Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Death of a Ghost cover

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham was first published in 1934 and it’s the sixth Albert Campion murder mystery, so fairly early in his career and for me that’s the problem with this book. As he matured Allingham wrote Campion as a much more interesting character than he was in his early days, he’s just too shadowy and one dimensional, I much prefer the older married Campion.

John Lafcadio was a great artist and he decided that to keep his name going as long as possible after his death he would paint several pictures to be unveiled after his death – one a year, beginning ten years after his death. I have to say that that is a great idea.

It’s the eighth unveiling of one of those paintings, so eighteen years after his death, and there are lots of famous people at the party, suddenly the lights go out – a shilling is needed for the electricity meter, and there’s a murder!

So begins Campion’s investigation, aided by Stanislaus Oates, but for me there’s just not enough of Campion and it’s all a bit predictable.

The Shrouded Way by Janet Caird

The Shrouded Way cover

The Shrouded Way by Janet Caird was published in 1973 and it is one of the books that Peggy brought from the US for me. I have to admit that I had never heard of the author before Peggy started reading her books, which is strange as Caird was Scottish.

The Shrouded Way reminded me very much of Mary Stewart’s writing, well of her adventure/mystery books, and I enjoyed the way the mystery started almost from the very beginning, with Elizabeth Cranston discovering a body in a tractor when she is driving to visit her Aunt Jenny who lives in the small Highland fishing village of Mourie.

There are some strangers in the village where over the years there has been a belief that there is a sunken boat containing treasure just off the coast of the village. The strangers include Crane Maclean, a wealthy American who is the new laird and he intends to finance the search for the treasure, promising that if they find it he will give it to the villagers for the good of the community.

All is not well though, and more villagers end up dead. Elizabeth has attracted the attentions of the laird and the school teacher who is also a new arrival in the village. But Elizabeth has her doubts about both of them.

I enjoyed this one although for me it somehow dragged a wee bit around the middle of the story, however that might just have been me rather than the fault of the book and I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by Janet Caird.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge.

The Gazebo by Patricia Wentworth

The Gazebo cover

The Gazebo by Patricia Wentworth was first published in 1958 and my copy was published that year and even has the dust jacket – what a find!

I really enjoyed this one although the murder does take quite a while to take place. Althea Graham is a woman in her mid twenties and she is at her ghastly mother’s beck and call all day every day. Her mother is supremely self-centred and is determined to keep her daughter at home running around after her mother who has a ‘heart attack’ every time it looks like she might not get her way about something.

Five years previously Althea had been all set to get married but her mother had put a stop to it. Now her ex-fiance is back, but it looks like life is never going to be easy for them, with murder and mystery blighting their future.

Luckily Althea is able to contact Miss Silver, they are connected loosely through an old friend. She’s the equivalent of the cavalry riding to your aid! AND she does it all whilst knitting a pink vest for a baby girl.

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.

Furnished for Murder by Elizabeth Ferrars

Elisabeth Ferrars - Furnished for Murder

Furnished for Murder (Murder Room) by Scottish author Elizabeth Ferrars was first published in 1957.

Meg Jeacock and her husband are finding things difficult financially so they decide to section off part of their house and sublet it. It’s not something they’re very keen on doing but needs must. Meg is surprised when she answers her door to a man who is very determined to rent the place, he has been out of the country and has no references but he is happy to pay three months rent immediately and Meg can’t resist, although she knows her husband won’t be too happy about it.

In fact her husband is convinced that their tenant is a dodgy character and it isn’t long before terrible things begin to happen in the neighbourhood.

I’ve enjoyed all of the books by Ferrars that I’ve read so far and this one was really good. I think she should be better known than she is. I love the very 1950s cover on my old Collins Fontana paperback version of it which as you can see cost all of 2/6 but that was probably quite expensive back in the day. If you ever stumble across any Elizabeth Ferrars books you should give her a go. For some odd reason she was marketed as E.X. Ferrars in the US.

This one counts towards the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth

The Listening Eye cover

The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth is a Miss Silver mystery and it was first published in 1957.

Miss Paulina Paine is 57 years old and she has been stone deaf ever since a bomb fell very close to her during the war. Paulina taught herself lip-reading very successfully and she hopes it isn’t obvious to people that she is deaf.

However, one of her lodgers is an artist and he has painted her portrait which is being exhibited in a gallery. The artist has titled the portrait The Listener and Paulina has to admit to herself that he has captured an expression on her face that she recognises.

Whilst at the exhibition Paulina lip reads a man who is standing quite far away from her, he thinks that his conversation will be private, never suspecting that a lip-reader was ‘eavesdropping’ on him.

Paulina is aghast at what he has said and quickly leaves the gallery, but when a gallery worker mentions to the man that Paulina is a marvellous lip-reader it puts Paulina’s life at risk. She has inadvertently obtained dangerous information.

As it happens Paulina has a loose connection with Miss Silver and she goes to ask her advice on what she has ‘overheard’. So begins Miss Silver’s involvement in the investigation.

As ever I don’t want to say too much about this one as I don’t want to spoil it for any possible readers, but it’s a good mystery and Miss Silver sorts it all out, whilst knitting a pale blue shawl, multi tasking with class.

The Whitstable Pearl Mystery and Murder-on-Sea by Julie Wassmer

 The Whitstable Pearl Mystery cover

The Whitstable Pearl Mystery by Julie Wassmer was a completely random choice from the library. I had never heard of the author before, but it turns out she is a ‘Goodreads’ author – whatever that means.

