The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart  Turton

Basically this is Grounhog Day meets Tales of the Unexpected meets classic country house mystery. And it is cleverly done but unfortunately it did not work for me…it is well written and the characters are well developed but it felt so chaotic, so forced. Of course, the fact that none of the characters were endearing is both an asset and a drawback.

No,sorry,it just didn’t work for me…

 

The Monastery Murders by E.M.Powell

The Monastery Murders - E.M. Powell

1176.The sacrist of a Cistercian abbey has been horrible murdered. As the abbot is an old acquaintance of Aelred Barling,a senior clerk at the court of King Henry,it is evident that Westminster dispatches him and his assistant Hugo Stanton to this remote monastery in North-Yorkshire.
It is clear that their presence is not appreciated by the monks but a murderer is at large and a second murder is committed soon after their arrival. To make things worse, the weather takes a turn for the worse and the monastery is completely cut off due to heavy snowfall….and the feeling of security is replaced by a sense of fear.
Of course,an isolated snowed under monastery,is reminiscent of the Name of the Rose and Dissolution but both these book are quite an historical feat (and sometimes a bit of a challenge ) while this is an easy going read,with well developed characters and with a good insight in monastery life in the 12th century. And it is a good mystery !

 

Death Spins the Wheel by George Bellairs

Death Spins the Wheel - George Bellairs

An elderly French lady,after spending some pleasant time in the Isle of Man’s brand new casino ,is found shot on the beach. Inspector Littlejohn ,while helping the Archdeacon assembling a conservatory,is asked by the local force to give a helping hand. It is clear that part of the solution is to be found in France,to be precise, in Evian. And everybody knows that old sins have long shadows..think R√©sistance ,betrayal,passion…
The storyline is undoubtedly good,but what makes Bellairs such a wonderful, relaxing read is the rather benign atmosphere,great characters and a sniff of a bygone era.

 

Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville

Weekend at Thrackley - Alan Melville

Six people,five of them lucky proprietors of some fabulous jewellery, and one out of job,out of luck outsider are invited for a weekend at a remote and rather gloomy country house by a mysterious, wealthy collector of jewels and precious stones. They are an Ill-assorted lot waited on by a very lugubrious butler. And then things start to happen,of course…one of the servants is not who he seems to be,a guest disappears,there is a very interesting and well appointed cellar…This is not so much a” who done it” but more of a “how is it going to end”.

But notwithstanding ¬†the great setting(an isolated country house always works for me) it did not impress me all that much. It feels like a not so successful imprint of P.G.Wodehouse. One expects to hear tally-ho any moment. No,not entirely my cup of tea…

 

Murder in Keswick by William Todd

Murder in Keswick - William Todd

Holmes needs some rest,at least Watson thinks so. So they(Watson )decide to spend some time in Keswick, a village in the beautiful Lake District. On their arrival at the station they are confronted with some agitated travellers. Apparently a beheaded body has been found along the road. The body seems to belong to Mr. Darcy,a well respected local gentleman. Holmes and Watson visit the local constable who is more than delighted to have the masterly mystery solver by his side. For once ,the local village constable is not depicted as a slow thinking idiot who can not take an initiative. And so they solve this crime with Holmes his usual panache.

There have been quite a lot of Holmes stories published of late,but to be fair not all of them recreate the right feeling…but this one does,the setting (Holmes in the countryside)is believable,Holmes and Watson their attitude is what it is,the characters and their behaviour is consistent with the original stories,the lenght(178 pages)is just right and the crime and its solution is reminiscent of A.C. Doyle.

 

The Killing Time by M J Lee

The Killing Time - M J Lee

Shanghai, January 1932. China is faced with the threat of a Japanese invasion/annexation of Manchuria. The atmosphere in the International compound (mainly British)is very tense as it is is surrounded by a Japanese concession, a French one,a Russian one….and of course a lot of Chinese inhabitants. There is a boycott of Japanese shops and products and there are several riots. Amidst all these tensions,the body of young ,Chinese boy is found,horrible mutilated. Inspector Danilov(of Russian origin)and his inspector Strachan(with a wonderful Chinese/Scottish background) start their investigation in a rainy,damp and foggy Shangai. Very soon two other Chinese children disappear which bring the tension in the Settlement to a boiling point. When the bodies of the two children are found(mutilated,as the first child) the Chinese population (of Shanghai)take their revenge and attack some Japanese monks. Needless to say this,and the fact that more Japanese warships found their way into Shangai harbour,does not exactly improve the precarious situation. But then a Japanese boy disappears and Danilov has to reconsider his theories about these brutal murders.
Of course, the storyline is good,the horrible murder mystery keeps your attention but what is so remarkable about this book,is the atmosphere it creates. One is practically present at this amazing setting that is Shangai in 1932. You can feel the chill of the fog,hear the street hawkers selling their goods,smell the street food,inhale the coal smoke….And although it is perhaps not always particularly pleasant it definitely is full of life!

 

The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon

The Temptation of Forgiveness  - Donna Leon

It is very difficult to maintain the same quality throughout a longstanding series as this one(this is number 27…). And although that the storyline is still very good,the development of the characters is too detailed(looks,hand movement, breath taking,frowned eyebrows…).But this is unfortunately not exactly an added bonus. It does not lead to more understanding, more depth…

That said,one of the main characters is the city of Venice and Venice fulfils its role to perfection !

The Manton Rempville Murders by Julian Worker

The Manton Rempville murders - Julian Worker

A man is found murdered among the ruins of a medieval monastery. The weapon used is an ancient sword belonging to the nearby Hall. It is obvious that the culprit must be found among its inhabitants, domestics or guests.

This is a strange one,everything points to a country setting in the ,say thirties (gardeners,butler,youngster down from Eton…)but the inspector and his sidekick are using cell phones,e-mails, hi-tech DNA research. The thing is,it doesn’t enrich the story,it has no real added value.

And it just drags on an on(I can imagine the reader tapping her or his fingers on the table!)

And to top it off, the denouement leaves one with a whole list of questions…unanswered questions…

Crooks Hollow by Robert Parker

Crook's Hollow - Robert Parker

Someone is trying to kill Thorn Loxley,the estranged youngest son of a farmer dynasty. And then they try again and he decides to deal with this ordeal all by himself. This rural community is somewhat in turmoil,There are developers on the horizon and Thorn owns the deeds to a piece of land that is needed so this company can create a housing estate. The other grounds are owned by another farmer dynasty, the Crook family and needless to say,they are at daggers drawn. And so the attempts to murder Thorn continue… The storyline is not bad and it has a certain potential but none of the characters feel real,they are all so shallow. The book(not really the story)feels immature. And the end is absolutely over the top. Really over the top. Sometimes a good editor is a blessing…

 

 

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway Mysteries) - Elly Griffiths

Ruth Galloway,a forensic archaeologist,goes to Italy at the request of a Italian colleague (and a former one-night stand). Bones have been found at an excavation that raise a lot of(historical)questions. While Ruth stays in a medieval village in the Lazio region,she is confronted with the strange behaviour of certain characters and of course,murder.
This is the 10th book in this series and as with all series,the quality is somewhat variable. The mystery of the Dark Angel feels like a frame story to the story of Ruth’s relationship with the father of her daughter,a married D.I.,who’s wife is pregnant but perhaps not by him(on/off,on/off, I want you,no,I don’t….)Perhaps closure of this particularly relationship might be a good thing for both the characters and for the storyline.