Book Review: Agatha Raisin and The Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and The Terrible Tourist is the sixth book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fast-paced and entertaining cosy mystery, which held my attention to the very last page.  Pure escapism! 4.5 / 5

Summary (from goodreads)

Agatha Raisin leaves her sleepy Cotswolds village of Carsely to pursue love – and finds murder. Spurned at the altar, she follows her fleeing fiance James Lacey to north Cyprus, where, instead of enjoying the honeymoon they’d planned, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist in a disco. Intrigue and a string of murders surround the unlikely couple, in a plot as scorching a the Cypriot sun!

Favourite Quote

‘People think high tragedy belongs to the Greeks and Shakespeare, but mark my words, Aggie, it’s alive and well in the suburbs of England.’

(From Agatha Raisin and The Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton, page 222)

Review

It took me a little while to get into this one, and I feared my love with these books had come to an end.  The reason? When the book opens, I couldn’t quite credit what Agatha was doing. It wasn’t so much unbelievable rather that it made me cringe too much to read it.  However, I put it aside for a few days and then when I picked it up again, I couldn’t put it down!

We get to see a different side to Agatha in The Terrible Tourist as she comes face-to-face with her own self-worth. I liked Charles Fraith who we met before in The Walkers of Dembley (you can find my review here). He’s a bit tight and a bit of a cad but he also says the nicest things to Agatha, things which she needs to hear, so I’ll forgive him.  James is even more awkward than he was before, which is exacerbated by his jealousy.

As for the other British tourists they meet, they are all pretty much unlikeable, but they did not feel out of place in the story. The setting was wonderfully described and I particularly enjoyed the way the geography and historical context of the places they visited was fed through the story – by being read aloud from a tourist guide.

All-in-all, a fun and entertaining read which, once it got going held my attention until the very end. An easy, enjoyable read.  pure escapism.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley is the fourth book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Agatha Raisin is always a fun and entertaining read and this was no exception. Cosy village murder mystery at its finest! 4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

After six gruelling months spent in London, Agatha Raisin returns to her beloved Cotswolds village of Carsely – and to her attractive neighbour, James Lacey. True, James is less than thrilled to see her, but Agatha is soon consoled by a sensational murder.

The victim, found in a field, is hiker Jessica Tartinck, who spent her life enraging wealthy landowners by insisting on her walking club’s right to hike over their properties. And now she has been found in a cornfield, battered over the head. Agatha lures the reluctant James into helping with her investigation – and there are so many leads to follow, for Jessica’s fellow walkers seem able, even willing to commit her murder!

Favourite Quote

‘It’s not that they suffer from material poverty,’ he said. ‘It’s a poverty of the mind, wouldn’t you say?’

Deborah, head down, murmured, ‘Oh, ignore them.  They might have knives.’

(From Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley, page 103)

Review

I mentioned in one of my Bookish Reflections post earlier in the year, that I was given a bag full of books by a family member.  In it were a handful of Agatha Raisin books, some I had read, others I hadn’t.  And, recalling how I attempted to read a few of the books out of order and not enjoying the experience…and one of the books in said bag being the next one in the proper reading order, I thought I would revisit these cosy mysteries, so expect a handful in quick succession 😉

I really enjoy these books.  They don’t require too much effort on my part, and they are always entertaining.  The characters are colourful, especially Agatha with her mean streak which you can visibly see fading the longer she is in Carsely. I found this book to be the funniest I’ve read so far.  Fast-paced and witty, this is cosy village murder mystery at its finest.  I enjoy the interplay between Agatha and James, their sometimes awkward friendship reads as authentic.

There’s a bit of an extensive cast of characters in this book, mainly because the ramblers come from another Cotswold village, but it’s not so vast that you can’t keep track of who’s who.  There’s nothing overly complex here but there are plenty of suspects to ensure that the story remains engaging. Light and undemanding, this is the sort of stress-free reading I love.

I had already read the next book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, but as soon as I finished this one, I re-read it and updated the review posted on this site.  You can find that here.  Soon I hope to get around to reading book six, Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist.

