Love and Fury by Samantha Silva – a fictionalised biography of Mary Wollstonecraft as a revolutionary thinker and mother

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva | Waterstones

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer, thinker and in her own way, a revolutionary. In this novel she is at first presented as a mother, giving birth and failing in health afterwards in the eyes of her midwife, Mrs.Blenkinsop. The baby is nicknamed “little bird”, and will grow up to write a novel which overturned expectations as Mary Shelley. This is not her story, but the story of a woman who had grown up demanding more than conventional marriage. Her back story is told between the observations of Mrs B, a recent widow who becomes totally committed to helping this unusual woman and her tiny child. Moving in its treatment of a difficult birth and woman who realises she is in danger, this is a powerful picture of a woman who had grown up rebelling against her lot and that of all women.

This book is set principally in August  and September 1797, and works on several levels as an account of a difficult birth and a biography of an unusual woman who rebelled against society’s expectations for girls. It does not require any extensive knowledge of eighteenth century life or Mary’s story, and it tells an impressive tale of a woman who was determined to make a difference. There are surprises and twists, and great love. It is not a biography in a straightforward way, but succeeds in telling the stories of women who faced enormous difficulties in so many ways. It is a strong tale of love in several forms and a deeply affecting book, brilliantly written. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this amazing novel. 

From the beginning of the book there are descriptions of an unusual household, at least to the eyes of the experienced midwife who turns up at her door. She encounters the three year old Fanny, Mary’s daughter, and on the basis of her experience states that the imminent arrival will be a girl. “ “Another girl,” said the mistress almost under her breath, “in this world.”. The meaning behind her words becomes clearer after the birth. As they wait, Mrs B suggests that Mary talk to her child to be, and the first switch of perspective occurs. Mary takes over the narration, and recalls how the baby is born, but seems very weak. Mrs B is concerned for both mother and baby, the latter seeming unable to suckle, the mother because the placenta has not emerged. Mr Godwin, the husband seems undecided about calling in a doctor. When efforts are made to deliver the placenta, Mary thinks back to her childhood, her difficult life, her feckless father and the siblings that caused problems. From early on she tries to save people, her mother, her brother who seems destined for an institutional life, and it is a trait which will stay with her. For reasons that emerge from Mrs B’s chapters, Mary keeps remembering, telling her stories of determination that all girls and women should have options beyond marriage, enabled by a more comprehensive education. Her loves, her adventures, her disappointments are recalled with painful clarity as she tells her daughter everything, trying to keep her going,to gain in strength.

This is an important and significant book of a fictional appraisal of Mary’s life, what drove her decisions and actions. It is written with an economy of style and appreciation of a significant woman’s history. I found it to be a beautifully written novel produced on the basis of careful research which is never pushed at the expense of the narrative. It provides a brutally honest account of childbirth and the fate of so many women at the time. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in women’s history and Mary Wollstonecraft in particular, as well as those who enjoy an excellent fictionalised biography. 

In the Beast’s Cage by Mac Altgelt -a fantasy in a small town setting

In the Beast’s Cage by Mac Altgelt

A novel of historical fiction, supernatural forces and near contemporary America, this is a deep and penetrating look at people’s priorities. Looking at a small number of characters, it skillfully reveals their past and present to provide a basis for their actions. Lord Ainsley Blake is a man with a complex and long past who has several dark secrets. He is painfully aware that he presents a real risk to anyone who gets close to him, or he gets close to, and it is one reason that he presents such a mysterious face to the new small town coastal community in America. His arrival does not go unnoticed by those who have special knowledge, and also by a certain young woman who is a real fixture in the community. It is an ambitious tale that covers animal poaching, life in a small town and the love of father figures for their daughter. It has something to say about life and death, and the desperate need to protect a loved one.

 I particularly enjoyed the way that three characters are drawn together by a love of books. It is significant that Ainsley is the proud owner of a unique collection of volumes from over a long period of time, and his newly discovered special friend Ginny Harrison is a huge fan of the literature that has helped her to escape in her imagination from the coastal town in which she has lived for nearly all of her life. This is a book which carefully blends elements of fantasy with romance, a historical tale and the brutality of poaching game. I found it a fascinating read with several surprising twists neatly encompassed in a well plotted novel. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review this book.  

