Book Review: Devil-Devil by G.W. Kent

Devil-Devil is the first book in the Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella Mysteries by G.W. Kent.

The story is set in the Solomon Islands in 1960.  Sergeant Ben Kella, a native of the Solomon Islands, is the hereditary peacemaker, or aofia of the Lau people as well as a member of the Solomon Islands police force.  He has been told to make enquiries in Malaita about a missing American anthropologist.  However, only two days into his trip things take an unexpected turn, one that involves murder, curses and magic.  Soon, he finds that there is much more going on in Malaita than anyone had anticipated…

Sister Conchita is a young American nun that is sent to the Solomon Islands to work at the Roman Catholic Mission.  She is fiercely independent and strong-willed, something that means she often finds herself in trouble, even when she is trying hard not to avoid it.  Working at the mission station in Ruvabi with Father Pierre should have kept her out of trouble, but nothing could have prepared her for the trouble she finds on Malaita…

Naturally, the paths of Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita cross and together they eventually manage to determine who is behind a number of murders on the island.

I was very much reminded of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith as I read this, which is no bad thing as I enjoy reading those books.  I loved the front cover.  It’s not often that I write about book covers as part of my reviews, but Devil-Devil’s bright illustrations were what made me pick up the book in the first place.  Sometimes you just know that you will like a book when you pick it up and this was one of them.

I loved both Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella, and the exotic location of the story was colourful and engaging, as was the storyline itself and the people.  I think the two main characters really worked well together, and the supporting cast were just as interesting.  The dialogue flowed smoothly as did the change between the viewpoint of Kella and Sister Conchita.

What more is there to say?  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Devil-Devil is a charming cosy mystery that captures the imagination.  I highly recommend this refreshing read to mystery book fans.

Book Review: The Tree of Death (A Rosemary and Thyme Mystery) by Brian Eastman

When Laura Thyme and Rosemary Boxer are asked to come to the village of Baffington to work on the parish church cemetery, they uncover more than a few weeds and brambles in the churchyard…

Laura’s cousin, Keith Briggs is the vicar of Baffington.  Over the years, the cemetery around the parish church has been neglected, but as the village’s Medieval Fayre approaches, organised by the local historian and celebrity, Franklin Danvers, everything in Baffington must be perfect.  Naturally, Keith calls in his green-fingered cousin and Laura and Rosemary set about trying to make the cemetery fit in with Franklin Danvers vision for the village.

However, when the local troublemaker and heartbreaker, Malcolm Sutton returns after a year away, the peace of the village is broken.  There are not very many residents who are happy to see him back in Baffington, including his sister, Marie and former girlfriend, Harriet.  The following morning, when Laura and Rosemary return to continue their clearing of the overgrown graveyard, they find his dead body.  He has been shot with an arrow.

As part of the preparations for the Medieval fayre, many of the villagers have been roped into archery practice as well as supplied with a bow and number of arrows for them to practice with at home.  Needless to say, suspicion very quickly falls upon the village’s archers, but which one was not only a good enough shot to murder Malcolm, but had motive to do so?

I only had one issue with the reading of The Tree of Death, and that was I was confused a little by the chronology of the first few chapters.  Somewhere in between, the story jumped a year ahead, and I felt that wasn’t made very clear.  However, once I had moved past those early pages, I found the story riveting.

The story was that of a good, predictable cosy mystery.  The setting was a typical English village, centred around the village pub, parish church and in the case of Baffington, the ancient yew tree; however, there was much more going on there beneath the surface than you expect.  There were also a range of possible suspects and as you moved through the book, the characters secrets were revealed, which helped to clear their name.

If you like cosy mysteries and enjoyed the TV series that inspired the book, Rosemary and Thyme (that’s the reason that I picked up the book myself), then you will probably enjoy reading The Tree of Death.

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry lives with his wife, Maureen, in the nice coastal town of Kingsbridge in Devon. Since his retirement he has found it hard to fill his time. His marriage is a frosty one. He dearly wished he could speak to his son, but he can’t.

Then one morning a letter arrives in the post from an old work colleague of his, one he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. The post mark is from Berwick-upon-Tweed. However, the news isn’t good. The woman, Queenie Hennessy, has terminal cancer.

The letter completely shocks Harold; it takes him a little time, but he manages to cobble together a letter in response. Then, while his wife is still doing the housework, he walks to the post box to mail it, only he finds that he can’t stop walking.

What began as a quick errand down the road is in fact a monumental journey of faith and discovery. All he has with him as he starts his walk is what he is wearing (a completely unsuitable outfit including a shirt and tie and yachting shoes) and what he is carrying. He has no map and no mobile phone. But he has something far greater; the belief that he can save Queenie Hennessy’s life.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Indeed, it is very cleverly written. It is both light-hearted, almost funny in places, and yet in others it is so terribly moving, so terribly poignant that you might need to put down the book and compose yourself before reading on. A little like Harold’s journey.

Harold is in fact making two journeys; the physical one where he is walking the length of Britain for Queenie Hennessy, and the one that takes him through the past and through his memories. This latter journey slowly reveals why it is that Harold is walking and what exactly made him into the man at the beginning of the walk.

The character I found myself most drawn to was that of Maureen. I felt for her because she was suffering from the same painful memories and inner turmoil as Harold but whereas he manages to channel that energy into walking, she also has to deal with being left behind.

The book is extremely well-written; the author uses the most simplest of language to express the most complex emotions. The dialogue is good, and the descriptions of the places that Harold visits on his journey allow the reader to visualise where he is. However, I think it is the people that Harold meets on the way that add the colour to his pilgrimage.

5 Reviews for…Halloween

Looking for a good book to read this 31st October….Take a look below at a few of my recommendations from my book review archives…

Or, if you are feeling particularly generous, you may wish to take a look at The Cellars – A Halloween Short Story that I wrote and posted on my writing blog. :-D

Happy Halloween!

Book Review: Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

Tears of the Giraffe is the second book in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s finest and only lady private detective, is asked to solve her hardest case to date.  When an American woman turns up at the agency and asks her to look into the disappearance of her son ten years ago, all her instincts tell her she cannot succeed where the police and American Embassy have failed.  And yet, her compassion for this woman’s story and need to learn what has happened to her son moves her so much that she agrees to take it on.

Mma Ramotswe also has problems closer to home to deal with.  Now that she is engaged to the owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mr J.L.B.Matekoni, they need to determine how they are going to proceed.  Do they need to buy an engagement ring?  Which of their house’s will they live in after they are married?  And which maids will they keep on.

To help lessen the burden at work, Mma Makutsi, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency’s secretary, has been eager for promotion.  She would like to have a go at a little detective work herself.  So, if she promises to continue to see to the duties of secretary, she is allowed to also become an assistant detective at the agency.  Her first case is that of a suspicious husband.

I absolutely loved this book and this series.  It is colourful and vibrant, and quite simply a joy to read.  The characters, story lines and locations are engaging and charming.  It manages to capture everything you want in a cosy mystery: it is amusing, light-hearted, sad, happy, poignant, clever…

Tears of the Giraffe is an easy, uncomplicated read that will make you smile.  I recommend this read to those who enjoy the cosy mystery genre.

5 Reviews For…

I am beginning a new series entitled, 5 Reviews For… which looks to my review archives to recommend books and short stories for a  particular genre, event or holiday.  In the post, I will explain the reason I have included the title in the list, and the link to my original review.

The first in this series, 5 Reviews For…Halloween, will be posted shortly.

Short Story Review: The Midwife’s Tale by Margaret Frazer

The Midwife’s Tale is part of the Sister Frevisse series by Margaret Frazer.  The tale is told from the viewpoint of the village midwife, Ada Bychurch.

It’s the morning after the frivolities of Midsummer night.  Dame Frevisse and Dame Claire, the nunnery’s infirmarian, had been called to attend the labour of Cisily Fisher, in the village of Prior’s Byfield, along with a number of women from the village.  Once they are no longer required, people start to drift away, including one of the Fisher’s neighbours, Elyn Browster, who lives two cottages along with her husband Jenkyn.

However, moments later, Elyn is back out in the lane, calling in earnest for assistance at her cottage.  They quickly learn that something has befallen Jenkyn in the night.  They find him lying on the ground in the main room of the cottage as if for burial, his skull smashed in.  But he is still alive.  Just.

But what could have happened to him?  Could it have been accident?  Could he have tripped over something and banged his head?  Or is there a more…sinister…explanation?  Sister Frevisse manages to find the answer amidst all the clues.

This is a great little historical murder mystery short story.  The historical setting and the characters together make this an enjoyable read.  I will definitely be interested to read more stories in the Sister Frevisse series.

This short story was found in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives, ed. Mike Ashley.