Book Review: Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn

Requiem for a Mezzo is the third book in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn.

Summary

When Daisy’s next door neighbour gives her tickets to the opera at the Albert Hall, she has her fingers crossed for a quiet evening out with the dashing Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard.  Things are going swimmingly until after the interval when one of the soloists drops dead on the stage.  And it quickly transpires that the victim, Bettina Westlea, made many enemies in the musical circle she moved in, the majority of which were with her on stage at the time of her death…

Favourite Quote

(2 favourites this time as I couldn’t choose between them!)

Tall and sleek, she wouldn’t have been caught dead in last year’s calf length hems, though her budget was as limited as Daisy’s; she made her own clothes and spent on materials and trimmings the equivalent of what Daisy put into books and gramophone records.

*

‘Daisy!  Don’t tell me you’ve fallen over another dead body?’

Review

I am a big fan of Daisy Dalrymple.  I like the way perfect strangers just walk over to her and unburden themselves of all they know about whatever crime the Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher is working on, much her to bemusement and his annoyance.  How can he keep her safe if she finds herself right in the middle of everything?  It’s also nice to see how much Alec recognises and respects Daisy’s intelligence and independence.

There is such an interesting list of characters in this instalment, hailing from all corners of Europe.  This adds flavour and colour to the story, and as the majority of the cast are all singers, they have entertaining artistic temperaments too.

Light and easy to read, these books are full of the charm of the era in which they are set, though you will find mention of some of the main events that had a tremendous effect on people at the time: the First World War, the influenza epidemic and the Russian Revolution.

If you like cosy mysteries set in 1920s England, I think you will enjoy these books, as you will if you enjoy Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phryne Fisher stories or pretty much anything written by Agatha Christie.

Rating

Book Review: Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

morality-for-beautiful-girls-front-cover

Morality for Beautiful Girls is the third book in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Summary:

Things are all-change for Mma Ramotswe.  First, she has decided to move her detective agency into the office of her fiance’s garage, but something’s not right with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni.  As she tries to work out what is wrong with him, as well as care for the two orphans they have decided to foster, she must also find a way to ensure that both of their businesses keep ticking over.

Then an important client who works for the government sends her on a case out of Gaboronne, leaving Mma Makutsi to not only run the detective agency, but step in as Acting Manager for Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.  While Precious Ramotswe is investigating a possible case of poisoning, Grace Makutsi must help the organiser and chief judge of the Miss Glamorous Botswana beauty competition seek out the most deserving of the finalists.  If she can do that, she will earn the detective agency a generous fee.  The problem is, she only has three days in which to do it…

Favourite Quote:

What was too big, anyway? Who was to tell another person what size they should be?

It was a form of dictatorship, by the thin, and she was not having any of it.

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, or rather, re-read, but it has been a few years since I have read from this series.  A point worth noting is that these books are always as good as I remember them and never fail to entertain.  They are nicely paced and easy to read, thanks to the writing style of the author.

It’s very easy to connect to the characters in these books, and as the characters themselves are concerned about the welfare of others, (indeed a theme of the book is that Africa can teach the world how to care for other people), when they are going through a rough patch, as a reader I feel concerned for them.  There is so much colour and vibrancy to the story, and the descriptions of Botswana, especially the descriptions of how the people feel connected to their land, is engaging and uplifting to read.

Grace Makutsi really comes into her own in this instalment, as she takes on the role of Acting Manager for Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors as well as trying to fulfil her job as assistant detective.

The next book in the series is The Kalahari Typing School for Men.  And I can’t wait to reread it, so I’ve added it to next month’s reading list.  I highly recommend this book series for those who enjoy a gentle ramble through a heartwarming cosy mystery alongside some wonderful characters.

Rating:

five-stars

Book Review: Under the Dragon’s Tail by Maureen Jennings

under-the-dragons-tail-front-coverUnder the Dragon’s Tail is the second of The Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings.

Summary:

Toronto, July 1895.  When a midwife and abortionist is murdered, Detective William Murdoch investigates.  Although the dead woman, Dolly Merishaw, seems to have kept quiet about the clients that had used her services, it transpires that she kept a record book as protection, should she need it, or, for a spot of blackmail.  Fallen on hard times, it seemed that she tried to get some money out of one of these old clients.  But which one?  And did they resort to murder?

Dolly wasn’t very much liked and there are no shortage of suspects.  But when one of the young boys in Dolly’s care turns up dead on the kitchen floor, Murdoch must work quickly to uncover the murderer, before any other children are hurt.

Favourite Quote:

“…The wicked shall get their due.”

That didn’t sound quite right to Murdoch but maybe it was a Methodist saying.

Review:

As I mentioned when I reviewed the first book in The Murdoch Mysteries series, Except the Dying, I am a big fan of the television series.  The first book was brilliant, and the second didn’t disappoint either.  I like the fact that the books and the TV series are so different, and I love them both.  The books are far more grittier than the cosy mystery series we see on the TV, and there is a place for each.

The author easily captures the time period and brings it to life with ease.  As I’ve already mentioned, there is a grittiness to the story, but then life was gritty, hard and dark for most people at the end of the nineteenth century, and that clearly comes through.

The pace is good and there were enough twists and turns in the story to keep me guessing.  Murdoch is a fabulous main character and is very likeable and realistic.  I was pleased to see Dr Julia Ogden make a small appearance in this instalment, and I’m hoping that there will be more later in the series.

I can’t recommend this book and series highly enough, and am looking forward to reading the third Murdoch Mystery, Poor Tom is Cold, soon.