The book begins with a Prologue which tells of an incident in the life of Bruce Kelly, a professional poacher who lacks a concern for the birds and animals he captures, beyond the fact they are not damaged which reduces their value. He is also lacking in any concern for the indigenous trappers who appear to bear the greatest risk. The focus then moves to Virginia or Ginny Harrison, a young woman of habit who is very close to her widowed father. The latter has lived quietly for many years, but now announces that he is going to buy a dilapidated local zoo, and has been working on all the research necessary. Meanwhile a ship with one occupant has arrived in the local marina, the Eugenia, and Ainsley Blake has entered the story. Before long he meets a kindred spirit in dubious circumstances. It is soon obvious that there is a complex story behind Ainsley’s past, and that Hugo is not the only one who recognises him for what he is behind the gentlemanly exterior. Within a short time he saves a local figure, and wins the interest and admiration of not only a local doctor. 

This unusual book is a powerful story which works on several levels. Ainsley is a flawed hero with an unusual past who has strong principles. It is a novel with real depth which draws the reader in, and I was intrigued as to where it was leading. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for an element of fantasy firmly rooted in small community life, and a diverse plot worked out in a neat way.   

The Mix-Up by Holly McCulloch – an honest and funny account of a young woman’s tricky life.

The Mix – Up by Holly McCulloch

This is a fascinating account written with humour and real skill of a young woman who is in a bit of a muddle. Paige makes wedding cakes, mixing up sponges and coming up with ideas which will make a particular design a memorable part of a couple’s big day. It has given her a focus as she comes to terms with her Nan’s death, the one person from her family who supported her through some dark days. Being self-employed is risky – it means that she must embrace marketing and creating an air of confidence so that people feel that she can be trusted, despite the fact that she is really quaking with fear. She has been hurt by her family and crucially her boyfriend, so when her ex turns up with his fiancee to choose their wedding cake, she is completely thrown. Narrated in her own voice, she explains that she forces herself to go to a party, asking the host for a distraction. The confusion which she suffers means that she has the confidence to approach a stranger who she believes certain things about, and plunges into a relationship. Cakes, self image and friendship are themes which run throughout this enjoyable book. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very personal and honest book with its relatable themes. 

The book opens with an admission by Paige.”Well, this is awkward. And surprising. And extremely mortifying”. She has just realised that the prospective customers for a cake who have arrived in her workshop are her ex boyfriend Chris and his new fiancee Pippa. He immediately takes over the situation , leaving her to wonder about her residual feelings for him. Being, she admits “a natural people pleaser” and frankly needing the business, she adopts her usual patter and provides her usual selection. It is only to her special friend Sara she can reveal her true feelings, but there is part of even the understanding mother who does not follow why Paige is behaving with so much uncertainty. An appalling date with a frustrated comedian follows, and Paige adds to her list of disappointing relationships. It is a rather funny tale, because of Paige’s honest voice. This is a very contemporary novel in that Paige can spend hours looking through social media to see the details of Chris and Pippa’s seemingly perfect life. The combination of her lack of social life and lack of demand for her bespoke cakes is sufficiently depressing to send her off to a party held by her friend, the high powered Mika. Milka recommends that she approach a man wearing a black top, an ex boyfriend who is an excellent source of temporary distraction, who does not want a long term relationship. As Paige feels that she does not long deserve a long term commitment, he sounds ideal. The only problem is, there appears to be two men wearing black tops, so Paige must make an educated guess. It is in this way she becomes involved with Noah, and begins to realise that he may have more attractions than Milka led her to believe.   

This book is so well written, detailing the daily life of a young woman who has some bad memories, but whose honesty makes her an appealing character. Her family is well depicted, especially her horrible mother for whom she is never the favoured child. McCulloch writes so honestly from Paige’s point of view that we are on her side throughout, even when she struggles and fails. I learnt something of the problems of making one off cakes, and there is a charming and very funny episode where she sets up a cake with help, even when it is a difficult situation. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a contemporary romance novel with deeper elements, and is certainly not straightforward.     

A Murder at Rosings by Annette Purdey Pugh – Some of Austen’s characters are linked to a mysterious murder

A Murder at Rosings by Annette Purdey Pugh

This is a wonderful novel. It tells the stories of some of the characters from Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in a lively and well paced style, as they struggle to come to terms with the fact of a murder in the gardens of the redoubtable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mary Bennet is visiting Charlotte Collins who has recently been laid low by the birth of her third daughter, while Mr. Bennet has been engaged in loud discussions with Mr. Collins. When the body is identified as being that of Mr. Collins, there are those who link motive to murder remarkably quickly. Fortunately, there is a magistrate on the case, Sir John Bright, who refuses to jump to conclusions, and he appoints a worthy assistant in the shape of the local constable, Robert Archer, wheelwright. While many books of rural crime deplore the local forces of justice, Sir John is determined that no mistakes will be made, that the real killer will be identified, and in this novel he and Archer are assiduous in their “Investigation and questioning”. Not that the narrative is slowed in any way; this is an extremely well written novel which combines so much in a comparatively short space.

