Shelf Control #53: Death of a Pig in a Poke by Matthew Hole #Mystery

Wednesday, the 17th of July–Shelf Control time! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 261 including all the e-books I’ve downloaded). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. 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 month I’m reading sequels and next in series books, and those are also what I’m featuring (as far as possible) in my Shelf Control posts as well. This week’s pick is a mystery (yet again, my first Shelf Control this month was one too (here)), Death of a Pig in a Poke by Matthew Hole. This is book 2 in the Tarricone Murder Mystery series of which so far as I can see, there are only two as of now. The series features Tarricone and Son, probate researchers. There is also Tarricone’s ‘wily’ aunt Nelly. The first book was set in Agatha Christie’s country house ‘Greenway’ in Devon.

This book, published in 2014, sees Tarricone rushing off to Spyte Manor when Lady Clemency Breeze climbs uninvited into (or perhaps, breezes into) the back of his taxi in London. This leads Tarricone into a murder investigation where there is obviously a corpse, but also a vanishing gardener and a labyrinth in a garden. To add to it, the local detective inspector, it seems, has an agenda of her own. This one has been described by goodreads reviewers as a mix of a classic and new mystery, with plenty of twists.

I picked up this and the first title in the series last year I think, both on kindle when they were available for free. Mysteries are of course one of my favourite genres to read, and Agatha Christie one of my favourite writers in that genre (when it comes to the actual puzzles, there are few who can beat her, and she gets me every time–almost), so when I spotted these (someone mentioned them in a book group on Goodreads) mysteries which are inspired by and set on the lines of Christie’s books, I picked them up. There aren’t very many reviews of this series or much about the author anywhere though, so I will be diving in blind so to speak.

The first book in the series

Have you read either of the books in this series? How did you find it/them? A good, gripping mystery or just ok? Or do you plan to read this or the first book? Looking forward to your thoughts!

The description and cover images as usual are from Goodreads.

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Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (64)

There’s an unwritten law of the universe which assures that the thing you seek will always be found in the last place you look. It applies to everything in life from lost socks to misplaced poisons. . .

Alan Bradley, Speaking from among th Bones (2013)

Image source: Pexels

Shelf Control #51: Naked Heat by Richard Castle #Mystery #Detective #Castle

Wednesday, the 3rd of July–Shelf Control time once again! 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 (Mine is currently at 263 including all the e-books I’ve downloaded). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. 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!

New month, new theme. Last month I’d simply been featuring random picks from my TBR pile in Shelf Control; this time (June review and July plans yet to be posted–probably this weekend) I plan to pick up sequels and series (books other than the first) that are on my TBR, and so for Shelf Control too, I’ll be featuring books from series or sequels. This week’s pick as you can see is Naked Heat by Richard Castle.

This is the second in the ‘Nikki Heat’ series of books by Richard Castle, which I’m sure you know are tied-in with the TV series Castle (wiki here). The book series features NYPD detective Nikki Heat and Jamison Rook a journalist who is following her (with permission from the Commissioner) for research on an article. Working with them are Detectives Ochoa and Raley. The characters are all based on characters from the TV series–Detective Kate Beckett, Richard Castle, and Ryan and Esposito. Other characters like Margaret Rook (Jameson’s mother) and the medical examiner Lauren Parry are also based on Martha Roger’s (Castle’s mother, and ME Lanie Parish from the show, respectively).

In this one, an infamous gossip columnist is stabbed in the back in a case involving a Yankees pitcher, an actor, and a pop star. Heat and Rook investigate.

Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion)
(Source: Goodreads)

I’m not sure who actually wrote these books but the Nikki Heat series (10 books) and Derrick Storm series (5 books) are both supposed to have been written by the TV character Richard Castle (who is a detective story writer in the show), and it is his picture and fictional bio that appear on the books (and on Goodreads-here).

I really liked the TV show for the most part (when they shift focus from Beckett’s mother’s mystery to Castle’s father, I lost a bit of interest)–I enjoyed the plots and mysteries, especially the fact that there were plenty of twists and turns and some witty dialogue as well. Added to this Castle and his family are likeable characters–clever and fun. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t read any yet), the books are pretty good and read like episodes from the show, and if that’s the case, I think they will be enjoyable reads for me. This one I picked up on kindle (last year, I think) when it was on sale. Looking forward to a fun read.

Are you a fan of the show Castle? Have you read any of the books in the series or any of the Derrick Storm books? Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

All the information on the book, TV series, and author is from Goodreads and wikipedia as always.