Rating

Book Review: Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige

Death at Daisy’s Folly is the third book in The Victorian Mystery Series by Robin Paige.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

This series can always be relied upon for an entertaining and engaging read.  I like Kate and Charles, enjoyed the setting and was intrigued to see how the mystery unravelled.  5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Kate and Sir Charles gather with a host of memorable guests at the Warwicks’ Eaton Lodge for an English country-house weekend.  Meet Albert Edward, Prince of Wales; his ‘darling Daisy’, the countess of Warwick; their friends – and their enemies.

Someone has murdered a stableboy and the Prince, smarting over a recent gambling expose and seeking to avoid scandal, directs Sir Charles to find the killer. But the stakes go up when a guest is shot with the Countess’ gun.

Favourite Quote

They had made the ten-mile run from Braintree to the Lodge in one hour and fifteen minutes, at almost twice the legal maximum speed of four miles an hour and sans the obligatory man with a red flag that – ridiculously – was still supposed to precede them by twenty yards.

(From Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige, page 34)

Review

This series can always be relied upon for an entertaining and engaging read.  Quick and easy to get in to, this is a cosy mystery series at its most comfy, by which I mean, it is enjoyable, immersive but doesn’t require much effort to follow along.  I can get lost in the storytelling, which for me, is what I want when I’m reading.  I don’t need a mental workout.

Although I’m only on to the third book in the series, I feel like I’ve been reading about these characters for a lot longer. I like that level of familiarity, and feel invested in what happens to them.  I love both main characters: the fiery, flame-haired, Irish-American Kate Ardleigh, and the not-your-usual-kind of posh English gentleman, Sir Charles Sheridan.  Kate’s background ensures that the rules of the British aristocracy only apply to her sometimes, whilst Charles’ penchant for science and deduction ensure that it is to him, and thus her, that those in a pickle turn to.  The romance subplot works well between the characters, and comes across as authentic.

As for the other characters…Most of the characters in this book are not likeable.  For the most part, it’s rich people doing all they can to stay rich, even when confronted with the abject poverty of the workhouse poor.  Daisy Warwick is the one exception here; she does her best to bring about change, and from reading about her in this work of fiction, I’ve been inspired to learn more about the real person.

One of the highlights of this tale is being able to see the early years of the motor car on the British roads.  Cars today are symbols of freedom and the ability to get to far away places in a fairly short amount of time.  Back when this book was set, cars were forbidden, by law, to go faster than work horses, for fear of startling the animals and causing accidents.  To think a man with a red flag had to walk in front of the car as it “motored” along, seems ridiculous to the point of redundancy. For if you could walk at the same speed as the car was allowed to go, why bother with the car?  It’s quite remarkable to think how easy it might have been for the car to have fallen by the wayside, like other inventions…How different would our world look today if it had?

The next book in the series is, Death at Devil’s Bridge, and my copy is sitting happily in my TBR pile.  Hopefully it won’t take me too long to get to it…

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #6 in the list: a book with a girl’s name in the title.

Book Review: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Addictive and entertaining storytelling, with a wonderful cast of characters and an excellent setting.  Phryne Fisher is fantastic as the bold and sassy private detective. Highly recommended!  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.
Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

Favourite Quote

Blake really was an excellent poet, Phryne reflected, lighting a cigarette and leaning back on the leather upholstery, though regrettably mad, as poets so often are.

(From Murder on The Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood, page 157)

Review

Recently, I’ve hit a bit of reading slump, due I’m sure, to the fact that I’ve spent nearly all of my free time writing and editing, which sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of making me too tired to read of an evening.  I had picked out one book after another from a far too big pile of volumes waiting to be read, only for them to added to a different stack – books I thought I was about to begin reading but didn’t – not long after.  Yet have no fear, Phryne Fisher saved the day!

As soon as I started this third book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries my reading slump disappeared.  I simply could not stop reading.  I found Murder on the Ballarat Train to be addictive and unputdownable, and I did not stop until I reached the final page.  This was just the book I needed to read.

I love Phryne. She is strong-minded, determined, intelligent, independent and compassionate towards though less fortunate than herself.  She doesn’t take rubbish from anyone, nor is she afraid to go after what she wants, whether or not it is seen as acceptable by wider society, for which she doesn’t really give a fig.  The company she keeps is varied…policemen, college boys, whores…which makes for refreshing, unpredictable plotlines.