This book has many elements of the best Austen continuation novels, such as the consistency of the characters from the original novel. Mary is a young woman with a genuine love of learning that none of her sisters shared, who had a passing interest in Mr. Collins when he was rejected by Lizzie. Lizzie’s disobedience in marrying Darcy against Lady Catherine’s wishes also covers the dislike that Lady Catherine still harbours for the Bennet family in this novel. So many small details of character and plot continue into this novel that it will please the most ardent Austen fan, but it is also very much a book in its own right. The research is impeccable in that when the staff of the big house are questioned, the identification of each house and outside servant is excellent, with even the youngest maid’s role being carefully established. There are so many enjoyable parts of this book that I read it relatively quickly, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to review it.

The discovery of Mr. Collins in the garden is not only the beginning of the mystery; it neatly illustrates the firm character of Lady Catherine and the grumpiness of a gardener whose plants are damaged. Robert Archer is a fully realized character whose romantic interests are stirred by a certain Sarah, but who struggles with the light chat expected for courtship. In 1806 the investigative methods in the case of a most suspicious death are primitive, but Sir John is not one who will condemn an innocent man for want of careful questioning even if “the family” of the big house would normally expect to avoid such a distressing experience. There is an early clue that the murderer has links with the household in the choice of the weapon, but this does not make Sir John and Archer’s tasks any easier.

The murder mystery in this novel is not just an add on to an Austen continuation, but the writer obviously enjoys herself in terms of expanding the roles of relatively minor characters in the original novel. The setting is beautifully described, and the plot is well developed from the first. I would recommend this book on so many levels, to those who enjoy Austen’s characters, those who enjoy a neat murder plot and anyone searching for really entertaining read.   

The Blue Hour by M J Greenwood – Tilly remembers a wartime love, and Ava tries to discover her future

The Blue Hour by M J Greenwood

Two women, two romances in scenic Cornwall. They are separated by time- Tilly’s great love is in the war time past, with Jack, an American aerial photographer with the Air Force. Ava has just exited one relationship which ended badly, and is unsure whether she wants another. They come together because the eighty nine year old needs a carer in order to be allowed home from a nursing home where she has made herself the centre of attention. Ava’s break up has coincided with her being made redundant, and she desperately needs a job with accommodation. Tilly is an outrageous elderly lady, smoking heavily and drinking copiously unless prevented, but still determined to live exactly as she wants. Ava is very nearly broken by everything when she arrives, but becomes determined to make Tilly’s life at home possible and as enjoyable as it can be.

Set in a seaside village with its immense popularity among tourists, this book is a powerfully written story of life in 2015, set alongside chapters dealing with the young Tilly’s life in 1943 and 1944, when she meets Jack. Letters to Jack from his family and fiancé Jess in West Virginia speak of a life there, and his diary entries give a flavour of the pressure of his life in Britain, as he flies missions and takes the tablets to help him sleep and function. Tilly’s life in 2015 is full of the medicines that keep her going, but also of her flirting with any male, and her statements designed to shock. Ava is moved by her fragile state, annoyed by her rudeness, but also inspired by her attitude to life and the need to make the most of her time. This is a novel of two women divided by age but brought together by circumstance and the need to live. It is Jack’s story to an extent, captured in his photographs of a beautiful and vibrant Tilly, and fondly remembered in the harsh reality of a time when her daughter is desperate to regulate and if possible, quieten her mother. Ava’s discovery of a new way of life, her rescue in all senses, propel her to new sensations which are faithfully and honestly recorded in this well written book.

I enjoyed the appreciation that many of the characters have for the place in which they live. A beautiful place for its beaches and views, it also suffers the over attentions of tourists and the amazing house prices which exclude locals and makes Tilly’s house astonishingly valuable. Ava is an honest character, rocked to her core by her husband’s infidelity and her best friend’s betrayal, she soon begins to recover her spirits despite her workload in caring for Tilly. Tilly is an amazing character, always wanting to shock, living with her past love and her continuing desire for physical relationships. She inspires lots of people to diet, and women to make the best of themselves. She is fragile in body but has a spirit which demands attention. Her long ago love affair is the inspiration for her life, both then when she made life changing decisions and now as she seeks out the memories.

This is a novel with some excellent characters, with small incidences that ring true in contemporary life, a lot of humourous dialogue and at its heart well told stories. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book, and I recommend it as a novel which neatly combines historical fiction with contemporary observation, and the amazing character of Tilly.

