A transatlantic ship with over two-thousand passengers onboard carries the secret of an old gentleman’s death from Southampton to New York. At first, his death is dismissed by the captain as an accident, but James Temple, a persistent Scotland Yard detective, is permitted to investigate – as long as he is accompanied everywhere by the ship’s officer, Mr Birch. A thorough inquiry follows, witnesses are pursued and interviewed, and slowly a picture of art theft and high-society indiscretions begins to be painted.
Tom Hindle’s writing has been compared to Agatha Christie and indeed it has the elements of classic detective narrative and plotting. The partnership between James Temple and Timothy Birch is particularly vibrant and really benefits the story. Both characters are complex, each man harbouring his own secrets. The underlying tragedy of Birch’s missing daughter adds extra emotional depth to Birch’s narrative (the story is told from his point of view).
More deaths and further complications abound but the investigation ploughs on to the final unmasking of the killer. However it isn’t the identity of the killer that provides the ultimate, most unexpected twist to this tale. It is something entirely different. I did not see it coming and I must admit that it was quite a shock. I shouldn’t even intimate at what it is as that would spoil your pleasure of reading this book and getting to that earth-shattering denouement in your own time.
Reading just those first opening paragraphs of “The Man Who Died Twice” I was instantly transported to the cosy, yet somewhat deadly, word of the Thursday Murder Club and its jolly members. I experienced a thrill equal only to that of coming home after a long time away and catching up with dear old friends whose lives, let me assure you, did not stand still in my absence. Far from it!
In the second instalment of Richard Osmond’s mysteries, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron and Bodgan are up to their eyeballs in murder, theft, mugging, spies and all sorts of crime and punishment. The fearsome septuagenarians are drawn – rather willingly – into the world of espionage, mafia, diamonds and double-crossing, not to mention the inexcusable mugging of one their own which they vow to avenge, come hell or high water.
The man in the title of this book is Douglas, Elizabeth’s ex-husband and her fellow ex-MI5 operative who arrives in the retirement village with his pockets full of stolen diamonds and the merciless mobster, Lomax, hot on his heels (followed closely by the Mafia). If that wasn’t enough for the Club to reckon with, Ibrahim is attacked in the street by a teenage troublemaker, Ryan Baird (who has no idea what deep water he has just waded into). The two plotlines take off from here, wheeze, twist and meander, until they are brought together in a spectacular finale.
Vibrant, funny, wonderfully human, “The Man Who Died Twice” is a worthy successor to “The Thursday Murder Club”. More please!
In the Hawthorne and Horowitz series, the renown author of Alex Ryder adventures and a screenwriter of the iconic TV series of Midsomer Murders and Poirot steps out of the limelight to become a humble chronicler of his fictional detective’s murder cases. It is very cleverly done. The mixture of fiction and what seems like a memoir gives you a sense of immediacy with the author/character.
The story is set in Horowitz’s reality as a writer: a literary festival is held on a tiny, sparsely populated island of Alderney. A group of celebrities arrive and thus a pool of potential suspects is created. The island is in the throes of an internal battle over the proposed powerlines which are advocated by a rich entrepreneur Charles Le Mesurier but opposed by most of the residents. Soon, Charles is found dead and Hawthorne (shadowed by Horowitz) is on the case. A few obligatory red herrings are thrown into the mix and Hawthorne himself seems to harbour his own secrets and ulterior motives that make him look less objective than he should be as an investigator.
A Line to Kill is a satisfying traditional whodunnit full of twists and spins, and sub-plots smoothly woven into the fabric of the main story. The characters are well-drawn, introduced in small incremental steps giving the reader a chance to get to know them organically. Horowitz has a well-practised hand when it comes to detail the use of which makes this murder mystery a proper nut to crack.
“A Quiet Life in the Country” is the first book in Lady Hardcastle Mysteries. Both Lady Hardcastle and her faithful lady’s maid/companion are introduced as they arrive on the scene and settle in their new home in West Country. They begin to make friends amongst the land gentry, the “new money” and the lower classes.
They are unfortunate enough to discover a body of a hanged man and embark on a discreet investigation into the circumstances of his death. While they are at it they mingle with the locals which enables the author to present the locality and historical setting of this series really well.
The story is told in the first person by the unexpectedly eloquent lady’s maid who seems to be very well travelled and educated (presumably thanks to being Lady Hardcastle’s companion). The banter between the main characters is witty. It is also unusually egalitarian and societally uninhibited.