Shelf Control #49: Diabolic Candelabra by E.R. Punshon #Mystery #TBR #GoldenAge

Wednesday, June 19–time again 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, just pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. 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 month as I wrote before (last week’s post here), I’m simply featuring random picks from my TBR pile in Shelf Control rather than picking books around my monthly reading ‘theme’ as I usually do since I this month, I’m trying to catch up with reads left over from previous months, and haven’t picked a theme as such. So this week’s pick is another such book, a golden age mystery in fact–Diabolic Candelabra by E.R. Punshon.

Diabolic Candelabra (1942) is the seventeenth in a series of thirty-five mysteries featuring Bobby Owen, who works his way up from police constable to Commander at Scotland Yard over the course of the series. In this one, Inspector Owen’s wife Olive is on the hunt for a recipe for chocolates. But where Owen is concerned, a simple hunt for a chocolate recipe doesn’t as expected remain that. Instead into the recipe are added a wood-dwelling hermit, a girl who talks to animals, an evil stepfather, and two very valuable works of art–of course, a recipe not for chocolate but murder! Described as a ‘beguiling story of labyrinths and seemingly impossible murder’ which is a ‘treat for armchair sleuths’.

I picked this one up (with a couple of others in the series) a few months ago when it was free on Kindle. Having never tried Punshon’s books before, I thought that was a good chance to. As far as this specific story is concerned, I like the description–a recipe for ‘uncommonly good’ chocolates which turns into a complicated puzzle, and that too, a Golden Age mystery–just my cup of tea!

E.R. (Ernest Robertson) Punshon (1872-1956) was an English novelist and literary critic, most successful in the 1930s and 1940s. He is best known today as the creator of Bobby Owen; the series featuring Owen was published between 1933 and 1956. Punshon also wrote crime and horror short stories, and was reviewer for many of Agatha Christie’s books in the Guardian when they were first published. Find a full list of his works here.

Do you enjoy Golden Age mysteries? Which ones or which authors are your favourites? Have you read Punshon before–this book or any other/s? How did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

All descriptions are from Goodreads and wikipedia, as always.

#Murderous Mondays: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson #BookReview #Mystery

It’s been a while since I did a #MurderousMondays post, but that’s as it’s been a while since I read a murder mystery, surprisingly for me. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them with this feature too!

This is a more contemporary murder mystery compared to ones I usually read, but with a dual time line, one current and one in the 1930s, it was something that I was very interested in picking up. Truly Devious is the first in a trilogy of the same name. In the 1930s, a tycoon named Albert Ellingham sets up the Ellingham Academy in Vermont for gifted students who are free to study subjects/fields that interest them. One day, Ellingham’s wife and three-year-old daughter are kidnapped and never recovered. Alongside, a particularly gifted student has also gone missing. Days before this event, a mysterious riddle/poem arrived, threatening murder, signed by someone called Truly Devious. Eighty years later, in the present day, a young girl called Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Bell arrives at Ellingham, her particular interest—true crime. And part of her aim in coming there is to solve the Ellingham case, which she feels was never really solved. As she gets settled in to life at Ellingham, meeting other students each with their peculiar interests, she also starts to look into the Ellingham case, in which pursuit the faculty and staff are ready to help and encourage. But as she is doing this, there seem to be indications that Truly Devious might strike again—only Stevie isn’t sure whether what she saw real or something she imagined. But the threats become real very soon when death does strike again. But could really it be Truly Devious back from the past?

Wow, I enjoyed this so much for a book which I knew would not have the solution to the mystery—either mystery in fact—that will only happen in book 3. But despite this, the book was so well paced and gripping, it kept me reading throughout. Each of the characters, students or teachers is well drawn out, they each have their quirks and individual personalities all of which stand out in some way or other, and because of which one doesn’t ever end up confusing them even though there are quite a few. This isn’t a book where there are ‘hold-your-breath’ moments throughout as there can be in some stories, yet it holds one’s interest all the time. The story goes back and forth between the events of the 1930s when the Ellingham kidnapping took place, and the investigation that was conducted there (interview transcripts and such) and the present as Stevie is looking into that case, and also of the murderer who strikes in the present.

The book also explores this concept (which I have come across before in the context of learning and problem solving) of that period/mental state between sleep and wakefulness/ between consciousness and unconsciousness when the best/unusual ideas strike one. For Stevie too, certain connections turn up in this state and yet one is never entirely sure whether they are ‘real’ or what her mind has processed when at that point. This part was really interesting for me.   