Miller Street SW22 by Jude Hayland – life in a London street in the early years of the twenty first century

Miller Street SW22 by Jude Hayland

This is a near contemporary novel of three people who move into flats in a newly converted Edwardian house in southwest London in the autumn of 2005. Each one comes with their own history and their present challenges, each one hoping that this move will be for the best, even if it seems a little difficult at the time.

Hayland has written  a powerful novel which combines the stories of disparate lives to great effect. Each character with their preoccupations seems familiar quickly, with problems that are nearly universal. They are drawn together by their sharing of a communal building but can maintain their private lives behind closed doors. They become closer as plans evolve for a centenary of the street party, something which is driven by the determined Frances who takes time from her planned programme of action to change a relationship issue. Sam is adjusting his pace and slowing down to look after his wife Lydia, whose illness is challenging everything they have both known, their relationship to this point having been lived in any place except suburbia. Catherine is a lonely widow whose husband’s death actually resolved a separation that they were experiencing, but is now experiencing life with a sense of sorrow. As the characters come together willingly and unwillingly Hayland manages to develop their emerging stories over the seasons. It is an immersive story which changes pace to permit past events and present challenges to blend into a realistic novel which I fond very enjoyable. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book.

The novel begins with an experience endured by an unnamed young man in the autumn of 1966. While driving home on the eve of his departure in an international adventure, he has a distressing experience which he cannot explain, but which loads him up with guilt which he cannot admit to over the years to come. Moving onto 2005, Catherine is seem arriving at the house to move into her ground floor flat, but in a fitting expression of her life it seems she have the wrong key. It throws her plans just enough to add to her difficult situation; her husband Eddie’s “sudden, dramatic death” had thrown their unresolved crisis into a new framework. Ignoring the advice of her practical sister and others she had sold the home she had shared with the husband who she no longer loved but now missed, buying a flat in an area convenient for her job in a small museum. Meanwhile Sam is escorting Lydia across a city that she is having increasing difficulty with, as he faces that they need to be in the capital with its accessible services, but that a garden and a local park is a poor substitute for the large expanses of space that they had previously inhabited. Fortunately, their daughter Polly is nearby, but even her practical attitude to life cannot remedy his confusion and more. Frances, meanwhile, is ambitious for her schemes for Willow House and Miller Street; she is eager to promote a well-organized celebration alongside a scheme she has for writing letters to change her own life, part of a plan to make certain people reconsider what they have done to her. Not that she feels like a victim as she carefully considers what she will do to vindicate herself.

The power and intensity of this novel is so well handled in the daily lives of those who are central to the narrative; ayland  Hayland has constructed a brilliant collection of incidents and challenges that her principal characters must deal with which seem so realistic and sometimes painfully true. These are not melodramatic events, but the stuff of ordinary lives in the twenty first century. It is a terrifically good novel, and I recommend it to anyone seeking an absorbing read.

Finding Jo by Frances Ive – a young woman looks for herself in a Himalayan paradise

Finding Jo by Frances Ive

This contemporary novel is about finding Jo in two senses; Jo herself narrates the main part of the novel as she seeks to discover more about herself in a distant retreat centre in the Himalayas. The other part is the intervening story of various members of her family as they continue to live without her, with at least one deciding to look for her. Jo escapes her possessive boyfriend Rob in an act of desperation as their relationship seems to be going nowhere, and she begins to realise that she cannot just settle for any relationship. Her family is dissatisfied, dysfunctional and demanding of Jo who is the peacemaker, the one who tries to restore some element of harmony.

“Finding Jo” is a well written book which seeks to immerse the reader in Jo’s discoveries of her past, her present and what she actually wants from her future. It describes the setting of the Jasanghari retreat in glowing terms of a paradise, but also with a keen eye for the people she meets there, with all their foibles and attractions. The book is well paced, as it deals with many of the challenges facing both women and men in today’s society from a place and time that is very different. It is an enjoyable book from the point of view of a young woman who knows that she must make choices – and finds an idyllic place to make them in. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this honest and thoughtful book.

The book begins with Jo’s description of landing in India. It is a cultural and temperature shock; the heat even at 5am is overwhelming, the perils of travelling alone, choosing a taxi, ignoring beggars and much else is tricky to cope with. Fortunately, her accommodation turns out to be adequate with a vital shower. Her journey onwards to the cooler retreat centre in the hills is assisted by English speaking people who are travelling alone or in small groups, as it soon becomes apparent that Jo is a friendly character whose situation at home in Britain is the product of those closest to her having their own agendas and assuming that she will make the effort to settle arguments, look after the children and work hard to make family events like Christmas bearable. Her mother drinks to help her cope with her father who seems to annoy her. Her sister Beth is in a difficult relationship but will not act on the advice that Jo thoughtfully offers. Her brother Michael has always been rather distant, while his wife Hannah wants all the glamour and money his work offers. It is only with their children that Jo finds it easy to communicate. When she arrives at the retreat she discovers the attractions and potential answers to be found in a glorious array of scenery and opportunities for counselling, mindfulness sessions and yoga among other classes. Not that it is all plain sailing, as her relationship with two of her fellow guests is confusing, but overall this is an opportunity to reassess everything without pressure.

