Posts Tagged ‘Novel’

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, a review.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

I am grateful to Niche Comics and Book Shop of Huntingdon, in particular to Angela Mackey of the said establishment. Angela regularly organises events in Huntingdon bringing many well-known authors into the town’s Commemoration Hall to discuss their writing and books. The only problem it gives me is trying to sneak the books into our house which I buy at these events without my wife noticing, she thinks that we have far too many books already.

A while back I was at an event where two authors, Alison Bruce and Sophie Hannah; were in discussion with a gentleman whose name escapes me (I’m sorry I should have been taking notes.)

I am familiar with Alison’s work and a great fan, Sophie Hannah was a name I recognised but hadn’t read anything of hers. I enjoyed the evening and came away with a copy of Sophie Hannah’s Monogram Murders; I have copies of all Alison’s novels.

It is a long while since I have read any of Agatha Christie’s books and I must admit I am not a huge fan of hers, so I hesitated and prevaricated about starting to read Ms Hannah’s take on Agatha Christie’s famous Belgium detective.

The story starts when Poirot’s supper is disturbed by a distraught young woman entering the café where he is dining. She is convinced that she is soon be murdered.

Three murders take place at the Bloxham Hotel in London on that very same night. The victim’s bodies are found in separate rooms on different floors. Hercule Poirot assists Catchpool a Scotland Yard detective, who lives at the same lodgings as Poirot; investigate the murders. Before very long Poirot is in charge of the case with Catchpool, the narrator trying to keep up with Poirot’s thought processes.

The plot is engaging; constantly twisting and turning, to wrong-foot the reader.

I prefer Sophie Hannah’s version of a Poirot mystery to any I have read penned by Agatha Christie; I shall read more of Sophie’s books.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne, a review.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Raymond Chandler’s shoes are very difficult to fill. Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s hero is someone who has inhabited the imagination of all those who have read Chandler’s novels. My Marlowe will be different to everyone else’s Marlowe but our own original has its own presence.

‘Poodle Springs’, Chandler’s unfinished novel was completed by Robert B Parker and worked well for me; I have since discovered that Parker wrote another Marlowe novel, ‘Perchance to Dream.’ This is one I will seek out and read.

Marlowe is engaged by The Pacific Mutual Insurance company to investigate the death by drowning of Donald Zinn; before the million dollar payout is made to his widow.

Donald Zinn is an all too easily recognisable pastiche of a contemporary character, one who it appears has followed a similar career path to Zinn’s.

It was a good idea to base the action in Mexico; the location of Zinn’s demise.

Only to sleep didn’t work well for me, perhaps it was taking Marlowe out of his time and place; California’s, the thirties, forties and fifties or maybe at 73 Marlowe just hadn’t aged well. I didn’t recognise him even as an older version of himself

Other Chandler and Marlowe fans may enjoy this book; it just wasn’t a good read for me.

A Bird In The Hand by Ann Cleeves, a review.

A Bird in the Hand by Ann Cleeves

Generally, I only watch a few hours of television a day if at all. Mostly it is crime dramas that attract my attention and they occupy most of my viewing time; my daily ration of dodging the adverts while trying to follow the plot.

I often watch Vera, a series featuring DCI Vera Stanhope as its main character, gradually becoming aware of the name of the Vera books author, Ann Cleeves. Ann is the creator of the programme’s characters. After a recent stint of writing at the local library, (I work better there) I sought out her books happening on her very first; A Bird in the Hand.

It is a very good read, excellent in fact, tightly plotted and populated with well-drawn, interesting characters. The thread that binds both the story and its characters together is bird watching, particularly the community known as “Twitchers”.

When the murdered body of a young twitcher is discovered in the Norfolk coastal marshes; George Palmer-Jones, a retired Home Office investigator is asked to help solve the crime. George is an elderly bird watcher respected by the bird watching community and knowledgeable about the people and their habits. Assisted by his wife Molly, George embarks on discovering the truth behind the brutal killing, we accompany the pair as they tour the country chasing sightings of rare birds while hunting the killer.

