The Arms Maker of Berlin by Dan Fesperman was published in 2009. It’s the first book that I’ve read by the author and I was encouraged to do so after reading TracyK’s review at Bitter Tea and Mystery.
The action in this book begins in the US where Professor Nat Turnbull lectures on World War 2 history, specialising in the German Resistance. His one time mentor Gordon Wolfe is arrested for possessing stolen files from WW 2 archives and this sets Nat off on a dangerous investigation which takes him to Germany.
The action slips between contemporary America and Germany and 1942 Germany where some of the Nazis are beginning to realise that things aren’t going their way. Some young students have set up a resistance group called the White Rose and they’re involved with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who is under surveillance by the Nazis. Kurt Bauer, the young son of an important industrialist becomes embroiled with the young activists, not for political reasons but because he’s in love with Liesl. His father has warned him to have nothing to do with Liesl as she’s trouble, she is not careful about what she says which is a dangerous thing when there are people queuing up to denounce friends and even family to the Nazis.
I enjoyed this although I did find it quite frustrating when the action changed from one time span to the other, always at a sort of cliffhanger when I just wanted to get on with that aspect of the tale.
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.
The Big Sleep is the first book by Raymond Chandler that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be tracking down his others. This book was first published in 1939 and it’s the first book which features the private investigator Philip Marlowe. I must have seen the 1946 film of the book umpteen times, if I see it’s on TV I’ll always watch it again if possible, I’m a Bogart and Bacall fan.
Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to track down whoever is blackmailing his daughter Carmen. Sternwood is wheelchair-bound and obviously a very ill man, he has two daughters and they’re both spoiled, the youngest Carmen is really out of control. The eldest daughter Vivian is married, but her husband is missing which is also a worry to Sternwood as he got on well with his son-in-law. Vivian is addicted to gambling, playing roulette.
Marlowe’s investigation uncovers a world of gangsters, gun-runners, pornographers and murderers. The plot is great but the writing is even better – honestly I had no idea that Chandler was such a good writer. I love that he describes everything and everyone, but manages to avoid overdoing it somehow. Writing the screenplay must have been a fairly easy task as Chandler had already written all the action and dressed all the actors. Add to that Marlowe’s dry wit and classiness, this book is a very entertaining read.
I was really surprised to read that Chandler went to school in England and even joined the British civil service. In 1917 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought in France with the Gordon Highlanders.
The crimson in the purple by Holly Roth was first published in 1957 and it’s the third book that I’ve read by the author, I really like her writing. She also wrote under the names K.G. Ballard and P.J. Merrill.
Bill Farland is working as a private investigator until his career as a playwright takes off, so when the youngest member of an American acting dynasty comes to him for help he’s very happy to take on the job, not just because he’s desperate for money, he hopes that it’ll be a chance for him to push forward his new play. It looks like someone has been trying to poison Catherine Hadden who seems to be being treated as a dogsbody by the rest of her illustrious family of actors and set designers. Catherine is their housekeeper in the large Victorian pile that Dominic the head of the dynasty refuses to sell. Strangely Catherine has been told that there’s no money for her to go to college.
Bill Farland is invited to a dinner party at the Hadden family home as a friend of Catherine’s and to begin with he’s rather star-struck but in no time he’s gone right off Terratta Hadden whom he had idolised previously as in real life she’s a bitch. In fact the Haddens are a fairly ghastly bunch who behave badly even in front of guests. Things quickly go from bad to worse, but I don’t want to say any more about that.
For me this was a tense psychological thriller and I didn’t guess the ending which is always a big plus. The book would have made a really good film I think but maybe it was thought that the private detective scenario had been used enough in films by the late 1950s.
The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor was published in 2013. I wasn’t too sure of this one at the beginning but it wasn’t long before I got right into it.
The setting is 1778 New York, a city that has just suffered another devastating fire, the second within two years. Edward Savill has just arrived in the city, he’s a young clerk who has been sent from London to represent the British government, his job is to investigate the financial claims of loyalists who have lost possessions and property in the ongoing wars for Independence.
Manhattan is awash with refugees, soldiers, runaway slaves and spies and it’s a dangerous place to move around in – even by day. No rebuilding has gone on as people are cconcentrating on war, not building, so large numbers of people are living in Canvas Town, a dangerous place even in daylight. Edward Savill is lodging with the Wintour family who have themselves lost an estate which is on land that has been taken over by the rebels. The Wintours are very much poorer than they had been and Edward chooses to continue to lodge with them mainly because he knows his rent money is so useful for them, but it’s not long before he realises that there are problems within the household and he suspects that a spy has infiltrated the place.
Although I guessed what was going on in the mystery parts of the book this was an atmospheric and enjoyable read.
Dandy Gilver & a Spot of Toil and Trouble by Catriona McPherson is the new mystery featuring Dandy and Alec’s detective agency. Dandy has been contacted by an old schoolfriend who needs her services. Minerva, better known as Minnie lives with her husband in Castle Bewer which is a crumbling 14th century pile. In her letter she explains that they are opening the castle to the public and also staging plays there.
A company of actors from London will be arriving there soon and Dandy and Alec are needed to guard the castle’s valuables apparently. Grant – Dandy’s loyal maid is champing at the bit to join in on this job as she grew up with actor parents, and the stage is a home from home for her.
When they arrive at Castle Bewer they soon realise that the job is far more complicated than Minnie had implied. As ever this was an enjoyable read, I like being in the company of Dandy and Alec. Hugh her husband doesn’t appear in this one much though which is a shame as I think he’s a good character.
Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart was published in 1976 and it must have been around about then that I first read it. I couldn’t remember an awful lot about the book (it was a long time ago after all) but I did remember that the family crest had something to do with the storyline. Judith @ Reader in the Wilderness and I decided to read this one at the same time and she plans to get her post up about it soon.