The book is set in 1928, and the attention to detail for the period setting, is as always, spot on.  From the clothing Phryne wears to the room furnishings, from the food and drink to the scent the women wear…it surely is decadent, indulgent storytelling.  To offset all the loveliness of the story, there has to be a few darker themes too as it is a murder mystery, but these plot lines were handled sensitively by the author.

This was such a joy to read.  A quick and easy to digest cosy mystery, with an intriguing plot and a wonderfully entertaining cast of characters.  I can’t recommend these books highly enough.  The next book in the series is Death at Victoria Dock…and yes, I’ve already ordered it 😉

Rating

Book Review: Death Pays A Visit by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Death Pays A Visit is the seventh book in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An entertaining, fun cosy mystery and just as good as the other books I’ve read so far in the series.  I love Myrtle, and I love these books! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

When psychic (and hubcap retailer) Wanda Alewine pays a late-night visit to Myrtle Clover, she urges the octogenarian sleuth to head straight to Greener Pastures Retirement Home. But Wanda doesn’t want Myrtle to consider the Home’s dubious amenities–she wants Myrtle to prevent a murder seen in a vision.

Reluctant Myrtle investigates with sidekick Miles, who seems a lot more interested in Greener Pastures than she is. As the duo digs, they uncover more than just Sudoku and Scrabble—they discover a sinister undercurrent… with murder as its outcome.

Favourite Quote

“A private eye? Like Sam Spade? Certainly not!” That would involve wearing a fedora, drinking lots of scotch, and having a dame as a client. Puddin was no dame and Myrtle had a preference for sherry. She’d reserve judgement on the fedora.  Who knows? Maybe she’d look good in one.’

(From Death Pays A Visit by Elizabeth Spann Craig, chapter 11)

Review

I can always rely on this series to entertain me without requiring a mental workout at the same time.  Perfect for summer chillout reading.  Actually, ignore that.  It’s perfect for reading any time of the year.

Death Pays A Visit is a great addition to this series.  Light but engaging, I loved how the one place Myrtle had to go to for this case – Greener Pastures Retirement Home – is the one place she is desperate to avoid at all costs, just in case she ends up stuck there for good.

Myrtle and her younger side-kick, Miles, (he’s in his sixties) make such a great team.  They work well together, even though they don’t always agree with each other, especially when it comes to their views on Greener Pastures Retirement Home.  The retirement home was a compelling setting for a cosy mystery, and the residents and their secrets provided enough plot twists and turns to keep the story moving forward without revealing whodunnit too early in the book.

I love Myrtle as the star of these stories.  She’s fantastic and smart, and proves that you can be an octogenarian, hate knitting and still solve the occasional murder mystery. She won’t be bullied, nor manipulated, and she will not allow younger people to patronise the elderly.

After Myrtle, my favourite character has to be Wanda.  She is so vague with her predictions, yet somehow always seems to be accurate in what she tells Myrtle. And it’s always fun to read about Myrtle’s cat, Pasha, and how she gets on – or doesn’t – with the other characters in the book.

The mystery was good, the story entertaining, and it held my interest all the way to the end.  I guessed right as to who the culprit was, but it was fun reading how everyone else reached the same conclusion as there were plenty of suspects who could have done it.

Recommended for fans of cosy mysteries.  Also for fans of quick, yet entertaining, reads.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #18 in the list: a book that promotes happiness and well-being, or has an uplifting message.  Although this might seem like a stretch, this book, from my perspective at any rate, fulfils this criteria – it makes me happy, is good for my well-being and leaves me feeling uplifted 😉

Book Review: The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters

* This review may contain spoilers *

The Leper of Saint Giles is the fifth book in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.

Quick review (read on for full review)

Engaging and entertaining, this is a fast-paced mystery full of unforgettable characters. 4.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Brother Cadfael has had no time to think about the grand wedding which is to take place in the church at Shrewsbury Abbey and is causing such excitement in the city. The groom is an aging nobleman; the bride a very young woman coerced into the marriage by her greedy guardians. But it soon becomes apparent that the groom, Huon de Domville, is a cold, harsh man — in stark contrast to his beautiful bride-to-be. Before the wedding can take place, a savage killing occurs, setting Brother Cadfael the task of determining the truth, which turns out to be strange indeed.

Favourite Quote

‘I have always known that the best of the Saracens could out-Christian many of us Christians.’

(From The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters, page 220)

Review

Another fantastic instalment in the series.