It is a brilliant first novel, as it was then. I now know there are many, many more books by Ann Cleeves, for me to read.

I have found a new sweet jar and I will dip into it whenever I can.

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer Philip Cumberland.

A fantastic review from the outstanding author Eva Jordan.

Eva Jordan

This month I’m chatting to local author Philip Cumberland. As one of the founding members of a local writing group, Phil reached out to me several years ago to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing a book the group had put together called Where the Wild Winds Blow: an eclectic mix of fact and fiction, featuring short stories, poems, and memoirs, contributed by the various members of the Whittlesey Wordsmiths. Honoured, I said I’d love to. Since then, Philip has released his own debut novel, Killing Time in Cambridge, which was also my choice for this month’s book review.

Welcome Phil, thanks for being my guest. Can you tell everyone a bit about yourself?

Thank you for inviting me, Eva.

I grew up in Huntingdon and have lived in Cambridgeshire all my life, the last thirty-five years in Whittlesey.

I was originally a motor mechanic, then an…

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Light on Leeds Podcast

Killing Time in Cambridge book cover

I was honoured and delighted to be invited by Hazel to be interviewed for her podcast Light on Leeds.

She wanted to ask me about my writing, my book, the Fens and Cambridge.

Here is the link to her podcast:

https://www.lightonleeds.com/episodes/light-on-episode-4-philip-cumberland-author?fbclid=IwAR0Rqhq61E1ObUfbHK4-Hy2xcySyImPWf4qCk0wfW-HS1UIqFrBSLHzx1VA#

To hear more of Hazel’s podcasts please visit her site.

https://www.lightonleeds.com/

Cambridge Black by Alison Bruce, a review.

Cambridge Black written by Alison Bruce

I find it is always a balancing act when writing reviews, trying not to spoil the plot for would-be readers but giving some sense of what lies between the book’s covers.

Cambridge Black is the seventh in Alison Bruce’s DC Gary Goodhew series. I am sure most readers will like myself have read some, possibly all of the preceding books and have a familiarity with the characters.

The story centres around three quest’s, Amy’s for the truth concerning her father’s conviction for murder, Sue Gully’s search for her father and Gary Goodhew’s hunt for those responsible for his grandfather’s murder.

The story is well-plotted and paced.

Cambridge is as all the Goodhew novels the setting for Cambridge Black. Alison Bruce has a great affection for the city which shows in the writing. I enjoy the familiarity of many places in the story, probably something I share with other fans.

I thoroughly enjoyed the twisting turning story as DC Goodhew and the team pursue the perpetrators of a current and simultaneously two other historic unsolved cases. The writing as always is exceptionally fine, the descriptions and scene-setting excellent. I was racing through the pages towards the end as the story reached its nail-biting climax.

This was retiring DI Marx’s last case; I hope it won’t be the last case for DC Gary Goodhew too.

Meet Me in the Treehouse by Kelly Tink, a review.

Meet Me in the Treehouse

I confess Romantic Fiction is not a genre I would normally read, “Meet me in the tree house” is the first ever book of romantic fiction I have tried.

Kelly’s book is a well written, well crafted novel, exploring Emma’s grief and her accommodation with loss. The grief is for a dead friend. The loss is that of her marriage, itself another form of grieving. Grieving for the hopes, plans and dreams of a future now gone. Emma hesitates to form new relationships or revisit old ones; she is wary; worried that the history of her failed marriage may repeat itself.

We follow Emma as she tries to reconstruct her life and move on from a troubled past, it is an interesting journey and for me an informative one.

Kelly has I understand started on a second book, I can’t wait to read it.

Meet Me in the Treehouse is available on Amazon

Meet Me in the Treehouse

Leaping off

Corpus Christi College Cambridge Grasshopper Chronophage on the cover of Killing Time in Cambridge.
Killing Time in Cambridge

Well, I have leapt off the diving board and published my novel Killing Time in Cambridge. The first printed paperback book arrived on Wednesday and I have had my first review for the Kindle version.

