Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon

seven dead

Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon was first published in 1939 but I read a British Library Crime Classics reprint with a rather attractive cover of a harbour and yachts.

The book begins with Ted Lyte a nervous first time burglar breaking into a remote house by the coast. It seems that the house is uninhabited so he decides to take a look around, hoping to find easily portable silver.

One of the rooms is locked, presumably it has something worth stealing inside it, but when he gains entrance he gets the shock of his life. In a panic Ted rushes out of the house but realises that someone is chasing after him. Shedding silver spoons as he goes Ted runs straight into a policeman and ends up being taken to the local police station, he’s a jibbering wreck.

Thomas Hazeldean was the pursuer and he had just come off his yacht, but it’s not long before he’s on it again and sailing for Boulogne where he hopes to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I had some problems with this one because although it’s not long at all before the crime takes place the whole thing seemed a bit too disjointed to me and unlikely. Farjeon tried to introduce witty dialogue between the police but it really didn’t work. It’s a bit of a locked room mystery, a bit missing person, a bit of vengeance, a bit of romance. In fact it’s just a bit too bitty for my liking. I could just be nit-picking though.

Recent Book Purchases

While we were away on our recent (football inspired) trip down to England we took the opportunity to seek out secondhand bookshops, although there aren’t that many of them around nowadays, we visited the Moffat shop when we stopped there for lunch. We each bought a book there. Then on to Penrith in Northumberland where we found another bookshop. We also visited Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Alcester, Stratford on Avon, Much Wenlock, Ironbridge and Kendal. The upshot of that is that I bought a total of 25 books, Jack bought 11, he’s always more reticent than I am! Some of them were bought in charity shops.

I didn’t find any books that I’ve been lusting after for ages, just some books from authors that I’ve read and enjoyed before, and a few from authors I had never even heard of – but I liked the look of them. Here are a few of them.

Latest Book Haul

1. Uncle Samson by Beverley Nichols. It was published in 1950 and is his observations on the American way of life. I think it’ll be a witty report on social history.

2. Rendezvous by Daphne du Maurier is a collection of her short stories.

3. Getting It Right by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I loved the Cazalet Chronicles so I have high hopes for this one.

4. Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon, a British Library Crime Classic.

5. Counting the Stars by Helen Dunmore. She’s an author that I’ve only recently discovered – sadly she died just a few months ago.

6. An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel, published in 1995 and very different from her Tudor books I’m sure.

I found three D.E. Stevenson paperbacks in an antiques centre for all of £1 each, they were the most interesting things in the whole place.

7. Still Glides the Stream by D.E. Stevenson

8. Crooked Adam by D.E. Stevenson

9. The House of the Deer by D.E. Stevenson.

10. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is a Virago which was going for 50p so although I know I could have borrowed it from the library I decided to buy it.

That’ll do for now. Have you read any of these ones?

The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon

 The Z Murders cover

The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon was first published in 1932, but I read a 2015 British Crime Library Classics reprint which has an introduction by Martin Edwards.

I enjoyed this one, but not as much as his Mystery in White. Farjeon has a lovely turn of phrase at times, but towards the end of this book I began to feel that a major character was just too bizarre for words.

Again, a railway journey features in the story, I wonder if that was a bit of a motif where his writing was concerned. Not that I’m complaining because I think that a train instantly sets the scene for vintage crime.

Richard Temperley is travelling overnight by train from the north of England to Euston in London. Of course those overnight trains always get into London at crazily early times of the morning, it’s too early for Temperley to travel on to his sister’s house so he decides to spend some hours resting in a nearby hotel’s smoking-room.

The man that shared Temperley’s train compartment also ends up in the same smoking-room. He had ruined Temperley’s sleep through constant snoring so when Temperley realises that the man is no longer snoring he checks on him, sure enough – he’s dead – shot. The police are called and so begins a chase around the country from London to Bristol and back north again. In fact they were travelling along a road that I knew well, that’s always a plus for me.

But towards the end the storyline became very unlikely and I would say just about impossible. I think the author got fed up writing and just wound it up.

It’s still worth reading though and if possible I would give it a 3.5 on Goodreads.

Books, books, books ….

At the moment I’m reading two books, which isn’t like me, I tend to concentrate on one book at a time. But I bought Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent – Travels in Small Town America in a charity shop the other day and started reading it on the way home. So I’m reading that one downstairs now while I have my morning tea. It’s a fun, light read.

Upstairs (bedtime and afternoon reading) I’m reading The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn. It’s a readalong for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge and I’m way ahead with this one as it’s scheduled for sometime in March. I’m enjoying it although at the moment I’m thinking that some of the sea-faring parts could have done with being a bit shorter.

