Shelf Control #88: A Knife for Harry Dodd by George Bellairs #Mystery #TBR

Wednesday, the 29th of April–time for Shelf Control, the last one this month! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

Today, my pick is a mystery again, and one by an author I’ve never read but have been hearing a lot about, A Knife for Harry Dodd by George Bellairs. First published in 1953, this is part of the Inspector Littlejohn series by the author, and is book 21 in the series according to the Goodreads listing.

On his way back from the pub, Harry Dobbs is stabbed. Bur rather than calling the police, he calls his mistress and her mother to pick him up. Inspector Littlejohn and Sergeant Cromwell are called in to investigate. What they find on their hands when they come in is a complicated state of affairs, layers of intrigue, and a family riven with conflicts. Later, the victim’s lawyer and father, both meet their deaths much too similarly to be a coincidence. The investigation takes Littlejohn and Cromwell from an asylum to a gentleman’s club, and at every turn they are given false alibis. Who really did stab Dobbs and was responsible for the other two deaths?

I have been reading of this series and its elements of silly humour and crazy characters from Rekha at the bookdecoder (find her review of Harry Dobbs here), and have been wanting to try one. These sound like a great deal of fun, and its being an older series (from the ’50s) makes me all the more interested in picking it up.

George Bellairs

The author: Harold Blundell who wrote as George Bellairs was a bank manager and writer born in Lancashire. He began working at Martins Bank at the age of 15 and continued rising in seniority there till he retired. Between 1941 and 1982, he wrote over 50 books, most of which featured Inspector Littlejohn. Besides George Bellairs, he also wrote a few books under the pseudonym Harry Landon.

Have you read this book or any others by Bellairs before? Which one/s and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover image from goodreads as always; also the picture of Bellairs (here); the book description is from Amazon (here); the info on Bellairs is from Wikipedia (here)

Review: The Glory of Patan by K.M. Munshi

The Glory of Patan is the first of a historical fiction trilogy, set in Patan during the reign of Siddharaj Jaisingh, of the Chaulukya or Solanki dynasty in 11th–12th Century Gujarat. The series was written in Gujarati the 1910’s—this first one being published in 1916, and the translation I read is a recent one by Rita and Abhijit Kothari published in 2017. The introduction of course says that while this is historical fiction, the author has taken some liberties with the romances and relationships and such.

This introductory book in the series opens with the king of Patan, Karndev on his deathbed. The queen, Minaldevi and minister Munjal Mehta are holding the state together, while the heir Jaysingh is too young to rule. At this point, Patan is a powerful state in name only—the fiefdoms that pay tribute to it wield a high degree of power, and there is danger that one of the powerful Mandeleswars (heads of the fiefs) might attack and take over. But queen Minaldevi begins to want to assert her own power, and rule as absolute regent, no longer taking the advice of Mehta. Instead she begins to take advice and support from a jain monk, Anandsuri who has come from the city of Chandravati (where Minaldevi was from) to spread the influence of his religion (and his own power). But this step or rather misstep by the queen leads to some difficult consequences for herself and her young son, as the people of Patan, with great pride in their nation and people, are not ones to give in meekly; while on the other side, many others are making moves of their own, on different scales to gain power for themselves. Will Patan fall or will Jaysingh manage to gain the throne? And will the glory of Patan be restored? Alongside we also follow the story of Devprasad, a powerful mandeleswar who happens to be the king’s nephew, and who with his young son, Tribhuvanpal arrive at Patan, the former to see his uncle before he dies and the latter to meet his beloved. They learn many secrets and face many challenges that change their lives completely.

This was an interesting opening to the series, with the action taking place more in terms of politics and power games rather than on the battlefield—in fact apart from one attack on Devprasad, who has been the target of Minaldevi’s conspiracies in the past, and another small attack on Tribhuvanpal, there is really no bloodshed or major fight. Alongside the political games playing out, conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, the book also explores the idea of pride in one’s nation, in being a people; when Patan’s very existence seems to fall into danger, its people (who seemed docile and peaceful to the queen) unhesitatingly stand up, ready to stand up for their kingdom, to defend it.

But I felt somehow that we didn’t get to see enough of some of the main characters—we hear of Munjal Mehta’s shrewdness, his intelligence, and while we get to see something of him, and understand his ambitions (not for himself but for Patan), learn a little about his life, we don’t really get to see him—perhaps this may be because the events of this book are more focused on one small event or set of events immediately following the death of Karnadev. Minaldevi is a strong character which was nice to see, as was her nice Prasann (Tribhuvanpal’s beloved)—these were ladies willing to take action, to think and stand up for themselves, though Minaldevi has to finally acknowledge her feelings and her mistakes.

Overall, this was a good read for me, though I think I enjoyed the other book I read by the author Prithvi Vallabh (review here) a little more, but that could well be to do with the fact that this one is simply part of a series while that was a complete story in itself.   

The cover image as always is from Goodreads

Shelf Control #87: A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia by Clara Benson #Mystery #TBR

Wednesday, the 22nd of April–time for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, where you got it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

Today my pick is a mystery once again, A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia by Clara Benson. This is the first in the series of mysteries featuring reporter Freddy Pilkington-Soames. I have ‘met’ Freddy before in the Angela Marchmont series by the author (which I have also featured a few times on this blog) where we first come across him in the fourth Angela Marchmont book, The Riddle at Gypsy’s Mile. In that one, he is a guest at the house Angela is visiting, and assists her in solving the case; then he is also a fellow-guest at Fives Castle in book er… five. He comes across in these books as a very Wodehousian character–something like Freddie Threepwood but with brains.

A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia is his first solo adventure, set in 1929. The victim–Ticky Maltravers, toast of London high society, adored by all–but perhaps not really so, since someone poisons him. Various people actually wished him dead and there are plenty of secrets they wish to hide. Freddy, ‘newpaper reporter and man about town’ ends up coming upon the corpse when he is drunk; and it seems his mother has tampered with the evidence. If that wasn’t enough, a pretty girl with blue eyes seeks his help in solving the mystery. And so he must hide the wrong clues, find the right ones and solve the mystery before the police catch on to things.

Freddy, in the Angela Marchmont books, is a fun character (somewhat Wodehousian, as I said) who manages to make contributions to solving the case amidst a bit of foolery, so it will be fun to see how he fares on his own. I expect this book (in fact the series) to have more of a comic touch and tone than the Mrs Marchmont books which are fun but still ‘serious’ if that makes sense, and am looking forward to reading this one, especially since I really enjoy reading the Angela Marchmont books, even when I can guess whodunit.

Have you read any books in this series? Which ones and how did you like them? Have you read any of the Angela Marchmont ones? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover image from Goodreads as always; book description as well: here

Some of my previous posts on Clara Benson’s books: here, here, and here

Books, Cats, Puns!

We love books, and so many of us also love cats! And perhaps also combinations of the two–cats in books, or books with cats in the title–like these.

And then there can be puns–book titles to be specific and that’s what this post is about–a light one (once again since I haven’t finished the books I was planning to review this week). Some years ago a friend and I started making up some cat pun book titles–I know there are plenty around and lots of people do them, but I remember we went on back and forth for weeks (most likely on Shelfari), and had pages and pages of them–great fun to come up with, and hard once we ran out of obvious ones. I somehow thought of them again, and while I don’t remember all that we did (nor can I seem to find any of our lists), here are a few that came to mind–mew mew! (These are no particular order, by the way.)

  • Purride and Purrejudice
  • Romeow and Julicat
  • Harry Pawter and the Purrisoner of Ascatban
  • The Great Catsby
  • The Meower of Catterbridge
  • What Catty Did
  • The Little Purrincess
  • The Purrfect Mewder
  • The Three Mewsketeers
  • Purrcy Jackson and the Sea of Mewnsters
  • Purricles
  • Purrsuasion
  • Mewder in Mewsipawtamia
  • Mewtilda
  • The Feline Comewdy
  • Purry Mewson mysteries
  • The Purrisoner of Zenda
  • The Taming of the Mew
  • The Mewnstone
  • Dracmewla

Hope you enjoyed these! And hope everyone is doing as well as can be in lockdown.

All cover images are from Goodreads as always, and the cat from pexels.

Shelf Control #86: Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir #TBR #HistoricalFiction #Tudors

Wednesday, the 15th of April–time for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, my pick is historical fiction, another of my favourite genres–Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. First published in 2007, this is Weir’s debut novel. This is the story of the nine-days queen, Lady Jane Grey.

A great-granddaughter of Henry VII, and first cousin once removed of Edward VI, she found herself between a queen awaiting coronation and deposed monarch within days. Born in turbulent times, she was the child of a scheming father and ruthless mother for whom she is just a pawn (reminding me a little of Katherine Howard here). And she is caught amidst the struggle for the throne when Edward VI, Henry VIIIth’s successor dies prematurely. She was honest. intelligent, and reputed to be one of the most learned women of her day, with a strength of character that enabled her to weather the storm she found herself caught in. And while she had no ambitions to rule, she was forced to accept the crown, and ended up paying with her life.

Having read (and enjoyed) Alison Weir’s non-fiction book The Six Wives of Henry VIII before (review here), I was interested in picking up some fiction by her as well. Then, a couple of years ago, I came across My Lady Jane, a comic (?)/alternative retelling of Jane Grey’s tale, which I wanted to read but decided also that I wanted to know a little of Jane Grey’s real story (with which I am unfamiliar) before I did that. So, picking up this book made a lot of sense, and I am looking forward to reading it. I only found out while writing this post that this was her debut, so it will certainly be a good place to start!

Have you read this one? Or any other/s of Alison Weir’s fiction? Which ones and how did you like them? Also if you’ve read My Lady Jane, let me know how you liked that! Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations.

