Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin

Crime at Christmas cover

Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin was first published in 1934. I had never read anything by this author before so had no idea what to expect. I ended up enjoying this book, the author is quite witty, but there is a real sense of deja vu and plus ca change as one of the main characters is a stockbroker and just as now stockbrokers and bankers weren’t exactly admired. Yes it seems that nothing ever does change for the better in this world of ours.

It’s a murder mystery set in a large house but not in the country, in fact Beresford Lodge backs on to Hampstead Heath in London, one of several large houses in the area although the nearest one is empty and derelict.

Malcolm Warren, a stockbroker, has been invited to spend Christmas there, it’s a party of close friends and relatives. During a silly party game Malcolm trips up and badly hurts an arm and wrist, the shock makes him sick and after being looked at by a doctor Malcolm takes to his bed.

He’s in for an even nastier shock though as during the night a body has landed on his room’s balcony and so begins the mystery.

I enjoyed this book although I think it did rely too much on coincidence. At the end of the story there is a question and answer section where the author explains any questions that a reader might have about it. It wraps up any loose ends.

The blurb on the back says:

‘Kitchin’s knowledge of the crevices of human nature lifts his crime fiction out of the category of puzzledom and into the realm of the detective novel. He was, in short, ahead of his time.’
H.R.F. Keating

I read this book for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Winter Solstice cover

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher was first published in 2000 and it was the last book that she wrote as she retired from writing then although she lived for for quite a few years after that.

I’ve read quite a few of Rosamunde Pilcher’s books and I suppose they come under the category of comfort read, although in this one there is a tragedy, but it doesn’t involve any characters that the reader gets very involved with.

Elfrida has retired and moved from London to a small cottage in Hampshire where she intends to supplement her income by making cushions and home furnishings and selling them on to a posh London shop. She makes a good job of settling into her new life and making good friends in the area, she has a gorgeous rescue dog called Horace as a companion, but there’s no doubt that the one person who is most important to Elfrida is her neighbour Oscar, but he’s already married with a young daughter.

Circumstances lead to Oscar having to move back to the north of Scotland where he had been brought up and Elfrida gives up her comfortable life to join him there, and so begins a sort of tour of various houses in that area. In fact I felt that it was a bit like reading one of those glossy homes magazines. Some of the properties mentioned were definitely in need of refurbishment and others were very desireable indeed.

I feel that Pilcher had decided to modernise her writing a bit for the new millenium. One of the main characters is a woman who has had a long term affair with a married man and it has come to an end. I can’t be sure, because it’s quite a while since I read any other Rosamunde Pilcher books but I don’t think she had previously had a main character who had had an affair with a married man. I think in most romances a woman like that would have been seen as a bit of a wicked witch and not the main character.

In fact towards the end of this book something happens (you know me, I don’t want to say too much) and probably a lot of people would think that it is just too unlikely but – hold on to your hats girls – some husbands/widowers DO replace their wives after only a couple of months of their death, well they do in Kirkcaldy anyway. I know, I have said too much! Anyway, Winter Solstice is an enjoyable jaunt from Hampshire via London and on up to the wilds of Creagan which is north of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, and you can go on a tour of the places mentioned in the book, have a look here if you’re interested. There’s romance a-plenty too.

You can see some images of Creagan here.

I read this one for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2016 and also for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge