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.

Book Review: The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side by Agatha Christie

A few years prior to the start of the story, Mrs Bantry, a friend of Miss Marple, sold her home, Gossington Hall, in the village of St. Mary Mead.  It passed through a number of hands, until it is finally purchased and renovated by the film actress Marina Gregg and her fourth husband, Jason Rudd, another big name in the film industry.

A few weeks after they have moved in, they open up the grounds and certain rooms of Gossington Hall in aid of the St John’s Ambulance.  Throughout the day a select few of the guests are invited to take drinks with the famous actress and her husband in the house in an upstairs reception area.

However, whilst the meeting and greeting of the guests is taking place, Marina Gregg, a usually attentive host, becomes distracted, virtually ignoring the woman speaking to her.  Instead of paying attention to the woman, a Mrs Heather Badcock, the organiser of the event, her gaze is trained on something over the woman’s shoulder, her expression frozen and fearful.   Moments later, Heather Badcock is dead.

It doesn’t take long to realise that the woman was murdered.  Poisoned.  But why?  And by whom?  Who could have poisoned the woman in a room full of witnesses who swear they didn’t see a thing?  And could she have been murdered by accident, the intended victim being the famous, glamorous Marina Gregg?

Miss Jane Marple can no longer get out much.  Old age is catching up with her, and her nephew Raymond has sent her a live-in companion / housekeeper / carer, a very patronising Miss Knight.  Frustrated that she can no longer always do the things she used, and constantly irritated by Miss Knight’s presence and manner, Miss Marple focuses on the murder at Gossington Hall to take her mind off her own problems.  Although she may be old, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her mental deductions and she still has a great understanding of people and human nature.  So, naturally, Miss Marple is the first person to solve the case.

I love reading Christie’s novels.  They are so easy to read and get lost in.  The title for this one is a line from Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot, which is a favourite poem of mine.

This is quite simply an excellent murder mystery, one that takes its time to unravel as we are taken through the list of suspects.  If you have yet to read The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side but love cosy murder mysteries, I highly recommend that you give it a read.

Short Story Review: The Trebuchet Murder by Susanna Gregory

Set in 1380, The Trebuchet Murder is a historical murder mystery set in Ely Hall at the University of Cambridge.

Brother Edmund is secretary to Prior Richard, warden of Ely Hall, the chosen college for the most promising of students in the Benedictine order.  Brother Henry, the college’s former Professor of Theology has recently died, leaving the position vacant.  It is now up to Prior Richard, with the help of Brother Edmund to find his replacement.

There are three candidates applying for the position: Brother Luke, Brother Jean and Brother Bravin, the latter being greatly detestable to all, but due to circumstances beyond his control, Prior Richard is being leaned upon quite heavily to pick him.

However, when Brother Bravin is found dead, buried beneath the decaying timbers of a trebuchet, Brother Edmund quickly realises that his demise was no accident.  But who was responsible?  Brother Edmund investigates.

The Trebuchet Murder is a captivating tale that quickly engages the reader, bringing medieval Cambridge to life before their eyes.  The characters are realistic and the historical detail greatly enriches the story.

I absolutely loved this short story.  It was clever, and it offered an ending I never expected.  A really enjoyable, quick historical read.  Highly recommended.

This short was found in Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, ed. Maxim Jakubowski.

Book Review: The Medici Secret by Michael White

The story begins with a flood in a Milanese church crypt in the 1960’s.  But it’s not just any church crypt.  It is the crypt housing the mortal remains of the Medici family.

Back in the present, scientists have been given unprecedented access to the Medici burials, but when the lead Professor, Carlin Mackenzie, is found murdered in the pop-up lab within the church, the question is, what had he found?  His niece, Edie Granger, is another member of the research term, and she wants to find out.

In Venice, an elderly gentleman turns up on the doorstep of Jeff Martin, an out-of-favour Medieval historian.  The old man claims to have been the church warden at the Medici Chapel at the time of the 1966 flood and reveals the disturbing events that came to pass on that evening, events no one has been willing to take seriously.  When Jeff hears of Professor Mackenzie’s untimely murder, he knows he needs to speak to his old friend Edie Granger, and quickly.

However, they quickly learn that they are not the only ones on the same quest for the Medici secret and these others are far more ruthless…

Interspersed with the threads of the story set in the present, we are given the historical back story, told through the eyes of Cosimo de Medici, himself on a quest for a secret.

Set mainly in Milan and Venice, the visual descriptions of the cities, both in the present and past, were vivid and realistic.   Having read James Becker’s The Nosferatu Scroll less than a month ago, itself set in Venice, it was interesting to recognise some of the places that were mentioned.

The characters, both the primary and secondary ones, were engaging and as the plot twists and turns, you don’t know exactly what is going to happen, and most importantly, how it is going to end.

I found The Medici Secret a gripping read; in fact, I finished the book in a day because I couldn’t put it down.  It is rich in detail, and the different story lines flow together smoothly, with ease.

I recommend The Medici Secret to those who enjoy a good historical mystery.