Thursday, 22 March 2018

Recipes for Love and Murder

Recipes for Love and Murder (Tannie Maria Mystery, #1)Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG. What’s not to like? This reads like an Alexander McCall Smith novel realized with a little less humour, perhaps, but with an actual murder to solve and an amateur detective, in this case a cookery writer who has been forced to swap her regular column to one that’s an advice-for-the-lovelorn in a small-town newspaper that is syndicated throughout a stretch of rural South Africa.

Our heroine, Tannie (“Aunty”) Maria, divides her time between chasing up culinary and housekeeping clues (that the police fail to recognize as being significant) and cooking roast lamb, curries, and various cakes to nourish her friends, plus a never-ending supply of cereal bars she calls rusks. As is the case with many books that use food for their binding theme, you’ll find many of these recipes printed in the back matter. Think Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Like Water for Chocolate. I’ve always thought it’s a very generous thing to do.

Andrew throws in Afrikaans terms and colloquial slang freely, but I didn’t get bogged down by them at all. Anything with -berg on the end is a mountain, anything with -bos is a bush, and anything with -bok or -bokkie is some kind of buck, like a roebuck. Blerrie, as you’ll quickly discern, is probably bloody. Sometimes she helps by explaining these things; sometimes she doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, though—it all adds to the book’s local colour. If the statistics she quotes about wife beating and the incidence of murder in South Africa are true (and I suspect they are), then they are horrifying in the extreme.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. Take Tannie Maria’s advice and fill your hearts with love. God knows we could all do with some right now.

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The Monogram Murders

The Monogram MurdersThe Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to this, the first in what I hope will be a very long series, after reading the second instalment, Closed Casket, which I loved. In this book the initial premise is satisfyingly intriguing: three bodies are found on separate floors of a luxury hotel, each in a locked room, each laid out ceremoniously on the floor, and each with an initialled cuff link inserted into their mouths.
Hannah has the ability to paint truly memorable characters with a few strokes of her pen, aided by a great ear for speech patterns—which, in this case, she even makes use of to provide Hercule with a clue.
Though I enjoyed the bulk of this book, the reveal felt overly complicated by a series of twists and turns which hinged on distinctions that were a little too subtle for my own straightforward tastes (and those of Inspector Catchpool’s, come to that). And although it’s entirely possible I might have missed their explanations, there seemed to be events (e.g., who Thomas Brignell, the painfully timid clerk, was seen with down in the gardens; the reason that necessitated the final murder) that weren’t explained (if anyone cares to enlighten me, I shall be eternally grateful). Even so, there’s much to entertain here and this is still a series to keep your eye on.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Death Descends on Saturn Villa

Death Descends on Saturn Villa (The Gower Street Detective #3)Death Descends on Saturn Villa by M.R.C. Kasasian
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was an unexpected find, not least because it’s set in my own genre and era. It’s 1883 and when London’s foremost personal detective Sidney Grice is called away to Yorkshire on a case, his goddaughter and ward Miss March Middleton decides to become London’s first foremost personal lady detective with disastrous results to herself.
Like many a Wilkie Collins, the first-person narrative is shared between characters, and, just like Wilkie Collins, Kasasian doesn’t mind injecting a lot of humour. The style, which is like no other I’ve ever read, careers between absurdist comedy and high Gothic. Although they both work, I’m not sure they always sit well together and the change can be a little unsettling, especially when it comes mid-narrative. And yet the story is always grounded in first-class research.
The characters are wonderful, right down to the slovenly maid, Molly (even if in real life “nobody would not never speak this way, never not”). Your heart soars when she’s allowed to become something more than a comic cypher.
As for the mystery element, there are some truly puzzling accounts of the book’s various victims apparently putting themselves to death, with equally ingenious, intricately set-up solutions—which again seem to be based on scrupulous research (Uncle Tolly’s bedroom; Mrs Prendergast’s corsets).
Since this is the first time I’ve delved into this series, I have no idea whether the author routinely ends his books with a character reflecting on the events some sixty years later (1943), or whether this was unique to this one, but here he poignantly juxtaposes his novel’s subject matter and themes with the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews.
I am looking forward to reading more.
But that’s just my own humble opinion…what do you think? Do let me know!

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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Monthly Post: March 2018

Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2)Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.22 of 5 stars

Winter is here, and I’m not just talking about Game of Thrones Season 7, which I got to watch for the very first time just last week—their best writing yet! My back continues to heal apace but, again, no new post I’m afraid. This month’s giveaway is a free download of Octopus: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Throttled Tragedienne (#2). This time the fourteen-year-old Victorian boy detective is off to enjoy an evening at the theatre…with unexpected and truly tragic results. Offer ends on March 31st 2018.

“Here is a sensational historical fiction who-dunnit that gives nothing away until the very end. To me, it reads like an old time radio show. It leaves you breathless.”—Connie A, LibraryThing Early Reviewers (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow