As I mentioned in my last review, I’ve a bit of a backlog of books to review and as such, I’m going to post a few digest reviews for some titles – not because they’re particularly undeserving, more that I’ve forgotten too many details about them due to the other holiday reading that may have got slightly out of control – eleven books in a week.
So, here are mini-reviews of:
- The Burglar In The Closet by Lawrence Block
- Blood Line by Alanna Knight
- The Maze of Cadiz by Aly Monroe
- An Expert In Murder by Nicola Upson
Off we go!
The Burglar In The Closet by Lawrence Block
The second in the series featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr, the gentleman burglar of New York. Bernie is asked by his dentist to steal back some jewellery that was lost in his divorce settlement. Unfortunately, she returns early and Bernie gets locked in her wardrobe. Even more unfortunately, while trying to extricate himself, the ex-wife is murdered in the other room. As the dentist is the chief suspect, he offers the police a viable alternative suspect – namely Bernie himself…
This is a fun quick read – as with the previous book, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, Bernie is an entertaining narrator. The plot keeps moving itself forward and, at the end of the day, forms itself into an enjoyable little mystery. This is available on Kindle as part of a collection of the first five Burglar novels – a recommended purchase.
Blood Line by Alanna Knight
Another Kindle recommendation, the majority of this series featuring the Edinburgh Victorian detective, Inspector Faro, is available for less than a pound each. In this second book, Faro investigates some mysterious deaths at the castle, including, from years previous, his own father. The deaths somehow seem tied into a secret that dates back to Mary Stewart and James VI themselves.
Another enjoyable straightforward tale – as with the first in the series, Enter Second Murderer, there’s a romance for the Inspector as well – a trend that might get a bit tiresome if it’s in every book in the series – and, to be fair, as the book goes on, you’d have to be a bit slow not to see where it’s going in terms of the villain of the piece. What is disappointing is the somewhat unsatisfactory nature of the ending – not the mystery, but the aftermath – and I hope that it is expanded on in the next book. Otherwise, Faro seems a bit of a wimp. Still, it’s a decent enough read - certainly value for money.
The Maze of Cadiz by Aly Monroe
Bought on the strength of the Spanish connection and Aly Monroe’s recent winning of the CWA Historical Dagger for Icelight, this involves spy Peter Cotton being sent to Cadiz in 1944 to relieve the local agent and then close the bureau. When he gets there, he finds that the agent is dead and sets about investigating.
Not my cup of tea, really, I’m afraid. The evocation of war-time Cadiz is well done and there’s some good history here. But I found the narrative a bit plodding – not an awful lot happens and a lot of it is irrelevant to the main plot. Which is, of course, a lot like real life would be, but not really my thing in a novel. It’s partially that this is a spy novel first and a mystery second, and the mystery is my preferred reading.
An Expert In Murder by Nicola Upson
The playwright and mystery novelist Josephine Tey (most famous for The Daughter of Time) is in London for the closing of her play Richard of Bordeaux. Soon the young woman she befriends on the train journey from Edinburgh is found murdered in her train carriage, and another death follows soon. As she, and her policeman friend, investigate, secrets emerge amongst the cast of the play.
I have to admit, I find the idea of writing a book featuring a version of a real person who may well have relatives that remember her – she died sixty years ago – a little odd – Tey, you see, was a pseudonym, so it’s not the “real” Tey, so to speak. Having said that, it’s nowhere near as disturbing as I found another novel that features the return of a real serial killer from as recently as 1969. Very bad taste, I thought. But that’s a different writer and, literally, another story.
Back to this one, and it’s another enjoyable read. The main characters do rather trip over the solution at the end – the policeman finds a really signpost-y clue and Tey walks in on the murderer trying to kill someone – but it’s a lot of fun, a fast-moving plot with a decent period setting.
I’d say of these four series, it will be Nicola Upson that I’ll be returning to first and Aly Monroe that I’ll probably avoid in the future, prize or no prize.
Back to full reviews in two posts time, but next, it’s my 250th post. Blimey.