As far as the mystery itself is concerned, being the first book, it does of course give one the background of what happened but also, Stevie manages to pick up some clues towards the solution of both mysteries, interesting little and not-so-little points which you can see are significant and why so but not perhaps where they will lead or how these will shape up the whole picture. But still one has enough to want to continue on, to see what she will pick up on next, even though the mysteries won’t be solved in that one either. One ‘revelation’ at the end of this one had me thinking of a totally different book, The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, because it is very like one secret in that book. And speaking of books, this one talks about mystery stories, especially Agatha Christie, also Holmes, as well as poetry so those who enjoy literary references would love that aspect too.

This was an exciting read for me and I really can’t wait to get to the next one. It becomes available in my part of the world around the end of this month, and then it is a wait till next January for the final instalment. But I think it will be worth it!

Sherlock Holmes Favourites: I

Sherlock Holmes
By Sidney Paget, via wikimedia commons

Mysteries and detective fiction are one of my favourite genres to read (you may have noticed :P), and so, of course, the quintessential detective, Sherlock Holmes would have to be among my favourites too, and he is. I love the setting in early twentieth-century England, the puzzles he solves, and his powers of observation, which has everyone of even average intelligence feeling a lot like Watson. I realised, I haven’t really written a post about Holmes or stories featuring him on this blog, so decided to start with a few of my favourite short stories. Oddly enough, though so many of the Holmes stories are surrounded around murders, the ones I’m including in this list are mostly not!

The Red-Headed League: One of my very favourite short stories which I’ve read countless times and also watched the adaptation of (with Jeremy Brett) many times is the ‘Red-Headed League’. One Jabez Wilson comes to visit Holmes with an extraordinary problem. A pawn-broker not doing too well, he saw in the newspapers an unusual opportunity to make a good sum, being offered to only those with red hair. Since Mr Wilson has red hair, his assistant Vincent Spaulding encourages him to apply, and he finds himself selected and given a rather odd task–to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica for a few hours each morning during which he cannot leave the League’s offices. He takes the assignment up until one fine day, he arrives to find a notice that the League is dissolved. Holmes must find out the meaning of this trick that was played on Wilson, and of course, it turns out that there was far more to it than the ridiculous joke being played on Wilson. I love this one for how funny the whole scheme is (one can’t help but burst into laughter along with Holmes and Watson) but also for how Holmes works out the real reason behind it.

Holmes and Watson with Wilson
by Sidney Paget via wikimeda commons

The Adventure Blue Carbuncle: This one I love for both the puzzle and the lovely Christmassy atmosphere of the whole story (the latter probably came through more strongly in the adaptation). Watson visits Holmes to find him examining a hat which was dropped by a man who was being harassed by some ruffians. With the hat was also a goose–the goose Holmes gives to the Commissionaire who found it, but when he cooks it he finds it has laid a rather expensive egg–the Blue Carbuncle, a priceless jewel stolen from the Countess of Morcar, for which theft John Horner, a former convict and now a plumber has been arrested. But how did the jewel get into the goose? Holmes looks into the case, beginning with tracing down Mr Henry Baker, the man who lost the hat and goose, and whose character he deduces rather perfectly from the hat alone (this is one of the scenes I enjoy most in the story). With that begins a chase after the origins of the goose and how the stone came to be in it!

Fun fact: The carbuncle is supposed to have been found in the goose’s ‘crop’, something geese don’t have; this is considered Conan Doyle’s greatest blunder (via wikipedia).

Holmes and Watson with the Commissionaire
By Sidney Paget via wikimedia commons

The Naval Treaty: In this one Percy Phelps, an old schoolmate of Watson gets in touch about a serious problem. He has been ill with brain fever as a result of what happened, and his career is nearly finished. He was a good student at school and through his uncle’s influence has a good position at the Foreign Office, often being entrusted by his uncle, Lord Holdhurst with delicate and confidential tasks. One such was to copy a naval treaty, which is to be kept completely confidential. Percy stays after work to complete his task, and when he leaves his desk for a few moments to see about some coffee he’d ordered, the treaty disappears. There was no one in the office but the Commissionaire, and the charwoman, his wife. But when they are investigated, no leads are found. Now it is up to Holmes to see who could possibly have stolen the treaty, and why the obvious consequences, had the treaty been leaked, haven’t played out yet. Again, I loved this for the way Holmes works out the puzzle which is in some ways very simple, and yet quite twisted at the same time.