Rating:

five-stars

Short Story Review: The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a visitor, Jabez Wilson, a man with a shock of red hair.  He explains that his assistant encouraged him to respond to advert in the paper offering very well-paid work to red-headed male applicants.  He wasn’t sure, thinking it was too good to be true, but acquiesced.  The following morning, he followed the directions from the advert and joined a long line of red-heads applying for the job.  However, it is only a very specific shade of red hair they are looking for, and Wilson is the only one offered the position.

When Wilson learns of the very simple work he must undertake in order to earn his high wage, he is eager to begin.  But after only four weeks the office mysteriously closes, and no-one has heard of the Red-Headed League, nor the man Wilson was interviewed / managed by.  So, he gets Sherlock Holmes on the case…

Favourite quote:

“It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Review:

The second short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle that I have been reading on Wattpad, is The Red-Headed League.  This is a very clever short story, but I enjoyed it less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

The misdirection is clever, the plot extremely well thought out and it is always great to see how Sherlock Holmes thinks and interprets the clues he has been given.  The idea of The Red-Headed League makes this an unusual story and for that reason, memorable, for it is so strange.  I think that it is that strangeness though, which is the reason why I liked this less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

Next up in the series is A Case of Identity, the review for which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks…

Rating:

three-stars

Short Story Review: A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

While Dr Watson is visiting his friend, Sherlock Holmes, the latter receives a visitor, one who gives a false name.  True to form, Holmes quickly determines his true identity: the heir to the Kingdom of Bohemia, who is soon to be married to a princess from a strict family.  Only a past lover is in possession of a some letters and a photograph of them together, which could be used for blackmail and ultimately ruin his chances of marrying the princess.

The woman in question is Irene Adler…

Favourite quote:

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes, she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

Review:

I have been working my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle on Wattpad, the first instalment of which is A Scandal in Bohemia.  It’s been too long since I have read a Sherlock Holmes story, and this, the first of 56 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle staring the “consulting detective”, was a great way to reconnect with them.

Of course, I loved it.  What I did find interesting was that Arthur Conan Doyle decided to begin the run of short stories by depicting that it is possible to outsmart Sherlock Holmes.  And Irene Adler is such an iconic character, possibly rivalling Sherlock in popularity.  All-in-all, a short, entertaining read and an enjoyable way to pass an evening.

Next up in the series is The Red-Headed League, the review for which I will probably post next week…

Rating:

four-stars

Short Story Review: Who Stole the Fish? By Peter Tremayne

murder-through-the-ages-front-coverWho Stole the Fish? is a Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne.

It is 664 AD, Ireland.  The Abbey of Durrow has an important visitor, an emissary from Rome.  Naturally, at the evening meal, an extravagant dish is to be served to their guest: a great salmon.  Only during the early part of the meal, Sister Fidelma’s presence is required in the kitchen by Abbot Laisran.  The fish has gone missing, along with the man who has been cooking it.  And the abbot wants the mystery cleared up before the emissary hears anything about it.

But where is the fist?  And where is the cook?

Although I have a number of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries sitting on my bookshelves, I have yet to get around to reading one.  So this short story is my first introduction to the sleuthing nun, and I must say, I liked her.  She is sensible, logical and observant – nothing escapes her notice.  I am now determined to read a full-length novel staring Sister Fidelma in the new year.

A great read!

I found this short story in, Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, edited by Maxim Jakubowski.

Book Review: Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

dissolution front coverDissolution is the first book in the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.

The year is 1537.  Anne Boleyn had been beheaded eighteen months previously and England is witnessing the dissolution of the monasteries.  In charge of this great undertaking is Thomas Cromwell, the vicar-general, who is sending out commissioners across the land to help him close the religious houses.

One such commissioner is Matthew Shardlake, a London-based lawyer, who sometimes undertakes assignments for Thomas Cromwell.  When Shardlake is summoned from another case in Surrey and told to report to Cromwell’s office immediately, it can only mean that there is important work to be done.  When the lawyer has his audience with the second most powerful man in England, it is to learn that another commissioner has been murdered whilst on Cromwell’s business, at the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast.  Not only must Shardlake uncover the murderer but also complete what his predecessor failed to do: persuade the monks at Scarnsea that their monastery will close.

However, there are dark goings-on at Scarnsea.  Not only has a commissioner been murdered, but an act of sacrilege has been committed in the church.  Surrounded by suspicion and treachery, Shardlake must use all the talents he possesses – including his wits – if he, and his assistant Mark Poer are to survive the investigation.  And yet, perhaps more importantly, as the case unravels, what Shardlake witnesses firsthand may lead to him questioning that which he has firmly believe for many years…

This is a fascinating historical series set in one of the most turbulent periods of English history.  I have read the first half of the series before, but decided that I wanted to read them again before allowing myself to read the later books –  an activity that I cherish 🙂

Matthew Shardlake is a highly likeable character who, with a hunchback (which is dealt with sensitively by the author), has a lot stacked against him.  Commoners tend to fear him – contemporary superstition maintained that it was unlucky for someone to be touched by a hunchback, whilst those of his profession are jealous of his connections to Thomas Cromwell.

There were a number of characters that I found myself liking as I made my way through the book.  Brother Guy of Malton, who is a monk of Moorish descent.  Mark Poer, Shardlake’s assistant, who has currently fallen out of favour after a period of disgrace.

The story is rich and flows with ease.  The descriptions and historical detail provided by the author are vivid, bringing both the story and the time period to life.

Dissolution is a great first book for a series.  It had me hooked from the start and I’m looking forward to enjoying the other books that follow it.  I highly recommend it to those who have an interest in the period.