All in all a relaxing and amusing historical cozy.
I think I have become slightly addicted to Agatha Raisin and her world of small, secretive villages scattered around the Cotswolds.
Something Borrowed Someone Dead is yet another foray into one of such village, called Piddlebury. The name alone tells a story! One of its residents, the universally loathed Gloria French, is poisoned. Her claim to fame was her knack for borrowing and never returning whatever tickled her fancy. Such bad habit on its own doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to murder someone, but then this is Piddlebury. The locals are a bit tetchy.
Agatha is engaged by one of the residents, Mr Tarrant to find the murderer so that people stop suspecting each other. The atmosphere in the village is tense. Agatha wades on it with her big personality and makes a few enemies. Soon, the murderer is after her. Her investigating antics follow, peppered with her personal dramas involving James Lacey and the beautiful Toni…
The plot of this instalment isn’t the most elaborate or credible, but this is after all Agatha Raisin, not John Rebus, so a touch of suspended belief is perfectly in order.
Much Winchmoor is a colourful West Country village populated by an assortment of lively characters. They tend to gather for a spot of gossip and some general busy-bodying at such distinguished local landmarks as the hairdressers and Winchmoor Arms public house. Much Winchmoor is full of life and good-natured hustle and bustle, until of course Marjorie is killed. Promptly followed by Doreen. Kat Latcham is to become a self-appointed village sleuth, as assisted by Will. Just as she thought she’d escaped from the clutches of parochial country living, Kat is dumped (and robbed) by her unworthy boyfriend in London. That misfortune forces her to return to the village, penniless and dismayed. She tries her hand at various menial jobs, but she is really destined for greater challenges such as inadvertently becoming an amateur private investigator. It is Kat who narrates the story and I really enjoyed hearing about her exploits first-hand from her. She is well-fleshed out and likeable young lady. Williams throws into the mix a few red herrings and there is yet another twist right at the end. I won’t go into any spoilers so will stop here. I am delighted to have discovered the Much Winchmoor Mysteries. I looking forward to reading the next one.
Firstly, you will come to adore the octogenarian Club members. They are something else! And they thrive on murder. Elizabeth, a female version of James Bond, in retirement. Ron, a geriatric activist and tireless instigator; quite an orator, when pushed. Joyce, quiet as a mouse, a once-upon-a-time nurse. Ibrahim, a psychotherapist with a sharp eye for detail (so sharp that it borders on compulsive-obsessive). This quartet of amateur detectives gathers once a week to solve cold cases. Until, one day, a brand-new murder lands in their collective lap; and another one a few days later. Not to mention the discovery of human bones in an old convent graveyard, which would be perfectly normal had said bones been found inside a coffin. And so the scene is set for a thorough and methodical investigation, which the actual police detectives, Donna and Chris Hudson, can hardly keep up with.
Osman builds the case skillfully, adding layer upon layer of wider social and personal background. The network of current and past events is smoothly woven together. As the unraveling of the two murders progresses, the characters develop and flourish. I particularly enjoyed the character of the Polish builder, Bogdan who started as a stereotype only to surprise me as I got to know him better (well, as Elizabeth and her husband, Stephen, got to know him better).
This is a classic cosy mystery: funny, full of observational humour, presenting the reader with a deliciously twisty and unpredictable case to get your teeth into.
Being a great fan of Agatha Raisin, I decided to give Hamish Macbeth a go. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.
Although Death of a Witch was my first read in the series, I was instantly immersed in the world of the remote village of Lochdubh in the heart of Scottish Highlands. The title character, PC Hamish Macbeth is kind of a godfather figure who protects and looks after the villagers. His love for the place and its inhabitants is palpable. It is stronger than his ambition or his young heart’s romantic pursuits. M C Beaton paints the location vividly and with such refinement that its authenticity is assured. Throw in the mix a dog and a wild cat, Hamish’s two beloved pets, and your heart is captured for good.
In this story, Hamish pursues the killer of an alleged witch, and further three local women. The witch died a nasty death, but she wasn’t a likable character, and not only because she was peddling love potions which had very unpleasant side effects on the menfolk. The other victims were decent or semi-decent women who, on the surface, had nothing to do with the witch. Hamish, assisted by his erstwhile love interest, the journalist Elspeth, and by his new love interest, the pathologist Lesley, tries to get to the bottom of this convoluted multi-victim case.
I enjoyed this witty, charming and fast moving cosy mystery and will be reading more of Hamish Macbeth.