At the centre of the story are two young lovers: Iveta, a beautiful heiress and granddaughter of a great hero of the Crusades, and Jocelyn, the squire to the man to whom she has been betrothed.  Not many medieval marriages were love matches, but there is something about this one that has very many onlookers look at Iveta with sadness and pity as she arrives in Shrewsbury to marry the aged Huon de Domville. For all her wealth and status, she is at the mercy of her greedy guardians.

Cadfael, always, is wonderful as the main character.  Compassionate and caring, his observant nature ensures little passes him by and so when injustice strikes, he can be relied upon – by both readers and supporting characters alike – to the right the wrong if he can.  As for the other characters, they are all convincing and believable. The avaricious Picards, the passionate hothead Jocelyn, the hapless Brother Oswin, the kind and inquisitive Brother Mark…all are well-crafted.

Iveta’s character is the one that stands out.  She is very wishy-washy and weak, perfectly presented as the downtrodden maiden about to be forced into an unwanted marriage, which by the standards of the time is probably fairly accurate.  And, as the story unfolds she does become stronger, but those whose who like their heroines to be fiery and independent from the beginning may find it difficult to connect with her.

It’s easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of medieval Shrewsbury, the abbey and the surrounding area.  Historical descriptions are easy to envisage and the rich details of all the growing things that are encountered as the characters journey from one place to another are a treasure to read.

Leprosy, like the pestilence, was much feared in the middle ages, and those who suffered from it were segregated from healthy populations.  [A side note: this was another book I read during lockdown…] The disease is handled very sensitively in the story, as we meet lepers of all ages, at various stages of the disease.  Bran, a young lad at the leper house, has to be one of my favourite characters from across the series, and Lazarus is like a guardian angel.

The ending is one of the best of the series, where all threads meet with fairly explosive force and the truth comes out in its entirety.  Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.  The next book in the series is The Virgin in the Ice, which is one of my favourite Cadfael books.  I’m excited to revisit this one, and hope to get around to it soon.

Rating

4.5 / 5


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #17 in the list: a book that has been adapted for TV or film

Book Review: Birds of A Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather is book 2 in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting mystery and an interesting setting, but not my favourite cosy mystery series…at least not yet.  The series has potential and I’m hoping I’ll warm to Maisie the more I read. 2.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

London, 1929. Joseph Waite is a man who knows what he wants. With his Havana cigars and Savile Row suits, he is one of Britain’s wealthiest men. And the last thing he needs is a scandal. When his unmarried daughter runs away from home, he is determined to keep the case away from the police and the newspapers. So he turns to a woman renowned for her discretion and investigative powers – the extraordinary Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie soon discovers that there are many reasons why Charlotte Waite might have left home, and instinctively feels the woman is in safe hands. Yet the investigator suddenly finds herself confronting a murder scene.

Favourite Quote

“Simply and only, simply and only. Everything and nothing are simple, as you know.”

(From Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear, page 128)

Review

I read the first book in this series last year and was, quite disappointedly, underwhelmed by it.  I had seen so many great reviews of the series, and the main character, Maisie Dobbs, seems to be a fairly popular heroine, and I hoped the stories would pick up.

So how did I find this next book in the series?  On the one hand, it was better than the first, the major point in its favour being it lacked the huge info dump in the middle.  And my favourite character has to be Billy Beale – I think he’s great, genuine, authentic; a character that comes across as real and believable.

But…I don’t like Maisie.  She comes across as cold, judgemental, interfering and sometimes a little manipulative, even though we are repeatedly told she is lonely, kind, intelligent and compassionate. It also didn’t help that she all of a sudden appears to possess psychic and clairsentient abilities, something I did not remember at all from the first book.  I recalled there was a bit about eastern mysticism and meditation, but that’s all.  And I’m still not a fan of Maurice Blanche – he’s too wonderful and perfect as a mentor. A Know It All, who Maisie relies upon too much.

The storyline itself was good and interesting, though I deduced the culprit pretty early on but it was entertaining to see how they might be apprehended.  Also the narrative contained enough historical description to bring the period and the setting to life, which was one of the highlights of the book.

