November – the month of burning effigies and looking longingly at my American friends’ pictures of turkey, knowing that I’ve got to wait another month. Oh, and shedloads of work – never quite worked out why November is such a busier month for a schoolteacher than others, but it always seems to be one of the most stressful times. But of course one can always retreat into a good book (unless those deadlines really can’t be avoided).
This month saw nine books, including two short story collections and one of the dullest books that I’ve read in ages… but which of the other eight will walk off with the Puzzly for November 2015? I think if you read the review, you’ve got a pretty good idea…
One dark night in 1283, Exeter Cathedral was stormed by a band of men and Walter de Lecchelade, the Chaunter, was brutally murdered. Many men paid for that night – either they were executed for crimes, either their’s or someone else’s, or else their sins have haunted them for the past forty years. Some left Exeter, some stayed, some profited, some suffered… but now, in 1323, some of the participants from that night have terror have returned to the city.
As construction continues to expand the cathedral, Saul, a mason, is crushed by a falling block of masonry. While that is surely an accident, the second death is undoubtedly murder. One of the participants of the night of terror lies dead, and Sir Baldwin Furnshill, plagued by his own guilt, and Simon Puttock need to find the killer before they strike again…
Detective Inspector Richard Poole is trapped in his own private hell. Not that anyone else would consider the paradise of Saint-Marie hell, but Richard Poole is a special individual. And, of course, he’s also a damn fine detective. Which is rather handy, given how many murderers seem to be lurking on the island.
Polly Carter, the famous ex-supermodel – well, famous to everyone apart from Richard – has returned to her home on the island with some friends and colleagues in tow. Polly has had a troubled life, but things seem to be getting back on track – or are they? For as Polly takes her wheelchair bound twin sister for a walk, she runs off down a staircase carved into the side of a cliff. Once out of sight to everyone, she screams and is found dead at the bottom of the steps. Suicide? Of course not. A murder weapon is soon found halfway up the stairs – but with nowhere for the murderer to come from or to go to, how on earth was she killed?
It’s Christmas! Well, no, it’s November, but it’s the time to start thinking about ordering the turkey, feeding the Christmas cake, writing letters to Santa detailing that first edition of The Black Spectacles that you’d like the elves to make for you… And the time for thinking about that perfect present for that special mystery reader in your life.
Last year, Mystery In White was a surprise best-seller for the British Library Crime Classics range – must get round to that sometime soon – and for this festive season, Martin Edwards has compiled a collection of tales from well-known and less well-known authors concerning both Christmas and crime. Ho-ho-ho!
Welcome to Aberllyn, a village in Wales, and in particular The Fisherman’s Rest, an inn that provides accommodation for those individuals who think nothing more enticing that sitting at the side of a lake (or, should the mood take them, on a boat), dangling their flies into the water on the off-chance that a passing trout or salmon should be stupid enough to put it in their mouth. You can probably tell that I’m not an angler – there’s probably more to it than that.
Needless to say, there’s a spider at the heart of the fishing community, going by the name of Mrs Mumsby, who is up to something. But before her plans can come to fruition, she is found dead, with a fish-hook buried in the palm of her hand. Everyone seems perfectly happy to accept that she died of shock from the accident, except for Mr Winkley, recently arrived from Scotland Yard for a break. He suspects murder and with the help of his younger friends (brace yourself) Piggy and Pussy, sets about finding the right bait to trap a killer…
Tom French is one of the most well-known birdwatchers amongst the twitcher community. Sorry, I meant that he was one of the most well-known – as somebody smashed his head in and left him in the marsh near the town of Rushby, Norfolk. But Tom didn’t have an enemy in the world – well, not that anybody was aware of.
George Palmer-Jones, a retired civil servant and active birdwatcher, is asked to look into the murder by a concerned parent and soon finds that there are some dark undercurrents in the community. But was Tom killed for love? For hate? For revenge? Or for an even darker reason… Aided by his wife Molly, George is determined to unmask a murderer before they strike again.
First published 1892 in The Strand magazine, The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle is the seventh story in the first collection, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.