Readers Imbibing Peril XV

I’ve come to the end of Readers Imbibing Peril, it’s the first time I’ve taken part and I did enjoy it. I did quite well I think, the only book on my original list that I didn’t read is Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales. I requested this one from the library and it hasn’t arrived yet, I will read it when/if it does turn up.

The only author who was new to me was Raymond Chandler, I’ve been meaning to get around to reading him for decades, I loved The Big Sleep so I’ll definitely be reading more of his books.

A Better Man by Louise Penny

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Martian Menace by Eric Brown

A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson

Checkmate to Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson

Cloak of Darkness by Helen MacInnes


The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

 The Golden Tresses of the Dead cover

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley is the tenth book in his Flavia de Luce series and it was published in 2019. It’s a really enjoyable read, a good mystery well written with plenty of humour mainly via the twelve year old Flavia who is such an appealing character, it’s just lovely to be in her company again. The setting is 1950s England.

The story begins with Flavia’s sister Ophelia’s (Feely) wedding where there’s a surprising addition to the wedding cake which kicks off an investigation for Flavia and Dogger, her late father’s valet who had been a Japanese prisoner of war. They’ve set up a detective agency and there’s plenty of scope for Flavia to use her chemistry skills in this tale.

It’s a mystery, so I can’t say too much about it. Flavia’s older sisters don’t feature much in this one and those gaps have been filled by their young cousin Undine who seems to be keen to follow in her cousin’s sleuthing footsteps, and Colin whom she meets through Mrs Richardson, the unusual wife of the vicar.

The title phrase “The golden tresses of the dead” appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 68 which you can read here. Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series titles are mainly phrases taken from Shakespeare, Tennyson, Andrew Marvell and others. My favourite of his titles is As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust which you can read here which comes from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. When I first read that line I didn’t realise that in some places dandelion ‘clocks’ as they’re generally called nowadays in the UK were called ‘chimney sweepers’ in Shakespeare’s time, when you know that it makes more sense.

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place cover

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley was published earlier this year, but I have seen it reviewed by so many other bloggers that I had somehow convinced myself that I had already read it, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I realised I was wrong about that. Luckily I was able to get it quickly from the library, unluckily I also discovered a lot of other interesting books there that I just had to take home with me – when I should be concentrating on my own books.

Anyway, in the previous book in this Flavia de Luce series their father had died unexpectedly, I found it really sad and I know that that coloured all my feelings about the book. In this new one all three de Luce girls are dealing with the shock of losing their father and the uncertainty of their futures. If bossy Aunt Felicity gets her way there will be even more changes in their lives.

They’ve been persuaded to go away for a summer holiday and as the trusty Dogger is punting along the river, Flavia takes to trailing her hand along the water, of course in no time at all her fingers have hooked a corpse and so begins the mystery. When they get the body out onto the riverbank they can see that it’s a young man dressed in 18th century clothes, a ruffled silk shirt, silk trousers buttoned at the knee, was he at a fancy dress party? It turns out that he’s well known locally, Orlando has been a bit of a problem at times.

Flavia of course wastes no time in beginning her chemical investigations, all very detailed and I always ask my own resident organic Chemistry PhD guy about the chemistry involved, and it’s always correct.

I think I enjoyed this one more than most other readers. I liked that the relationship between Flavia and her sisters is maturing and becoming more understanding, as it should, and also that given when the story is set – the 1950s – when we still had the death penalty in the UK this book involved a miscarriage of justice, which is one of the reasons that hanging became so obnoxious to the general public. I think sometimes that people forget that several innocent people were hanged back in those more brutal times.

12th, December, edited to add – I noted several incongruous words in this book. Although Alan Bradley lives in the UK and his Flavia books are set mainly in the UK his Canadian origins show through several times in this book. Particularly on page 155 he writes that – On a raised platform, a tall thin man with a bare chest, but wearing suspenders, was swallowing a sword for an audience of two small boys who were fighting over a bag of apples.

