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Sunday 31 December 2023

‘Blood Lies’ by Marianne MacDonald

Published by Hodder,
20 September 2001.
ISBN: 978-0-34076895-2 (PB)

For Dido Hoare, antiquarian bookseller in North London, a rural village in Somerset sounds just the place for a little rest and recuperation from the strains of the recent past, so muses Dido as she drives with her son Ben down to Alford, at the invitation of her old friend Lizzie Waring, who telephoning out of the blue, claims she just wants to talk, so come and visit.

Three years before Lizzie had married into the Waring family, owners of the Georgian mansion Monksdanes. Whist it quickly becomes clear that the Waring family are living in straitened circumstances, darker secrets lurk in the faded but still elegant house. What does Lizzie really know about the family into which she has married.

This is the fifth Dido Hoare mystery, and it is the best to date. A true body in the library mystery, with many twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. All the ingredients of a good mystery are present, an accidental death, but is it? A missing heirloom, or is it? A sleepy picturesque village, a peeping Tom....

At a recent Mystery Women event we discussed 'Murder in the Family' and how this particular aspect of murder can be more sinister and scarier than a random serial killer murder, and how aptly Marianne MacDonald illustrates this in Blood Lies.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Marianne Macdonald was born in the lumber town of Kenora, Northern Ontario, and grew up in Winnipeg and Montreal. Her first children's book was published when she was 16. She took her BA at McGill University, then went to Oxford for graduate studies in English. For thirty years she pretended to be an academic, acquiring various degrees and teaching at universities in Canada and England. She left teaching early in order to return to her writing.

‘Untimely Graves’ by Marjorie Eccles

Published by Constable,
30 August 2001.
978-1-84119370-0 (HB)

The discovery of the body of a woman in the flooded waters of what was normally a trickle known as the river Kyne, poses a problem for Detective Superintendent Gil Mayo, as no one has been reported missing, and identification proves impossible. So, she is dubbed the ‘Mystery Women’ .

George Atkins recently retired from the police has opened his own PI business, but his daughter Cleo just returned from university is restless and reticent. Keen on establishing her independence Cleo moves into her late Aunt Phoebe's home, but something is not quite right. To tide her over whilst she decides what she wants to do and to pay her rent she takes a job cleaning for Maid to Order. Unwittingly this places her in possession of a piece of information.

After three years working as a geophysicist in a research unit on the Polar Ice Cap, Sam has returned to 16 Kelsey Rd, home of his Aunt Dorrie to find that she is being pressured by the bursar of Lavenstock College to sell her home to make way for a new entrance for the school. When the bursar of the school is found murdered, Gil Mayo and his assistant Inspector Abigail Moon find themselves rich with suspects. John Riach, assistant bursar who expected to become bursar last time the job came vacant. Will he this time? Aunt Dorrie, is she as mildly eccentric as she appears? Hannah Wetherby, is she an abused wife?  Eventually the investigation into the bursar’s death leads to the identity of the mystery woman. 

This is
Marjorie Eccles best book to date. Her characterisation is marvellous, and I wanted to follow all the lives of her characters. Eileen Totterbridge, who cleans for Aunt Dorrie, and poor intimidated Vera Bysouth of Covert Farm. Sweet old Mrs Osbourne who used to own the farm and now lives in a cottage nearby. And Tone, who Cleo meets whilst working for Maid to Order.

A complex and fascinating mystery
. I was perplexed to the end as to who and why. Highly recommended.

 Lizzie Hayes

Marjorie Eccles was born in Yorkshire and spent much of her childhood there and on the Northumbrian coast. The author of thirty-three books and short stories, she is the recipient of the Agatha Christie Short Story Styles Award. Her earlier books featuring police detective Gil Mayo were adapted for the BBC. Her most recent series is set after the Great War and features DI Herbert Reardon. There are five books in the series. She lives in Hertfordshire.

‘Cold Town’ by Sarah Diamond

Published by Orion,
16 August 2001.
ISBN: 978-0-75283785-7 (HB)

Terry and Maria Fielding have been married for eight years. He in advertising with a career going down hill, she in Credit Control, a rising star.

Faced with his growing inadequacies in both his childless marriage and his job, coupled with the threat of possible redundancy, Terry becomes increasingly reluctant to go home, and to escape, he takes refuge in a Soho Club. Here he meets the exciting and enigmatic Rosina, a hostess with whom he becomes totally fascinated and who he comes to believe will be his salvation. But Rosina is obsessed with secrets in her own past and can, or does she want to, provide the support and understanding Terry needs as he clings desperately to his sanity?