The setting is Whitstable in Kent, the town is famous for its seafood and Pearl has her own seafood resaturant which is very popular but with her son going off to university she’s finding her life to be a bit empty and decides to try her hand at setting up a detective agency too. She had been a policewoman briefly in her youth, until her unplanned pregnancy kyboshed that career.

This is an enjoyable read with some good characters but the actual mystery part of it isn’t too exciting. I can imagine though that if you know the Whitstable area then you will enjoy the local aspect of it, it seems like an authentic seaside setting. I suppose it comes under the heading of comfort read and we all need them from time to time.

This is Julie Wassmer’s first book but she has been a writer for Eastenders and various other TV programmes in the past. Surprisingly her writing is a bit cliched from time to time, such as using the phrase sun-kissed throat, something that I imagine if I were a writer I would want to avoid. But heigh-ho nothing’s perfect and I went right on to read Murder-on-Sea the second book in this series.

The author lives in Whitstable and is apparently well known for her environmental campaigning.

Murder-on-Sea

 Murder-on-Sea cover

Murder-on-Sea by Julie Wassmer is the second book in the Whitstable Pearl Mystery series.

It’s the height of the Christmas season and Pearl is run off her feet at her seafood restaurant, but when nasty anonymous Christmas cards start popping up all over town she decides she has to investigate.

DCI Mike McGuire from Canterbury police ends up taking over the case and things escalate with murders following the cards.

I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Whitstable Pearl Mystery. It didn’t have such a good sense of place and I admit that the entrance of a character called Rev Pru was never going to go down well with me. Do ministers/vicars actually call themselves Rev? and if they do there ought to be a law against it. I know, it’s just one of my many strange personal dislikes.

These books are good light reads that you don’t have to concentrate on to any great extent.

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

 The Janus Stone cover

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths was published in 2010 and is the second book in the series.

Archaeologist Ruth Galloway has been called in to investigate bones which have been found buried in a doorway in an old villa in Norwich. Just how old are they? They were only uncovered because most of the house is being demolished to make way for new homes, but it transpires that the old house had been used as a Catholic children’s home in the past and some members of the police force are jumping to conclusions. Children had gone missing years ago, perhaps they had been murdered and buried there.

In the first book in this series, The Crossing Place, Ruth had a one night stand with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson and she now realises that she’s pregnant, for her it’s a bonus, but she’s not sure how Nelson will react to the news, and to make matters worse she has now met Nelson’s wife and has become a friend.

Ruth is still living in her remote cottage and someone is trying to frighten her – and succeeding.

I’m enjoying this series and will definitely continue with it. Apart from anything else, I want to know what is going to happen in the personal lives of the main characters. It could be very messy.

Night and Silence by Aline Templeton

Night and Silence cover

Night and Silence by Aline Templeton was published in 1999 and I know that I requested it from the library after reading about it on a blog – but I can’t remember who recommended it – maybe it was you! Anyway, I hadn’t read anything by Aline Templeton before but I will read more of her books. I suspect though that people in Wales wouldn’t be saying that if they had read this one because the setting is a small town in Wales and she doesn’t have a good thing to say about any of the inhabitants, having said that though she didn’t say anything about them that I hadn’t heard said before.

David Cordiner has been promoted in the police force, the down side of that is that his promotion means a move to a Welsh valley for him and his wife Tessa. She finds the relocation particularly hard as the small-minded gossiping natives are a bunch of bullies and are happy making newcomers miserable. It’s a huge change from her life in London where she was a successful artist.

When the body of a young nurse is found on a hillside suicide is suspected but quickly ruled out. The investigation turns up evidence that she was only interested in money and expensive clothes and jewellery. She’s one of those women who should have dangerous to know stamped across her forehead.

Meanwhile the local pervert is stalking Tessa and nobody is taking her complaint seriously. Her husband is more interested in his new job and is making the same mistakes that he made during his first marriage.

Will Tessa survive it all and will their marriage break up, will they manage to get out of Wales and resume life as they knew it previously?

Unfortunately this is one of her standalone novels so I don’t think the characters ever appear again. Shame.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes

Lament for a Maker cover

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes was first published in 1938 and the story is told by five different characters in seven sections.

In the first part the story is narrated by Ewan Bell, a shoemaker from Kinkeig and it’s written in his dialect which I think might have put some readers off but really it shouldn’t be a problem for people.

Ranald Guthrie is the laird of Erchany Castle. He’s hated in his part of the Scottish Highlands, because of his meanness. Ranald spends his time counting his gold coins and quoting parts of an ancient Scottish poem by William Dunbar – which you can read here. A maker or more usually makar is a Scottish word for a poet, usually a court poet. The title has been brought back into use now and at the moment the makar is Jackie Kay.

Anyway, back to the book.

Ranald Guthrie has a young niece, but if you believe the local gossip she might actually be his daughter – or maybe he has designs on her, the locals will believe anything of him, he’s seen as being the devil. Christine, the niece has fallen for a young local man but Guthrie despises his family. It’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation.

When Guthrie falls to his death from his own battlements on a wild wintry night there’s speculation, did he jump or was he pushed? His American relatives had tried to have him put into an asylum in the past because of his strange behaviour. Of course John Appleby of Scotland Yard is going to get to the bottom of it.

This is a very convoluted mystery, well worth reading, in fact it’s often regarded as being Michael Innes’s best book.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.