I’ve finished reading Chatterton Square by E.H. Young, an author I had never read before despite having the book for years (Virago). I loved it but that’s a readalong on Undervalued British Women Novelists 1930 – 1960 so I’ll blog about that one within a couple of weeks. Have you read anything by E.H. Young?

The Silver Darlings is a library book, I’ve only just bought the Bill Bryson book and I made the mistake of popping into a north-east Fife library that I don’t normally visit today, and the upshot of that is that I came out with The Z Murders by J.Jefferson Farjeon.

So my great intention of concentrating on my own book piles has like most plans – gone to hell in a handcart, and although I compiled a list of the first ten Scottish books I intended to read for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge – and the second Scottish book didn’t even appear on that list, it did however jump out at me from a library shelf, and I just couldn’t ignore it. For me libraries are a bit like those shops that have a mish-mash of stuff for sale, end of lines and last year’s stock such as TK Maxx. If by chance you see something there you want then you had better buy it, or borrow it if you’re in a library, because you just might never see it again.

There’s no cure for it you know!

Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon was first published in 1937. It is of course one of those British Library Crime Classics and has been very popular with bloggers recently, and rightly so.

Its subtitled A Christmas Crime Story, and I had decided to keep this one to read around Christmas, however the festive season has crept up on me so quickly and silently this year (is it the unseasonally warm weather?) that I almost forgot to read it last week.

I can’t say it got me into the mood for Christmas, which was my original idea for reading it around now, but it is a very good read, quite creepy and atmospheric. Initially I was a wee bit disappointed that the setting is not actually a snowed up train, which is what I thought from the cover.

It has been snowing for days and so it’s not really a huge surprise when a train full of passengers gets stuck in the snow near the village of Hemmersby. After waiting for a long time for something to happen, some of the passengers who have been chatting to each other decide to get off the train and make their way over the fields, hoping to be able to continue their journey home somehow.

The weather is much worse than they had expected and they have to find shelter from the snow, a large country house looms up at them through the blizzard conditions. The front door isn’t locked, fires are blazing away in the hearths, the table is set for tea, and the kettle is boiling away, but there is nobody around. It’s like the Marie Celeste.

There’s a portrait hanging above the fireplace in the hall, it’s of an elderly man and his eyes seem to follow everyone around.

You get the idea, as I said it’s an enjoyable read even although I was slightly disappointed that the story swiftly moved away from the train as I do love a train setting, but then – I’m not averse to an old spooky country house setting either.

British Library Crime Classics

I’ve recently been given a whole load of books, first by our friend Eric and then even more by Peggy from the US. I had decided that I wasn’t going to look at any books whenever we went out anywhere, just so that I could concentrate on whittling away at some of my book piles.

But there is no hope for me, just as I had said that to Jack he came up to me in a shop to give me the news that he had found two British Library Crime Classic books, of course it was the lovely 1930s covers which had attracted him. So it’s his fault entirely that I added those ones to the ever growing piles. Both of them by Mavis Doriel Hay, I don’t even recall ever hearing anything about her, but I couldn’t resist them. They are Death on the Cherwell and Murder Underground.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, in another charity shop today he spotted Mystery in White by J.Jefferson Farjeon, now I have heard only good things of this one so I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy it.

As luck would have it we were both feeling a bit under the weather over the last couple of weeks and indeed the actual weather was not helping our moods either, so we both sort of read our way out of it, whilst totally ignoring everything else. Luxury. It’s wonderful to be able to read a book in a day! So I’m fairly ploughing through the book piles.

On another bookish note, we’ve been using our local libraries a lot since moving to a more rural location last year. There are several small libraries in villages a short drive from us and we had been hoping that using those ones and pushing their lending statistics up would mean they would be safer from closure. Honestly we did our best! But there gas been an announcement to the effect that Fife Council intend to close 16 libraries! I honestly never thought that so many would be under threat.

Those small libraries are often a sort of local hub and the only place where some people can get access to a computer. Primary schools won’t be able to take the children to library visits and that means that for a lot of them they just will never see the inside of a library as their parents are either too busy to take them, or just don’t have the inclination to do so.

I feel a campaign coming on!

On a happier note, if you are in the Kirkcaldy area then do yourself a favour and get along to the library and museum where The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on exhibition. We saw it when it was at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh but went again yesterday, really as we were just killing time but I think I enjoyed it even more on the second viewing. The exhibition is on until the 20th of September.