Rather mixed feelings, relief that I have finally done it, a sense of tiredness and anticlimax. I hope that it will not only sell but more importantly those who read it enjoy the story, The feedback so far has been favourable.

My next novel is underway whether it will get finished is always an open question but I am pleased with the opening chapter. It is slightly different from the first, with different characters. However if Killing Time in Cambridge proves popular Arnold Lane may have a second outing.

If you would like to buy it on Amazon click here:

Killing Time in Cmbridgehttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Time-Cambridge-Philip-Cumberland/dp/1916481779/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1606719444&sr=8-1

Beau Death by Peter Lovesey a review.

Beau Death cover2

Beau Death written by Peter Lovesey

There is usually at least one of Peter Lovesey’s books in my “to be read pile”.  Of the Peter Diamond series, I now have only one more to read, unless of course there is another ready to publish.

I have enjoyed all the Peter Diamond novels but for me Beau Death is the best so far.

Following a cracking start, literally, a wrecking ball smashes into the top of an old house in Twerton, exposing the remains of a long hidden body. The beginning of a herculean quest for Deective Superintendent Peter Diamond and his team. Not only to establish the identity of the corpse but to discover the circumstances of its death.

As with the majority of the Peter Diamond novels the city of Bath is the setting.

With each new book there is a new visit, for us readers. Each time we learn a little more about the place and its rich history. This outing introduces Beau Nash to those of us, who know little, not only of Bath but the characters which helped shape the city.

As with all good books it is difficult to put down, resolution waits until the end of the story and is satisfying. I will be ordering Killing with Confetti, the latest Peter Diamond book, shortly. Ready to be placed on the TBR pile.

New Books

I have been helping Wendy Fletcher publish her autobiography The Railway Carriage Child.

The Railway Carriage Child front cover

The Railway Carriage Child

Available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Railway-Carriage-Child-Wendy-Fletcher/dp/1916481736/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1669E1G7PA28T&keywords=the+railway+carriage+child&qid=1573652235&sprefix=the+railway+carriage+child%2Caps%2C162&sr=8-2

Also launching our Whittlesey Wordsmiths latest offering  A Following Wind.

A following Wind book cover front page white writing

A following Wind

Available on Amazon and Kindle:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Following-Wind-Whittlesey-Wordsmiths/dp/1916481752/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=a+following+wind&qid=1573652054&sr=8-2

I have other stuff I want to post and hope it will happen soon. Work on my novel has stalled but here is a little taste of one of the chapters.

Wednesday again

Whilst eating his breakfast, Arnold thought back to an incident that occurred earlier that year, during the dark winter months.

After a few minutes thought, he had it firmly in his mind: recalling events as if it were a video playing out before him – not just as an observer, but as an actor in the scene.

It had been dark when he’d slid out of bed. Whether he was woken by the urge to empty his bladder, habit, or an inbuilt alarm he was never sure, but he had always been an early riser.

He had pulled the dressing gown around his naked torso and tied the belt. It was tighter now than when his wife had first given it to him, a forgotten number of years ago. It had probably shrunk in the wash. She had been dead now five – or was it six years? He needed a new one, certainly a larger one, but keeping it was keeping something of her, no matter how illogical or tenuous the connection.

Returning from the bathroom, he had pulled the edge of the bedroom curtain aside and looked out of the window of his flat onto a frosty King Street below, recalling frosted windows of his childhood with thick ice on the inside and cold lino under bare feet.

A cuppa is required, he’d thought, making his way to the small kitchen. Returning a few minutes later with a mug of hot strong tea, he looked again through the window. A few people were making an unenthusiastic journey to work on foot muffled against the cold in thick coats, hats, gloves and scarves. A solitary student cycled gingerly down the icy road, a college scarf flapping about him.