This is a light read, you might call it a comfort read, perfect holiday or summertime reading. The setting is mainly Herefordshire in England in the 1970s although the book does begin in Madeira where Bryony Ashley is working at a hotel that is owned by her father’s friend, it’s just a holiday job for her but tragedy strikes when Bryony’s father is knocked down and killed by a hit and run car in Germany. Her father wasn’t killed outright and his last words have been written down for Bryony, as the doctors know that she won’t get to his bedside before he dies. There is a tradition of a sort of telepathy within the Ashley family and Bryony has it as has one of her male relatives, but she doesn’t know which one it is that communicates with her through thought.
Bryony is now an orphan and even worse than that her family home Ashley Court is entailed meaning that it has to be passed on down the male line in the family. Ashley Court is practically a ruin, an ancient moated house which has suffered from a lack of maintenance for years. It’ll be a millstone around the neck of the eldest Ashley cousin Emory, even more than Bryony realises because she discovers that that branch of the family is equally skint when she and her father had believed them to be very well off.
The police have never been able to track down whoever killed Bryony’s father and she begins to think that it wasn’t a simple accident. Did her cousins have something to do with it? Which of her cousins is it that she has a mental link with, being able to communicate through telepathy.
Bryony is suspicious of her cousins, would they have killed her father to get their hands on Ashley Court and the land around it?
With romance thrown in and some lovely descriptions of the surroundings, something always expected in a Mary Stewart book, this was an enjoyable read. Mind you I always compare any of her books with her Merlin/Arthurian trilogy, that ended up being a series of five books. Those books are still my favourites.
I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge, I’ve now read thirteen Scottish books so far this year.
Bury Her Deep by Catriona McPherson was published in 2007 and it’s a Dandy Gilver mystery. I thought I had read all of the books in this series so I was really chuffed to see this one on the library shelf, this is the third one in the series and it’s set in 1924.
Dandy is married to Hugh Gilver who is a well-off landowner, they live in rural Perthshire with their two sons but Dandy is obviously in need of outside stimulation or she’ll die of boredom amongst the sheep.
In fact she thought she was going to be bored stiff at the luncheon which Hugh had invited his old schoolfriend to but it turns out that the now Reverend Mr Tait has been having some problems in his parish and he asks Dandy to come and investigate.
The scene changes to Fife and the wee village of Luckenlaw where the newly set up branch of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (the equivalent of the Women’s Institute in England) is being seen as a bad influence on their womenfolk – as far as their husbands are concerned. It doesn’t help matters that they always meet on the night of a full moon, there’s a lot of gossip going on in the village which has suffered a lot of bad luck in recent times. Dandy is determined to get to the bottom of it, with the help of her trusty side-kick Alec of course.
I enjoyed this one although probably not as much as her later books, but the setting was all local to me and I do enjoy being able to imagine all the roads and places in a book, although the actual village of Luckenlaw is fictional, the rest of the locations are all real. I know that some people aren’t all that keen on Dandy as a character but I’m a fan, to me she’s a realistic long-married woman, coping with an uncommunicative husband as best she can. Hugh is still clueless about his wife’s career as a private investigator as Dandy knows that if he finds out about it he will put a stop to it.
I read this one for the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge.
I think I’ve only read three books by Rex Stout before I bought The Broken Vase, and I just assumed that it was going to be a Nero Wolfe book, but it isn’t. Rex Stout books are not thick on the ground in Scotland, or England for that matter but I came across this one in a junk/bric a brac shop just over the border in England. They only had about 20 books so it was a stroke of luck they had this one, an old Crime Club hardback from 1947. My only gripe is that there’s a paucity of likeable characters but there is humour, which is always a plus.
The detective is Tecumseh Fox (is that a native American name? – for update see last paragraph) and Stout wrote only three books with Tec Fox as the detective, presumably he wasn’t as happy with him as a character. The Broken Vase was first published in 1942.
Jan Tusar is a young and successful classical violinist and Tecumseh Fox is one of five people who have contributed to a fund to purchase a Stradivarius for him. Tec is amongst the audience to hear Jan playing the violin for the first time in public, but the concert is a disaster, the violin sounds terrible and the audience is baffled, the evening ends in tragedy.
I enjoyed this vintage mystery, maybe not as much as a Nero /Archie book but still well worth reading.
Jack has just told me Tecumseh was US Civil War General Sherman’s middle name – after the Shawnee chief who fought against the US with the British in 1812 – and he pointed me in this direction. It’s great having your own encyclopaedia at home.
Because we were away in the Lake District it took me much longer than usual to read this book. I usually like to read detective fiction in 3 or 4 big chunks over a couple of days, but this must have taken me about a week in dribs and drabs. Because of that I only gave it 3 on Goodreads but I suspect it would have been a 4 if I had been able to read it as normal.
First published in 1951 and set in London, two similar murders are committed in the same house just two days apart, as you would expect given the book title. The house belongs to Mrs Haddington, a ghastly social climbing sort of a woman with a spoiled little madam of a teenage daughter, named Cynthia.
There are several possibilities as to the culprit or culprits and Chief Inspector Hemingway and Inspector Grant have the job of investigating the crime. Grant is of course Scottish and as he has just come back from a holiday in Inverness his speech is more Scottish than it would be normally, in fact he speaks quite a lot of Gaelic phrases, thus proving that Heyer went to the trouble of learning more Gaelic than I have. But then I’m a Lowlander and I know nothing much beyond sgian dubh.
Anyway, it kept me guessing to the end which is always a plus and there is the usual witty dialogue which Heyer is so good at writing, especially between the love interest which she always has to have, even in her murder mysteries.