July 31

Holiday Reading 2017

I went on holiday with a few carefully selected books I had really wanted to read and a Kindle which I knew to be loaded with drama. I got through a decent number of books and didn’t entirely ignore my family so everyone was happy.

But then I got back from holiday and I found I had a wee change to my day job (ie a whole new gig for 3 months) and suddenly I am driving 3 or 4 hours per day and I will not have much time to write up comprehensive reviews for the holiday reads. 

The solution: A Holiday Roundup Post. I shall forsake my usual attempt to summarise the story and aim for brevity…this may get messy!

 

Echoes in Death – JD Robb

First up is the latest Eve Dallas thriller from JD Robb. I have been reading these stories for 6 or 7 years and there are over 50 books and novellas out there – this makes me very happy.  With so many books in the series I do tend to classify them as either A: Pivotal Story or B: Progressive Story.

The Pivotal books are the big impact tales which have huge implications for the ongoing continuity. The Progressive titles are the books which are fun to read and can generally be read out of sequence as they just move everyone along a little.  Echoes in Death is a Progressive read so one that you can pickup and enjoy – which is exactly what I was able to do.  I love these books and Echoes did not let me down.  Fun, thrills and characters I know better than some members of my own family – long may Eve and Roarke continue to kick ass.

 Order a copy here

 

Witness – Caroline Mitchell

As I was reading Witness I took to Twitter – mainly to give myself a little break from the words rushing past my eyes.  I had to share that Caroline Mitchell’s writing had totally freaked me out and made me uncomfortable and nervous as I sat reading in a dimly lit room somewhere in the wilds of The Netherlands.

Brilliant – you can’t ask for anything more from a book if you get so caught up in a story that you start to get apprehensive over what may (or may not) be in the room alongside you.  Checking over my shoulder every few minutes really slowed down my reading pace too!

A stalker drama with some very dark and unexpected twists – creepy is good.

 Order a copy here

 

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and it didn’t grip me quite as much as some of the other books I read. What it IS, however, is a cleverly plotted drama with some larger than life characters but a lead character that I never really warmed to.

What Did You See Melody? Would be IDEAL for is a reading group.  There are elements of the story which I felt required total buy-in from the reader, without that buy-in it I can’t see it wowing everyone. I would love to see a book group discuss their thoughts on this book as I think it may be one which would spark debate.

Order a copy here 

 

Doctor Who: Plague City – Jonathan Morris

The Doctor (with his Capaldi face), Bill and Nardole. The trio find themselves in Edinburgh and they have broken curfew – imposed as a plague is laying waste to the city. As a Scottish type person I loved this story. As a Glasgow Scottish type person I liked that the plague was in Edinburgh 😊

Jonathan Morris has done a great job with the latest residents of the TARDIS. The story is well thought out and I wish the image of a doctor (not THE Doctor) in their plague masks could make the jump to a tv story.

Exactly what I want from a Doctor Who novel and Mr Morris always tells a good tale.

Order a copy here  

 

The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

I have seen this getting a big push via online adverts.  It is another story which requires a big buy-in from the reader.  If you just go along with the assumption that the husband/wife lead characters are wholly embracing The Marriage Pact then this is a solid thriller which is ideal for a holiday read.  Again book groups on standby – not everyone is going to be happy with the concept that two successful professionals would accept The Pact without question and debate should ensue.

Some surprising twists and Michelle Richmond has some nasty ideas when it comes to ensuring her characters are compelled to obey their promises. 

Order a copy here 

 

 

 

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July 27

Guest Post – A.K. Benedict: Serial Heroes

Earlier this year I was thrilled to have the chance to interview A.K. Benedict about her new novel Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence of Ghosts and also her Torchwood audio play The Victorian Age. A crime story (with ghosts) and also a play starring Captain Jack Harkness? A.K. Benedict seemed to have found my entertainment wish list and written everything I liked.

When I decided I would try to run this third series of my Serial Heroes features I thought it was a perfect opportunity to invite A.K. Benedict back to Grab This Book. If she writes stories I love then perhaps we also read the same authors too? It turns out that in this case we do…

 

AK BenedictI first found Agatha Christie while trying to murder my friends. It was a 10th birthday party and, being a macabre child, insisted on Murder in the Dark instead of the passé Pass the Parcel. Everyone took a piece of paper from a beige Tupperware bowl. Most were blank but on one was the word ‘Murderer’, on another ‘Detective’. I was the designated murderer.