As Maria comes to understand that her work promotion carries a price, and as she struggles to understand Terry’s silences, she devotes more and more of her tine to Lisa, her sister’s child, with whom she becomes obsessed to combat her growing feelings of isolation.

Conscious of guilt over their childless marriage and unable to communicate  with Maria, Terry becomes more inward as he wrestles with a terrible secret in his past, that of the murder of his sister when he was a child, a secret he thought he had buried, but that now fills his every waking hour. 

Written from both points of view, with vivid glimpses into the past, this is a powerful story of two people trapped in normality with abnormality creeping closer and closer each day. Recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Sarah Diamond was born in 1976 and grew up in Weymouth before studying English Literature at Reading University. She now works as an advertising copywriter.

Saturday 30 December 2023

‘Death’s Own Door’ by Andrew Taylor

Published by Hodder & Stoughton,
7 June 2001.
ISBN: 978-0-34069601-9 (HB)

The sixth book in the highly aclaimed Lydmouth series opens with Edith Thrnhill, wife of Deetective Rchard Thornhill, making a journey back into the past as she returns to the vullage she stayed as a girl, for the funeral of Rufus Moorrof. As the little train rattles along she recall those days of 1938, when she had experienced both pain and triumph.

Intending to pay her respects and leave quietly, Edith is recognised and recognises many people from her past, not least Miss Cicely Caswell, who approaches Edith and in distress asks, ‘What was the name of the woman who married the White Rabbit?’

Also present at the funeral, she sees her husband’s sergeant, Detective Kirby. When there seems little reason for the police to investigate what on the surface seems to be a suicide, Richard Thornton faces a part of his wife’s past of which he has little knowledge, not that in his present preoccupation with journalist Jill Francis he is immediately concerned, but circumstances deem otherwise, when the solution to the present death appears to relate directly back to the past and an earlier death in the summer before the war in which is wife was involved. As Richard Thornhill investigates, he uncovers connections from the deceased that touch many other lives. Then there is another death, and the investigation takes a different turn.

There were some issues raised in this book that surprised me, and of which I was unaware, but I have no cause to doubt knowing the period to which they relate.

Whilst Richard Thornhill and Jill Francis battle individually with their feelings, living in the confines of a small-town Edith pursues her own agenda and displays a character which has strength not portrayed in the earlier books,

I have read and enjoyed all the Lydmouth books, but in this one I found the descriptions particularly vibrant, being both a fascinating mystery and providing further depth to the characters I have enjoyed in the preceding five books. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Andrew Taylor is a British crime and historical novelist, winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger (for lifelong excellence in the genre) and the triple winner of the Historical Dagger. His books include the international bestseller, The American Boy (a Richard and Judy selection); The Roth Trilogy (filmed for TV as Fallen Angel); the Lydmouth Series. The Scent of Death and The Times/Waterstones bestseller, The Ashes of London. He lives on the borders of England and Wales. He reviews for the Spectator and The Times. 

‘Rewind’ by Vivien Armstrong

Published by Severn House,
23 February 2001.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-5699-5 (HB)

When Adele Morrison’s body is found floating in a hotel pool, DI Ian Preston recently transferred to Yarmouth after the break-up of his marriage is called in to investigate. At first glance it is assumed to be a suicide, but closer examination turns up irregularities that bring this verdict into question. For Adele Morrison appeared to have no problems, a good income, a healthy bank balance and a nice lifestyle.

Further investigations reveal an estranged husband, who stands to inherit, while her half sister Sylvia flies from Canada for answers as to why her sister is dead.

There are some great characters in this book, I particularly enjoyed Miss Moffatt, retired headmistress, who on retirement cycled through Pakistan on a custom-built bicycle, a present from her girls. I could instantly see her. Also, Kenzo who so infatuated with the local moggies, was refusing to get to grips with his real work, that of clearing Ian Preston’s outbuildings of vermin. And I loved Kevin, the reluctant cross-dresser.

As Ian Preston continues to be intrigued by the mystery surrounding Adele Morrison, a second murder occurs. The victim links directly to Adele who at the time of her death was found to be in possession of a bouquet of white heather, as is the latest victim. There are many twists and turns in this mystery, and at every turn it is peopled with an array of fascinating characters.

There is much in this book to recommend, a good mystery, marvellous characterisation and humour.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Vivien Armstrong trained as a journalist, working on a national British newspaper before becoming a crime novelist.  She also contributes horticultural and gardening articles to magazines as well as co-authoring a floral art book with a leading designer. She lives in Norfolk, England.