Holmes with a Rose in one of the scenes in the Naval Treaty
By Sidney Paget via wikimedia commons

The Man with the Twisted Lip: This case is about one Mr Neville St Clair who has gone missing when on business in London. Mrs St Clair who was also visiting London separately notices his face on the upper floor of an opium den, but when after some difficulty she manages to enter the place, the only person there is a beggar with a twisted face, Hugh Boone. The police thinks she may have made a mistake, but soon wooden bricks which her husband had promised to buy for their son and some of his clothes are found. The beggar is arrested and charged with the murder of Neville St Clair, but he refuses to say anything except denying his involvement, and also interestingly refuses to be washed. Holmes who is investigating finds a rather surprising answer. Once again, not a story involving murder but still a pretty interesting puzzle of which I loved the solution.

Hugh Boone
By Sidney Paget, via wikimedia commons

The Adventure of the Dancing Men: One Hilton Cubitt from Norfolk visits Holmes with mysterious pieces of paper which have figures of dancing men on it. He has recently married an American woman, Elsie Patrick, who refuses speak about her past which had some disagreeable memories and people though she personally has done nothing wrong. They have had a happy marriage so far but messages with these dancing men began to arrive making Elsie very fearful. When Holmes cracks the code that these dancing men represent, he realises Cubitt’s life is in danger but by the time he arrives at his home, Cubitt has been shot. He now uses the code that he has cracked to trace the killer. This is only one of the stories I picked in this set that has a murder, and is a little more sinister in tone than the others, as well as is more tragic. But what I enjoy about it is the codes and code-breaking element which is great fun.

The Dancing Men
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle via wikimedia commons

So there are some of my favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. There are more that I really like and I will write a separate post about them sometime.

Do you like Sherlock Holmes? Which are some of your favourite stories? Looking forward to reading about them!

Shelf Control #40: Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer

Wednesday, the 17th of April, and time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s page. Do share your links with me as well as I’d love to check out your picks as well.

As April 2019 is my month for reading 1930s books, I’ve been trying to include 1930s publications or books set in that period in my other posts as well, including Shelf Control. So, this week to I have another 1930s pick, and another mystery (the first, two weeks ago was a British Library Crime Classic (here)), Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer. Death in the Stocks was first published in 1935.

This is the first in Heyer’s series of mysteries featuring Superintendent Hannasyde, described on Goodreads as “a perspicacious police superintendent for Scotland Yard”. He appears in four books (Death in the Stocks, Behold! Here’s Poison, They Found Him Dead, and A Blunt Instrument), and the series continues with his junior officer, Inspector Hemmingway, who appears in a further four books.

In this one, an English bobbie on his way back from patrol finds a body in evening dress, where else but in the stocks of the village green. The victim is Andrew Vereker, a not-very-well liked man, and in whose family there are several people with a motive to kill him. The family are corrupt, eccentric, and in no way cooperative. So of course, Hannasyde must investigate and identify a killer “so cunning that even his consummate powers of detection are tested to their limits…”.

Georgette Heyer, English writer of romances and detective fiction, was born in Wimbledon in 1902, and named after her father George Heyer. At seventeen, she began a serial story to entertain her brother who was ill, which her father enjoyed so much that he asked her to prepare it for publication and found an agent. This was The Black Moth. She went on to write numerous historical romances (particularly Regency romances), and other historical fiction, mysteries, short stories, and also a couple of essays.

I’ve read a few of her romances which were enjoyable, and also a couple of books featuring Inspector Hemmingway which I very much enjoyed. The mysteries, even when I could figure out the murderer, were enjoyable reads and what I especially liked about them is the humorous tone in which they are written, and the somewhat eccentric characters the Inspector encounters in each of his cases. (Incidentally, another of her mysteries, Penhallow, is an excellent character study, keeping one completely engrossed even when one knows whodunit.) So I am hoping that this first part of this series will have these elements too, and am looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this one or any of Heyer’s mysteries? Did you enjoy them or do you prefer her romances (if you’ve read those)? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

All the information on the book and on Heyer is from Goodreads, and Wikipedia as always!

#MurderousMondays: Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston

It’s Monday again, so time for #MurderousMondays. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many murder mysteries, and of you’re reading any, you can share them too!

As I wrote last week (here), since my reading theme this month is 1930s books, the mysteries I am reading this month are also those written or set in the 1930s. The book I read this week is a British Library Crime Classic, Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston. Charles Kingston O’Mahoney, who wrote under the pen name Charles Kingston, began writing crime fiction in 1921 and went on to publish twenty-five mysteries until his death in 1944 (the last was posthumously published). Murder in Piccadilly was published in 1936.