Lights off, everyone scattered, stumbling about the house in the dark. I located my first victim easily using my keen olfactory sense. She was sitting on the stairs eating Opal Fruits. I whispered ‘You’re Dead’ in her ear then ruined it by saying, ‘Sorry.’  I then went upstairs, fake-slaughtering a few nine year olds along the way, and into my friend’s mum’s bedroom. I felt my way around the room and found a large bookshelf. Running my fingers across the books, I could feel many slim paperbacks with cracked spines and tears on the covers. These books had been read many times. I had to know what they were. I turned on the lights.

Wedged tight on the shelf was, it turns out, every one of Agatha Christie’s books. I pulled out The ABC Murders, sat on the bed and started to read. I was gripped immediately. I completely forgot that I was supposed to kill the rest of the party-goers and was found on the floor, reading, by several friends, furious at not being murdered.

My friend’s mum, however, knew a budding crime fan when she saw one and lent me the book. I read it overnight and took it back the next morning. She gave me another one. And another one the next day. I spent the summer holidays of 1988 reading one Christie a day, sitting under a tree and eating mint-flavoured Clubs. It was brilliant. I loved Miss Marple, Poirot and Harley Quin. I wanted to play Murder in the Dark with them at my party.

MarpleI went on to love all kinds of crime fiction but it all comes back to Christie. Every year, I read all of her books again. Each time I’m drawn in by the conversational tone that belies the darkness, the humour and the crisply written settings and characters. Christie twists me round her crooked finger: she hooks, hoodwinks and hustles better than any other writer I’ve read. I even named my dog after my favourite Marple – Dame Margaret Rutherford.

ABC murdersWhile I have favourites (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, 4.50 from Paddington, And Then There Were None, The Crooked House), I am still most fond of The ABC Murders. I live near Bexhill where poor Betty Barnard is killed in the novel and always think of her as I walk on the beach. I love visiting places that resonate with Christie connections: I can’t go to Paddington without wondering if I’ll see something untoward from the train. There are two places where I feel most connected to her: Greenway, her holiday home now a National Trust property, and The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. Christie was found at the hotel following her infamous disappearance. It’s a thrill to get lost, as I did this morning, in The Old Swan’s corridors and pass the bedroom marked AGATHA.

I’m now sitting on The Old Swan’s lawn at the annual Theakston’s Crime Festival, about to read a new Hercule Poirot book by Sophie Hannah. The Monogram Murders is dedicated to Agatha Christie and, even a few pages in, is a brilliant way continuation of her characters long after her death.

 

A.K. Benedict’s books can be ordered by clicking through this link.

Alternatively visit her rather fabulous website at http://www.akbenedict.com/
A.K. Benedict is also on Twitter at: @ak_benedict

 

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November 18

The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

The beautiful Monogram Murders
The beautiful Monogram Murders

The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation.

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’. 

 

I first read an Agatha Christie novel when I was 13. Before my 18th birthday I had read them all – every novel and short story (even the one set in ancient Egypt). That was over 20 years ago and in the intervening years I have re-read all my favourites many times over and re-visited a few I couldn’t remember very clearly. Never once during those years did I ever believe that I would hold a brand-new Hercule Poirot novel in my hands. Thank you Sophie Hannah for making my impossible wish become a reality.

The Monogram Murders is Poirot on top form (sadly sans Hastings) but working with the police to uncover three mysterious deaths in the luxurious Bloxham Hotel. Naturally everything is not as it seems and there are layers of lies and subterfuge for Poirot to unpick. His confidence in his own ability is undiminished despite his time out of the spotlight and I loved how he bemuses his Scotland Yard colleague (Catchpool) while feeding him just enough information to believe he was helping.

I found Sophie Hannah’s characters larger than life and easy to keep track of throughout what must be one of the longest Poirot tales. I confess to reading many books too quickly to always be able to keep track of bland characters – no problems here as the key players are all very well outlined and display sufficient individuality to allow me to comfortably keep abreast of developments without the need to leaf back a few pages.

I did mention that this was a longer Poirot book than most and if I have one small criticism it would be that I felt the pacing dropped a little around the middle of the book. At this stage in the story a possible explanation to the deaths was mooted which I found a tad too unbelievable. It was subsequently dismissed as a viable answer but, for me, too long was spent on this particularly unbelievable sub-plot. Once the story moved on I felt that normal service had resumed and everything built up very nicely to a climax placing Poirot on top of his game.

At the end of the book I had mixed emotions. I loved reading a brand new Poirot novel and I think Sophie Hannah did a fantastic job of taking on such a well-known character and making it work so well. However (and I cannot quite believe I am saying this) I would have liked The Monogram Murders to be a little shorter as the mid book sub plot would have lost me were it not for the pull of Poirot.

I would give the Monogram Murders 3.5 out of 5. Essential reading for fans of Poirot and a good whodunit. Naturally I had no idea who was guilty!

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