That word suspenders is presumably meant to mean what we in the UK call braces or in Scots galluses. Suspenders in the UK are those ghastly looking things that some women use to keep their stockings up – and a certain sort of man finds enthralling! So I did have a bit of a laugh over that little bit of description.

My library books

I had been doing fairly well with concentrating on reading my own books – until recently. At the moment I have quite a few out and I’m waiting for one to turn up. I need to read The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths before going on to read the one that comes after that in her Dr Ruth Galloway series which is – The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths.
Elly Griffiths

Today I just picked up The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley, I’m really looking forward to that one.
Alan Bradley

I borrowed The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott, I have an ancient hardback edition of it but the print is teeny and this new Edinburgh edition has loads of explanatory notes which I’m reliably informed are really interesting.
Sir Walter Scott

The Great War Diaries of Georgina Lee – Home Fires Burning shouted at me from a display in the library so I couldn’t leave the place without it.
Georgina Lee

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan is one that I hope will help out with getting me into the Christmas spirit.
Jenny Colgan

Sew Your Own Vintage Keepsakes by Lucinda Ganderton has a wide variety of things to make in it but it’s the pattern of the wee rag doll which interests me. I’ve always liked the look of rag dolls so I plan to get around to making one – if I have enough time.
Lucinda Ganderton

The Last one is a book that I’ve already finished. The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. It was a great read and I hope that she writes some more books. I’ll write about it in another blogpost.

That lot should keep me busy although I’ll have to renew some of them as there’s no way I’ll get them all read within three weeks. But in 2019 I’m definitely concentrating on reading my own books – honest!

Have you read any of these ones?

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd cover

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley is the eighth Flavia de Luce book and of course the title is a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s not a lot I can say about it really except …

As ever I enjoyed this book because I love Flavia as a character but this one does suffer from a lack of family banter between Flavia and her older sisters, and even Dogger didn’t seem to appear that often. Also I didn’t appreciate the ending at all. There have been too many actual exits of ‘big’ characters in 2016 and I could certainly be doing without fictional ones too!

Don’t worry. It wasn’t Flavia.

I suppose I could take up reading Mills and Boon books – but that might be taking it a bit far.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley was published in 2015, it’s the seventh book in the Flavia de Luce series which I have really been enjoying catching up with over the past couple of years.

Having said that – I didn’t love this one as much as the others, mainly because the setting is Canada where Flavia has been sent to attend her mother’s old boarding school. It’s a weird place with strange rules, run more along convent lines really as the rules don’t encourage friendships and worst of all there’s no privacy in the place with people just walking into other people’s rooms without so much as a by your leave.

It’s not long before Flavia finds herself on familiar ground though as a partially mummified body comes thudding down her bedroom chimney, also three of the girls have gone missing over the last few years. Obviously there’s investigative work for Flavia to get stuck into.

This one missed out on all the family banter and ructions because of the setting, which adds quite a bit of background atmosphere to the books usually. Away from Flavia’s home life, her sisters, father and of course her best friend and mentor Dogger, Flavia realised that she even missed her ghastly sisters, and so did I. The teachers and pupils of Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy didn’t make up for their absence. It was still a good read though.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

This is the fourth book in the Flavia de Luce series and although I enjoyed it I didn’t like it as much as the three previous ones. I must admit that I was only half-way through it when we left for our holiday in the Netherlands and it was two weeks before I got back to it so that might have had something to do with my feelings on the book.

However, Flavia is concerned with Santa Claus, setting traps for him so that she could have some evidence of his existence. I just can’t imagine such a smart girl as Flavia obviously is having any belief in that jolly old mythical gent. I’m not a fan of duping kids into believing he is real – that’s probably me being an old curmudgeon – but there you go!

Anyway, the de Luce family home Buckshaw has been hired out by their father to a film company, in a bid to help the family finances. Buckshaw is filled with film crew and film stars but it isn’t long before a series of accidents slows down the filming and there’s a murder!