Robert ‘Bobbie’ Cheldon is twenty-three, jobless and incapable of doing work, spoiled rotten by his mother Ruby Cheldon, and brought up in the expectation of inheriting his uncle, Massy Cheldon’s substantial estate (with an income of ten thousand a year). But Massy has a good few years, may be decades, before him yet. Bobbie however has fallen in love with a very pretty but not too talented dancer Nancy Curzon, who dances at a nightclub called the Frozen Fang. And the only way she will accept his suit is if he has a fortune—now! The only solution his mother and uncle have for the present is for him to get a job which they ensure he gets, but he must start at the bottom of the ladder. And Bobbie doesn’t want to work. However, he is also too much of a namby pamby to think murder, well may be not think it, but carry it out at any rate. But the murder does happen, and Bobbie, wittingly or unwittingly becomes involved, for there are unsavoury elements, friends of Nancy, among them ex-pugilist Nosey Ruslin, happy to nudge him in that direction, since it would be sure to give them a golden-egg-laying goose. And Bobbie is too young and foolish to see what’s coming. When the murder takes place, Chief Inspector Wake of Scotland Yard is given charge of the case, and while he is quick to work out who may be involved, he must find the requisite connections and proof, and the extent that each person he suspects is indeed involved, and this starts a sort of battle of wits with Nosey Ruslin. How will the Inspector put the clues together, and does he manage to do it as quickly as he thinks he can?

This certainly wasn’t a conventional murder mystery since we knew who the victim was and who plotted the murder, but it was still surprisingly interesting reading throughout. In the initial parts, as I said, while it is clear who the intended victim is, and who could be the possible killer, one can’t be very sure whether the murder will actually take place and how, though when it does, we have sufficient warning. And then, while we know who has been plotting the murder, we don’t know immediately who actually did the deed, so this remains a bit of a mystery. Once Chief Inspector Wake comes into the picture, the story for me got even more interesting as one begins to see how he acts on both intuition and evidence, preferring human clues who can reveal things to the more traditional understanding of clues, though even these turn out to help him in more than one way. Watching Nosey and the Inspector pit their wits against each other, even when we ‘know’ Wake will come out victorious turned out to be good fun. And the end, well, that has its own little surprises in store as the characters get their just desserts in a way one didn’t see coming (though there was a hint along the way). Even in terms of the investigation, things turn out quite differently than what I expected, and I was left wondering whether any of the characters really ‘won’. [Incidentally, the characters (a dancer in a nightclub, an ex pugilist, and a penniless young gentleman among them) almost sound as if they’d stepped out of a Wodehouse novel, but here they are more real and far less attractive.] So, this book turned out to be mystery that wasn’t a mystery, and yet had plenty to surprise me when I read it. Entertaining and fun!

Shelf Control #38: Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Wednesday, April 3rd, and time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature, hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR pile. To participate, all you do is pick any book and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s page. Do also leave your links in the comments as I’d love to check out your selections.

So the last couple of months I have been trying to pick books from my TBR for this feature which also fall into my reading theme for that month, and I am going to try and continue that attempt this month as well. This month, my theme is the 1930s, and I’ll be reading books written in that decade (reading plans here). So as part of that, my first pick for Shelf Control this month is a British Library Crime Classic, Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

What it’s all about: This is of course a mystery, one of my favourite genres. The story is set around a hunting party hosted one autumn by Lord Aveling at his country home Bragley Court. Guests include a mystery novelist, an artist, a journalist, and an actress. John Foss, injured at the local train station, is brought to the house to recuperate, and is the thirteenth guest. But suddenly, a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled, followed by other deaths. Detective Inspector Kendall investigates!

This book, first published in 1936, sounds like a perfect classic country house mystery which is something I really enjoy reading. A seemingly harmless country house party with guests that harbour secrets, one of them perhaps turning out to be a murderer–it can certainly make for some interesting reading! This book seems to have received mixed reviews, though a few of my GR friends have liked it very much. I have read one other book by this author before, The Z Murders, which I had mixed feelings about (review here), but the plot of this one, especially the country house setting, makes me want to give it a try all the same. [I also have another of his, Mystery in White on my TBR pile for this month!]

The Author: Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (1883-1955) was an English writer, screenwriter, and playwright. He has written numerous works of detective and other fiction under his own name and pseudonyms, besides plays and short story collections (A full list is on wikipedia here, and while I was too lazy to count, there are well over eighty books on the list).

Have you read this book or any other book by J. Jefferson Farjeon? Which one/s? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!