After returning to the kitchen for a session with the toaster, he had returned to the window, the curtains now pulled further open, a plate of hot buttered toast in one hand. He had demolished half a slice when movement in the street below caught his attention; two young men were attacking a third. He grabbed his trousers. Stepping clumsily into them, he fastened them at his waist then carefully, despite his haste, zipped them up. Zipping the fly when not wearing underpants can be a painful experience for the unwary. He’d stepped into his shoes, shuffling further into them as he ran. Bugger it was cold.

He stumbled down the stairs, ran into the street and reached the fracas.

One man was holding the victim whilst the other thumped him in the face and stomach, so engrossed in their assault that they didn’t see Arnold approach. He grabbed the thumper by the ear and twisted it viciously then, as the man turned, he hit him square on the jaw, knocking him out cold.

The other assailant released the victim, undecided whether to run or fight. Too late, he aimed a punch at Arnold who retaliated with a swift kick in the groin that doubled him up and stopped all thought.

Arnold had turned to the victim. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

“Have you got a mobile phone?”

“Yes.”

“Right, dial this number.” Arnold dictated a number.

He turned to the two on the floor, one in the foetal position, the other showing signs of regaining consciousness.

“You are both under arrest for assault. You do not have to say anything…”

Their victim handed Arnold the phone. “It’s ringing,” he said weakly, then sat down on the frosty path.

The desk sergeant had answered the call.

“Chief inspector Lane here. Can you send a car to Kings Street and an ambulance? There has been an assault and I have arrested two assailants. For Christ’s sake hurry; I am bloody freezing.”

The car had turned up about ten seconds after the ambulance. The victim was taken in the ambulance, the two villains in the car. Arnold told the two constables he would sort out the paperwork when he reported for duty.

He was about to return to his flat when he saw something in the gutter on its edge against the kerb: a tiny plastic box. It turned out to contain an SD card – familiar now, but unknown to him at the time. He had picked up the box and slid it into the pocket of his dressing-gown to be inspected later.

Breaking from his reverie, Arnold wondered what on earth he had done with it.

He remembered he had gone into Marks and Spencer that same day and treated himself to a new, thicker dressing gown. He had nearly bought himself a pair of slippers too but resisted that temptation. He hadn’t thrown away his old dressing gown: the attachment to his late wife stopped him from doing so.

Presumably, the plastic box and its contents were still in the pocket of his old dressing gown. He wondered how he could have forgotten the box and then remembered the armed bank robbery.

The news had come in as he returned to Parkside later that day, after his lunch and shopping expedition. He had very nearly lost his new dressing gown in the confused response.

Commandeering a pillion seat on a motorcycle – the police driver nearly threw a fit at Arnold’s lack of crash helmet – they had made their way to the bank.

It worked; they reached Cherry Hinton before the squad cars. The getaway driver, seeing the police motorcycle, bravely drove off, abandoning his colleagues to their fate. Arnold sent the motorcycle driver after the getaway car and looked around for something to use as a weapon.

There is never any shortage of bicycles in Cambridge. Arnold found one leaning against the wall of the bank although chained, the padlocked chain immobilised the back wheel against the frame, without securing it to the building. He had stood close to the doorway, gripping the bicycle by the back wheel. As the first man came through the door, holding a shotgun, Arnold swung the bike, knocking the shotgun barrel into the man’s face causing him to pull the trigger. The gun discharged into the air, the second man tripped over the first and both fell into a heap at the bottom of the stone steps. Arnold threw the bike down on top of them, picked up the shotgun and covered the two men with it.

“You two you are nicked. Do not move.”

At that moment two squad cars skidded to a halt outside the bank, sirens blaring and blue lights flashing. A number of visibly shaken bank staff and customers appeared at the Bank’s door. Assured that there were no other robbers on the premises, Arnold asked them to remain inside. Adrenaline had kept the cold at bay on the back of the motorcycle and during the action but, as the robbers were led away, Arnold became aware of the chill of the day.