I did enjoy it but I’m at a bit of a loss to know why Alan Bradley uses the word ‘foyer’ throughout these books when he is writing about the hall in Buckshaw. The word foyer always reminds me of hotels or theatres, definitely not what you would find in a large, grand house. He also uses the word ‘afghan’ when he means blanket or throw. The word afghan is used in America or possibly Canada – nit picking I know, but words interest me, and their different meanings in different places. If you mention the word afghan in Britain it conjures up the image of an afghan hound, which is admittedly better than a blanket anyday.

I’m still looking forward to the next book in this series.

Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley

I have blogposts piling up in my brain like multiple snow drifts, so I’m just mentioning two of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, numbers 2 and 3. For once I was determined to hang off and get the books read in order and I’m glad that I did as Flavia’s relationship with her family and in particular her sisters is developing nicely.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag involves a travelling puppet show. The couple who are performing are well known to everyone with TV as they are on the BBC and so the villagers are all desperate to see the celebrities in the flesh – but of course there’s a murder and Flavia rides to the rescue on her trusty bike Gladys again.

Not only are these books enjoyable tales with some great characters but there is some lovely writing too, lots of description to help you picture the scene such as: Bright cobwebs hung suspended like little portcullises of light between the rotted tree stumps. I was absolutely there in that bluebell wood with her.

The third one A Red Herring without Mustard was equally as good. At the village fete Flavia goes into a gypsy tent to have her fortune told, for a bit of a laugh of course but the gypsy mentions ‘seeing’ Flavia’s dead mother Harriet and that’s a subject which is bound to grab Flavia’s interest.

Flavia is always about five steps ahead of the police it seems but Inspector Hewitt isn’t one to take umbrage at that. I’ve been indulging myself with this series recently but I think I’ll be taking a wee rest from them, apart from anything else I’ll have to request number 4 from the library. Speaking of which, I now have 8 books out on my library ticket – and I’m supposed to be concentrating on my own books! How did that happen?

Anyway – it did happen and I came across a Susan Hill book which fortunately for me was not the beginning of the series otherwise I would have had 9 books out. I’ve been thinking of trying her Simon Serrailler series, have any of you read them? It’s ages since I’ve read anything by Susan Hill and in the past I’ve found her books to be a bit ‘curate’s eggish’ in other words – good in parts – but sometimes disappointing.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley has appeared in a few of my favourite blogs and has always been adored by the readers (my pals!) so I was fairly sure that I was in no danger of finding this book to be a dud – and of course it wasn’t. In fact I’m already reading the second in the series and have the third one from the library.

Set in England in 1950, Flavia de Luce is the youngest in a family of three daughters, their mother Harriet died in a climbing accident and Flavia has no memories of her. Their father is a remote, withdrawn character, as were most fathers at that time. The girls are very much left to get on with things on their own which is something that their father might not have done if he had had an inkling of just how nasty elder sisters can be to their much younger siblings. I know because I’m a third daughter myself!

Never fear though, Flavia gets her own back, she’s a great character and with her love of chemistry it’s a brave or stupid person who crosses her. I never particularly wanted a daughter (it’s all that pink girly stuff which put me off that idea) but if I had had one I would have wanted her to be like Flavia.

When Flavia discovers a dying man in the garden she becomes involved in a mystery which had its origins years before she was born. She always seems to be a few steps ahead of the police and with the help of her trusty bike Gladys and an old family retainer called Dogger she solves everything.

There’s quite a lot of chemistry in the book and if I’m reading about something which I don’t know much about myself I’m always wondering how correct the information is. So each time a chemical was mentioned I asked my trusty resident Chemistry Ph.D guy (Jack) and I’m glad to say that it was all correct.

I enjoyed being in the company of Flavia so much that I began to read the second one in the series straight after finishing this one. Hurrah for libraries!