering later that the dreamy on-screen effect was achieved by placing a bridal veil over the camera has never diminished its power. It remains one of my very favourite movies to this day.


When I came to Joan Lindsay’s book, I was relieved to see how faithfully Weir kept to her story. Joan must surely give hope to all aspiring novelists, as she wrote Picnic At Hanging Rock in her mid-sixties – her only work of adult fiction – in just four weeks. It was written in a frenzy where she felt as if she totally lived the novel. Lindsay's original draft had a final chapter in which the mystery was resolved. 

At her editor's suggestion, Lindsay removed it before publication, but it eventually appeared as The Secret of Hanging Rock in 1987, three years after Lindsay’s death. The lost chapter suggests that the girls encountered some sort of time warp, which fits Lindsay's interest and emphasis on time.

I believe the editors and publishers were correct in cutting the original ending, because Picnic At Hanging Rock works best as a unsolved mystery.  The girls have somehow succumbed to a magical, yet natural Australia, and are forever lost - possibly within a remnant of ancient dreamtime. 

It was genius marketing at the time, because nearly everyone I knew believed it was genuinely a true case. Joan herself refuses to discuss how true the book was, which has only added to its appeal. In the book’s forward, she says, “Whether Picnic At Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year 1900, and all the characters who appear in the book are long dead, it hardly seems important.”


But there was another mystery regarding Picnic At Hanging Rock and the author. Watching a documentary where Anne Lambert (who played the bewitching, enigmatic Miranda) recounts that one day she wandered away from the crew in full costume, to explore some of the rock. A middle-aged woman seemed to come from nowhere, rushing at her in great excitement, calling her Miranda and saying how much she had missed her. This woman was Joan Lindsay. She never referred to Anne by her name and seemed to really believe she was the Miranda of her book.

Another Joan Lindsay  mystery is that Picnic At Hanging Rock has watches stopping when they are at the rock. Through this device, we know we are now in a world without time – a world between worlds. There have been several reports from people of their watches stopping at Hanging Rock:  Joan Lindsay was a ‘watch-stopper.’ She claimed just by sitting next to somebody she had the power to stop their watch. She had this gift all her life, but could not explain it. Her absorbing autobiography is called Time Without Clocks.

I relate deeply to Joan Lindsay with her fascination with the mystical and her appreciation of the Australian landscape. in my novel, I used currawongs as a link to the eerie natural world which remembers through some primordial brain a wrongdoing long-forgotten by recorded history.  

Birds represent life in the heavens, higher paths of knowing. Birds that are black represent mystery, magic, secrets, transition and transformation. In the early days of European settlement in Australia, the unfamiliar currawong calls were mistaken for the cries of ghosts, so haunting and unfamiliar were they. Just as Joan Lindsay’s Picnic At Hanging Rock has long haunted me.




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