Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another of those authors whom I’m trying to read my way through and ticking them off my list as I go. This book was first published in 1991 but my copy is a Hodder and Stoughton which was published this year.

Rose Fenemore is an English tutor at Cambridge but she’s also a secret but popular writer of science fiction. She’s got a bit of writer’s block so when she spots an advert in The Times- ‘Ivory tower for long or short let. Isolated cottage on small Hebridean island off the coast of Mull. Ideal for writer or artist in search of peace.’ – she decides to write off to the box number in the hope of renting it for a holiday. I know, I know – it’s very similar to Elizabeth von Arnim’s An Enchanted April but on the other hand it is something which lots of us do from time to time. Well we do anyway.

Rose’s brother decides to join her in the cottage as he’s a keen photographer and he wants to photograph the wildlife on the island, particularly the elusive stormy petrel, a small sea-bird. Things don’t go exactly to plan and Rose realises that she can’t find peace to write even on the tiny island of Moila, off the Isle of Mull.

This was a quick read and it’s perfect if you’re looking for some light holiday reading and you particularly enjoy books with a Scottish setting. Or even if you just want something to take you away from all the horrible news which we’re getting on a daily basis, from all corners of the world.

I always look to see who a book has been dedicated to because it can be really interestng. Mary Stewart dedicated this one to Culcicoides Pulicaris Argyllensis with respect.

She obviously has a sense of humour as that is the Latin name for the teeny wee midge which plagues the west coast of Scotland and eats people alive! Luckily they very rarely bother me!

The Sacred Art of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre

This is another book which I read during the Christmas holidays and I’ve been swithering about reviewing it ever since.

It’s definitely not one for the prudish as it is a wee bit over the top in a couple of places. Having said that, I did enjoy reading it. It starts off in Mexico but the action soon switches to the lovely city of Glasgow, which is always nice especially if you are homesick for the streets. I enjoyed being in Buchanan Street and Gordon Street and the Kelvingrove Gallery anyway.

Angelique de Xavia has grown up in Glasgow and gone to a Roman Catholic school where she had rather a hard time of it due to the fact that her skin colour didn’t fit in as her parents had been amongst the Ugandan Asians deported by Idi Amin in the 1970s. She becomes a Rangers supporter mainly because all of the hateful pupils are Celtic supporters but being a Rangers fan is the big secret in her life. The rivalry between the two teams is really well observed and funny.

When she joins the police she becomes an expert in judo and has a reputation for being a bit of a maverick so when there is a robbery at a bank and hostages are taken, Angelique abseils into the building. It’s a robbery with a difference and Angelique ends up finding one of the robbers more than a bit interesting, which is where it became a bit unlikely.

There are loads of twists and turns in the plot and I think that anyone who is into suspense/mystery novels would probably enjoy it. Even if they don’t have the added dimension of imagining themselves at the Mitchell Library or in Partick.

One thing did annoy me though and that was the spelling of Glesca Polis. Apparently Brookmyre was born in Glasgow, as I was, but I have never heard any Glaswegian pronounce Glasgow in that way. It is always Glesga. Only teuchters (highlanders) pronounce it with a ‘c’.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thriller and Suspense Challenge.

The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier

Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010

This book was first published in 1965 and although I enjoyed it,
I don’t think it is anywhere near as good as du Maurier’s earlier work. At 272 pages, it is a very quick read. I must admit that I am not a fast reader as I take the view that as someone has gone to the bother of writing every word, it is only fair that I should read them all and not skim. It is well written and I found that it hadn’t really dated that much.

It is the story of a holiday courier called Armino Fabbio who conducts coach parties of tourists from Genoa to Rome. When a male tourist propositions the young and handsome Armino and slips a 10,000 lire note into his hand, Armino decides to get rid of the money by passing it on to an old lady who is slumped on the cathedral steps.

Unfortunately, she is murdered soon after and Armino decides that the safest thing for him is to get away from the area and he ends up back in the town where he had grown up, having left it as a young boy at the end of the war.

Since then his home town of Ruffano has enlarged due to the local university expanding, with as many as 5,000 students residing there or nearby.

Nobody recognizes the adult Armino and he takes a job in the university library, becoming involved with the students and staff and discovering that there is a disturbing rivalry between the Arts and Economics faculties, creating an atmosphere of menace.

He lives in fear of being traced to Ruffano by the police, especially when he discovers that the murder victim was his childhood nanny.

The book finishes with a spectacular festival which the students take part in and draws to what was for me an unexpected conclusion.

I don’t think I would read this one again though. It’s certainly not in the Rebecca league.