Christmas Books

Christmas Books

Above is a photo of the books which I bought over the weeks before Christmas – and said to Jack, just wrap those up for me! After so many years it isn’t crucial to get a sumptuous present and I’m in the happy position of not really needing or wanting anything expensive.

You’ll have noticed that my cache of books leans heavily towards children’s publications, that was just luck or serendipity, not something which I set out to do.

1. Crime Out Of Mind by Delano Ames. He was a 2014 discovery for me and I’ve read a few of his books, I’ve enjoyed them all and this is another Dagobert and Jane book, his married sleuths, so I have high hopes of it. It was published in 1956.

2. Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald. First published in 1879 this is a children’s book by a Scottish writer who used to be very popular but is now hardly read.

3. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim, published in 1925. I already have a copy of this but I had to buy this one when I saw it in its green binding, I have most of her other books in this guise and my other copy of Love is a modern paperback.

4. Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting, first published in 1924. This is another children’s author which I missed completely as a youngster. There are a lot of books in the series and the Doctor Dolittle film was based on them.

5. Whizz for Atomms by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, published in 1956. I bought this because of the Ronald Searle cartoons, it’s a similar idea to the St Trinian’s books, it looks like a good laugh.

6. In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor, published in 1961. I have read a fair few of her books and enjoyed them.

7. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, this is an omnibus of the three stories which Fleming wrote in 1964 – 1965, but this book was published in 1971. I’ve already blogged about this one.

8. Not a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman, published in 2010. I’ve not read anything by Morpurgo yet (I think) and it’s about time I did but to be honest I would have bought this book just for the illustrations because I’m a Foreman fan.

9. Last but definitely not least is Edmund Dulac’s Picture Book for the French Red Cross, published in 1915. As it says on the front cover, all profits on sale given to the Croix Rouge Francaise, Comite de Londres. Obviously to help with the First World War casualties. I was lucky to get this one at St Andrews for a reasonable price, there are people online asking silly money for it. Some of the stories are old faithfulls like Cinderella but there are a lot which I hadn’t heard of before. The illustrations are lovely and if you are interested you can download it free from Project Gutenberg here.

Corpse Diplomatique by Delano Ames

This is just the second book by Delano Ames which I’ve read and I have to say that it puzzles me that he isn’t better known. His writing is really enjoyable, witty and also unusual in that although his detectives are a husband and wife team, Jane and Dagobert Brown, it’s Jane who is narrating and Ames manages to get the authentic sound of a long suffering wife perfectly.

The Browns are staying at a pension in the south of France and have made several acquaintances in and around the town. There has been political upheaval in Santa Rica and Don Diego Sebastiano, a Santa Rican diplomat is in fear of his life.

When a shot is fired into a crowded street Don Diego assumes that he was the target, but was he and who is the culprit? I really like the characters of Jane and Dagobert who are a funny and believable couple. The mystery isn’t bad either.

Murder, Maestro, please by Delano Ames

Murder Maestro please cover

I had never even heard of Delano Ames when I picked up this book in a secondhand bookshop in St Andrews, and neither had the shop owner. As you would expect from someone with Delano as a first name he was American, you can read about him here.
It’s a vintage Penguin Crime, and I can’t resist them.

First published in 1952 this book features a husband and wife sleuthing team in the shape of Dagobert Brown and his wife Jane. As characters I loved them both and especially enjoyed what was a witty and realistic husband and wife relationship.

The setting is the Pyrenees where the Browns are travelling on a tandem, an enthusiasm of Dagobert’s, Jane is less enamoured. They are on their way to meet up with friends at an hotel and then attend the Puig d’Aze Musical Festival. When they realise that someone is shooting and one of the shots almost hits them they’re understandably worried. Was it just a stray hunter’s bullet, were they the targets or was the driver of the red Bugatti which passed them the target? Dagobert is determined to get to the bottom of it.

It’s all go and I was surprised more than once at the turn of events, so as usual I don’t want to say too much about the storyline.

Suffice to say that the blurb on the back of the book says:

‘If there is a more engaging couple in modern fiction than Jane and Dagobert Brown, we have not met them.’
– Scotsman newspaper.