Cover image: goodreads

Book/Lady Jane description: Goodreads (here) and Wikipedia (here)

Review: The Great Passage by Shion Miura #JapaneseLitChallenge13

The Great Passage is a Japanese book first published in 2011 and translated in English in 2017 by Juliet Winters Carpenter. The dictionary department of Gembu Books is undertaking a new mammoth dictionary project, The Great Passage—but the one capable full-time employee, Kohei Araki (whose interest in words was piqued at a young age) is about to retire (and thus can come in only part time), and the only other employee, Nishioka is not a really committed lexicographer. But on Nishioka’s recommendation, Araki poaches from another department, a young man, Mitsuya Majime who has a similar interest, even though he doesn’t initially seem confident of his abilities. Together, Araki and Majime, along with Professor Matsumoto, their editor, begin on a journey to compile their ambitious project—with them is their assistant Mrs Sasaki, and along the way others including a new employee, Midori Kashibe, and endless students and collaborators. The dictionary takes a long time coming—over a decade—in which time the department finds itself having to devote attention away from it and to other projects like revising previous dictionaries and putting together an encyclopaedia on a popular anime series. Alongside we also follow the lives of the characters—the people associated with the department—their lives, interests, and romances—and also how being associated with dictionaries, and words specifically changes their view of things.

This was a rather interesting read for me—the opening, learning Araki’s story and how he became interested in words reminded me very much of another Japanese title I read recently, The Forest of Wool and Steel (review here). The whole process of dictionary making and the level of effort, and indeed time it takes was something that really came across to me in this book—also the nuances of the language itself (This is something I’d noticed before in a travel programme I watch where the hosts are also at times confused with the various characters in place names and not clear as to the exact meaning of the word.) Collecting definitions of words from different contributors, making certain they meet standards, and even that the illustrations are not misrepresenting the word they are associated with, besides going through several proofs makes the task a labour of love indeed. From the nature and thickness of the paper to of course each word included (or left out), every aspect consumes time and attention.

I also enjoyed following the personal stories of the different characters as well—Nishioka brings in a lot of humour (though he isn’t the only source) and improves as the story goes on (initially he was a little obnoxious I guess), and sees the project through the way he can, besides supporting Majime and others (in a fun way). Majime finds love (he and his wife suit each other’s temperaments rather well—and both are somewhat eccentric), as does Miss Kishibe. Professor Matsumoto too is eccentric in his own way, obsessed with words, and wanting to use every opportunity to truly understand the meaning of words—his idea is that one can define it best if one experiences it. Since the journey is a long one, one witnesses life’s ups and downs too—the happy moments and sad. The story doesn’t move continuously in time–there are jumps in two or three places.

I also loved how the actual interactions with words, learning new meanings, or just understanding what words meant specifically impacted the characters’ lives as well—giving expression to their vision or simply helping them understand or interpret things in a specific way. Even Nishioka who is mechanical in his approach to his work compared to others begins to feel for the project, and Midori Kishibe who previous worked in the fashion magazine department and becomes associated with it begins to understand what dictionary-making is all about and becomes committed to the task. The end is bittersweet and also realistic.

I enjoyed this one a lot (and yes, Majime’s endless collection of books seemed like a place I’ll find myself at some point—and I loved that there were two cats in the story too!)

Have you read this one before? How did you find it? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover image: Goodreads

I have featured this book in a Shelf Control post previously (here)

Shelf Control #85: The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden and Grace Dagnall

Wednesday, the 8th of April–time for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

After a couple of weeks of picking young-adult fantasies (here and here) and some popular fiction (here), I’m back to my favourite genre, mysteries. This time my pick is one I have waiting on kindle–The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden and Grace Dagnall. This is the first of a series featuring Inspector David Graham (six books so far, see Goodreads here). This one is set in Lavender bed and breakfast in Chiddlinghurst, which has a ‘rich Tudor atmosphere, an enviously manicured lawn’, and a dead body! Found in one of the rooms is Norah Travis who has been murdered–with no witnesses and no motive. Inspector Graham and Sergeant Harris investigate. While the proprietors of the Bed and Breakfast seem to have nothing to hide, a long-time guest is shifty, while there are a number of suspects from an ex-husband to a housekeeper, and questions. This one is described as a ‘modern murder mystery with on old-fashioned feel’.

The author: Raised in Befordshire, England, Alison Golden is the author of the Inspector Graham, Revd. Annabelle Dixon, and Diana Hunter books; the first two are cosy mysteries, the last a thriller. She is now based in San Francisco.

I have read another of the Inspector Graham mysteries, The Case of the Hidden Flame earlier, in which the Inspector, newly posted to Jersey, finds himself investigating the first murder his new police station has seen in decades, a body found at the beach, of a guest staying at the White House Inn, where he is also staying. This was a light-hearted and quick cosy which I enjoyed reading (review here). The Case of the Screaming Beauty, which is set prior in time to this one (I think it was a prequel, but it appears as book 1 in the series now), seems to be on the same lines and sounds like one which will be a fun read.

Have you read this one or any others in this series? Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

The cover image is from goodreads as always, as is the info about the book (here) and author (here)