The big question is, will I read anymore from this series? My answer would probably be no if I hadn’t already purchased a good number of books in the series.  My philosophy at present is, I’ve already bought them so I might as well read them, whilst living in hope of being able to find what so many others seem to enjoy in them.  And I really do want to enjoy them.  They are set in a period I enjoy reading about, with a main character whose adventures I would usually find entertaining.  Fingers crossed, things get better with book 3…

This was such a hard book to rate.  I gave Maisie Dobbs 3.5 stars (you can find my review here), which is more than I thought, and not being able to decide whether it would be 2 or 3 this time round, I opted for half way.  It seemed fair.

Rating

2.5 / 5

Book Review: Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

Murphy’s Law is the first book in the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable first book in a cosy mystery series.  Molly Murphy is a likeable and intelligent heroine, and I can’t wait to read more of her life in New York! 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Murphy’s Law is the captivating first entry of Rhys Bowen’s New York Times bestselling Molly Murphy series.

Molly Murphy always knew she’d end up in trouble, just as her mother predicted. So, when she commits murder in self-defense, she flees her cherished Ireland, under cover of a false identity, for the anonymous shores of late nineteenth-century America. When she arrives in New York and sees the welcoming promise of freedom in the Statue of Liberty, Molly begins to breathe easier. But when a man is murdered on Ellis Island, a man Molly was seen arguing with, she becomes a prime suspect in the crime.

If she can’t clear her name, Molly will be sent back to Ireland where the gallows await, so using her Irish charm and sharp wit, she escapes Ellis Island and sets out to find the wily killer on her own. Pounding the notorious streets of Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side, Molly undertakes a desperate mission to clear her name before her deadly past comes back to haunt her new future.

Favourite Quote

‘Ellis Island.’ The word went around the ferry and everyone jostled to try to get the first glimpse. It was imposing enough with its big brick arches and its shining copper turrets.

(From Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen, page 45)

Review

An enjoyable first book in a cosy mystery series.  Murphy’s Law is set at the turn of the twentieth century and tells of one woman’s – Molly Murphy’s – move from Ireland to America, and it was not an easy one. 

I liked Molly.  She has a great big heart but won’t stand for any nonsense, which is how she finds herself in the trouble she’s in.  However, relying on her sharp wits and intelligence – surprising almost everyone she meets with the level of education she possesses – can get her into difficulties as well as out of them, as we soon discover.

Yet, for an intelligent young woman, Molly could be a little naïve at times.  And luck and coincidence do play a fairly sizeable roll in the story, so if that’s the sort of thing that annoys you, you might not enjoy the book as much as I did.

The settings read as vivid and authentic.  Whether it is rural Ireland, the bustling city of Liverpool or the sometimes dark and mean, sometimes colourful and enticing, streets of New York, there was enough detail and description to visualise clearly where Molly was and what she was seeing.

The passages set on Ellis Island, and on the ship crossing the Atlantic, were very well-written.  They were sensitive and emotional and they show quite starkly the journey people were making to gamble on a better life in America.  The immigration process once they reached Ellis Island was lengthy and must have been nerve-wracking for anyone who went through it, and as we see in the story, these people are vulnerable and easy to take advantage of.

As Molly tries to find her feet in New York, we are introduced to a number of characters, all of them coming across as believable. The budding romance between Molly and Captain Daniel Sullivan was interesting and awkward, given her story, and the attraction between them could be felt as the story unfolded. Michael Larkin was another interesting character.  Although Molly described him as “young looking” the first time they met, I did wonder if he was to be the love interest of the book.

The mystery doesn’t always take centre stage in the story and at some points, it perhaps felt more of a historical fiction novel rather than a historical cosy mystery, but I’m not complaining as I enjoy both.

Murder, corruption, lies and half-truths, political intrigue and a dose of romance, Murphy’s Law has it all.  An easy, entertaining read, and I’m looking forward to reading book two in the series, Death of Riley.

Rating

Book Review: A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody

A Woman Unknown is the fourth book in the Kate Shackleton series by Frances Brody.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

This series keeps getting better and better.  I love the characters and the setting, and Kate Shackleton makes for an engaging heroine. A clever mystery. A satisfying read. Highly recommended. 5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

The Woman Unknown: Deirdre Fitzpatrick is married to a man who wants to know where she really goes when supposedly taking care of her sick mother, and he calls on the expertise of Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire, to investigate.

The Gentleman: Everett Runcie is a banker facing ruin and disgrace. His American heiress wife will no longer pay for his mistakes, or tolerate his infidelity, and is seeking a divorce.