It was dark and frosty again when he returned to Parkside. He’d decided to call it a day and remembered his new dressing gown, eventually tracking it down in lost property. He slithered home on the icy paths. Once there, he had folded up the old dressing gown and placed it in the bottom of his wardrobe, without giving any further thought to the small plastic box.

He wondered if it was still there.

It was amazing how much clutter you collect, he mused as he removed books, DVDs and a couple of new unopened shirts before finding his old dressing gown. The small plastic box was in the left-hand pocket. Arnold held up the dressing gown. Definitely past its best he thought, viewing the threadbare collar and frayed cuffs, but he refolded it and returned it to the wardrobe. He still could not bear to part with it.

After replacing the other items in the wardrobe, he turned his attention to the plastic box and its contents.

He turned the SD card over in his fingers. It had a maker’s name and 64 GB on it. There was no other marking on card or box. It could be a new card, he thought.

His tea was now cold. He made a fresh cup and sat down to drink it whilst thinking. Abruptly he rose again, carrying his tea to the bathroom.

Eight o’clock saw him at his desk, Marvin open in front of him open and switched on; a cup of coffee to one side. The screen lit up with a message.

“Good morning Inspector Lane, you have an SD card you want me to look at; place it in the slot.”

Arnold did as instructed and waited.

“Not something I can make sense of I am afraid; the code is unknown to me.”

As text filled the screen, Arnold thought back to his meeting with Sylvia Miller the previous day, and her description of the time machine.

Marvin typed, “Could be, we really need those passwords.”

Arnold thought some more. Might it have some connection with the time machine?

The words appeared on the screen.

“I don’t know; I only store and process data. I receive some of that data by way of thoughts; otherwise it comes to me electronically through computer networks and the internet. If I don’t have access to that information, I can’t process it. There is information on the card which can only be accessed with the right passwords; until we have them, I can’t unlock it.”

Trying a different tack, Arnold thought about the disappearance of William Miller. He ran the information through his mind, hoping that Marvin could offer some insight.

Marvin responded. “It could involve a time machine, yes. I understand your thinking, but we need more information. Here is Sergeant Drew with your coffee, Good morning Sergeant Drew.”

Roger put the coffee on the corner of Arnold’s desk next to the earlier mug, now empty. He glanced at the screen and stood sipping his tea.

Arnold looked up at him.

“Thanks, Roger. Do you remember the armed bank robbery in Cherry Hinton earlier this year?”

“The one with the weaponised bicycle?”

“That’s the one. Earlier that day I arrested two lads who were beating the living daylights out of another in Kings Street. Could you find out who the victim was? How he was connected to the two who were beating him up?”

“Urgent?”

“Yes please.”

Roger picked up his tea and walked to his desk. Arnold turned back to his notebook looking for another line of enquiry. Drawing a blank on that front, he checked through messages on post-it notes stuck to his office computer screen, none particularly urgent.

Just as Arnold reached reluctantly for the expenses sheets that had magically multiplied since he last looked, Roger returned.

“My word, Roger, that was quick.”

“The two yobbos are known to us with plenty of previous; the victim though may be of interest.”

“Oh?”

“One Justin Black, employed at Plantagenet Software.”

“Is there any connection to these two villains? It was early in the day for those types to be about.”

“They were on the way home from a night out apparently, both the worse for drink. Just an opportune mugging, it seems – something they both have form for.”

“Was Mr Black okay?”

“He seems to be; we heard nothing more from him. The two you sorted out pleaded guilty at the magistrate’s court and got three months apiece.”

“Do we have an address for Mr Black?”

“There is nothing with his details.”

“What about a phone number? I know he had a mobile.”

“No, nothing listed.”

“I will have someone’s guts for garters. Okay, I will phone Plantagenet and have a chat with Mr Black to see if he lost anything at the time.”

Roger returned to his desk Arnold picked up his phone and punched in the now familiar numbers for Plantagenet Software. Once connected he asked the receptionist if he could speak to Justin Black.

Justin Black had left earlier that year, about a month after he was attacked.

 

 

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