The Murder: When a chambermaid enters Runcie’s hotel room, she expects to be a witness to adultery.  Instead, she finds herself staring at a dead body. Suddenly Kate is thrown into the depths of an altogether more sinister investigation. Can she uncover the truth of her most complex and personal case to date?

Favourite Quote

“…I just know she’s up to something. I feel it in my bones.’

I resisted the urge to ask which bones, knee bones, funny bones, skull, but nodded encouragement.

(From A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody, page 5)

Review

This series keeps getting better and better. The mystery facing Kate in this book is a complex one, and matters are made all the more complicated when her former love interest, Marcus Charles of Scotland Yard, is put in charge of the murder case.

There is a lot going on this story; many layers of mystery are cleverly woven together to create an engaging, gripping yarn. The author brings the period to life with ease and historical accuracy, ensuring the reader has no trouble immersing themselves within it.  The Yorkshire setting makes a nice contrasting backdrop to many books set at this time, which are often set in London and the southern English counties.

One of my favourite parts of these stories is the interaction between Kate and her assistant, the former policeman, Mr Sykes. I like how they don’t always see eye-to-eye: she isn’t a weak and feeble woman, and he isn’t a yes man.  But they do work very well together.  And Mrs Sugden, Kate’s housekeeper, is always fantastic!

I had never come across the term, “A Woman Unknown” before, and so to learn about it and why it was an important aspect of some divorce proceedings during the early decades of the twentieth century, was fascinating.

And I just have to mention the book covers…this series has the nicest artwork adorning the covers.  I would happily have prints or postcards of them on my wall.  There is something very timeless and elegant about them, and they always capture the essence of the story perfectly.

A clever mystery. A satisfying read. Highly recommended!

Rating

 

Book Review: Death on The Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable, light-hearted mystery, in an interesting setting and with an extensive cast of characters. Cosy and charming. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

For Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

This classic mystery novel, with its evocative setting in an Oxford women’s college, is now republished for the first time since the 1930s with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Stephen Booth

Favourite Quote

“Undergraduates, especially those in their first year, are not, of course, quite sane or quite adult.  It is sometimes considered that they are not quite human.”

(From Death on The Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay, page 11)

*

“In the garden she found one of those wooden labels used for marking where you’ve planted things, and on part of this she scratched one of her family curses.  She explained to me later that it wasn’t the worst sort of curse; it wasn’t supposed to kill the victim but only make her hair fall out or her teeth decay or something of that kind.”

(From Death on The Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay, page 194)

Review

I’m slowly working my way through the British Library Crime Classics, which I am enjoying immensely. Death on The Cherwell is one of three books by this author in this series.

This book was excellent in parts.  I enjoyed the fact that it was a fairly light-hearted read, and though it was a little predictable in places, it was cosy and charming.  The girls’ secret society was amusing, but their tendency to talk every plan through slowed the pace.

My favourite character was Drega Czernak, a student at Persephone college from Yugoslavia.  Read today, I found her character almost serves to poke fun at the correct way the English did everything. I’m not sure that was the intention when the book was published in 1935, as her role is that of the stereotypical foreigner, but that is how I perceived it reading 85 years later.

I had expected the mystery to be solved by the girls of Persephone college as the story opens with them, giving the impression it is they who are about to investigate the murder they are soon to discover.  This however, was not the case.  Although they remain present throughout the story, it is the police who primarily undertake the investigating while the students maintain a bit more of a “Famous Five” vibe of entertaining adventures in the quest to uncover evidence.

One of the downsides to the story was the extensive cast.  There were students to remember from both the girls’ college (Persephone) and the boys’ college (St Simeon’s), then there were the teaching staff, the murder victim and their family, the police (both local and from Scotland Yard), the suspects and then a good number of people connected to everyone else – staff, family, friends…Although I did manage to keep on top of who was who and where they fitted into the story, it did feel a little overwhelming.

I enjoyed this mystery, and am looking forward to reading the author’s other two novels: Murder Underground and The Santa Klaus Murder, at some point in the future.  I recommend Death on The Cherwell to those who have a connection to the Oxford colleges or Oxford itself, and equally to those who enjoy golden age crime stories.  Well worth a read.

Rating

3.5 / 5