This is a thoughtful book which is written with a real insight into what people really want from life and relationships. It comments on the emptiness of many people’s lives as they seek what they think is important in terms of money and relationships. The dialogue is well handled, revealing much about the characters with humour and skill. This is a book which is well worth reading and for its inspiration that there may well be more to contemporary life.  

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering – a gentle and funny republished 1953 novel from Furrowed Middlebrow /Dean Street Press

Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer (Paperback)
FURROWED MIDDLEBROW: They're almost here!: New FM titles due June 7th

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

It is always a joy to discover a new author who wrote successfully in the middle of the twentieth century, and Molly Clavering’s work is a joy in its own right. No huge dramatic events, problems are family crisis, and there is an underlying sense of humour throughout. Focusing on the lives of two writers, the successful Lucy Lorimer and the less successful in terms of sales, Grace or Gray Douglas, possibly partly autobiographical, this is the story of the harassed Lucy as she deals with her awkward but loving husband, Colonel Jack, and her four adult children. It is these offspring that mean that Lucy’s summer is anything but quiet, as she deals with their tantrums, their unique relationships and their problems. In all of these challenges Gray is a source of support, while having her own thoughts about life in the village.

The setting is almost another character; a village which has parties and gatherings culminating in the yearly show and beautiful accessible countryside which offers walks and picnic sites for when home life gets a little too trying. With an echo of Angela Thirkell, there is the difficult daughter, the distracted daughter in law and the lovelorn son to deal with, against the background of local characters who are all dealing with the after effects of a war which shook everything up even though the worse of the bombing was far away. This 1953 novel is funny, endearing and well worth the republishing by the brilliant Dean Street Press in its Furrowed Middlebrow series which goes from strength to strength. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book opens with Lucy being annoyed to hear from Nan, housekeeper and much more, that a local house Harperslea has been sold. She is frustrated because her ever expanding family including grandchildren is not easy to fit into their existing house, especially with their attendant nannies. For this is an age of genteel respectability, where Mary, the much loved wife of eldest son Thomas, gives of an air of distraction in which a cook cannot be kept who will provide wholesome and sufficient meals. Thomas is a successful doctor and Mary suffers from the loss of the excitement of her War service transporting planes for the RAF. When they all turn up at the same time for their summer get together, it is fortunate that Gray offers to take Mary and Thomas, as well as Guy, navel officer, for a few nights, as the latter is suffering the worst part of a romantic disappointment. Thinking of her offspring, Lucy confides that “Sometimes I wish children didn’t have to grow up. One can do quite a lot for them while they are children, but now – It’s so hard to have to sit back and watch them hurting themselves”. Not that this is a miserable book; Lucy is a loving mother whose children are finding life tricky. Her husband is a lovely man who does not understand other people at all times, muttering dire imprecations about noisy children and their mess while fussing over his elderly and loyal dog. When a new character is introduced into the circle with an unfortunate name and a memorable father, more confusion is introduced. A crisis with the easiest of the children makes at least one character reassess his true feelings, and the day of the Village Show shows everyone in a different light.

This is a truly delightful book which introduces characters coping and adjusting to new ways. Gray is a character who observes, comments and sometimes suggests a way through. The writing is light but offers insight into the true lives of those who have enough money and leisure to fulfil their needs, and are genuinely linked by family and friendship in a positive way. A cheerful book, reading about a countryside summer in a detailed but never tedious way is a real treat. I would be delighted to read more of Clavering’s books as she provides a real boost to any reader who enjoys a gentle insight into family and village life in the sunlit 1950s.

Death Goes On Skis by Nancy Spain – a reprinted 1949 novel of humour, murder and its time

Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain, Sandi Toksvig | Waterstones

Death Goes On Skis by Nancy Spain

A republished gem in the Virago Modern Classics series, Death Goes on Skis, is a 1949 farce or murder mystery set in a ski resort in a mysterious European country. There is a quite a group of British based tourists who find themselves in the Water Station Hotel, owned by the misguided M Lapatronne with Trudi and Nelli as chambermaids. The British party include the family of Barny Flaherte, perfume manufacturer, which is extended to include two of his cousins, his mistress Fanny Mayes and her hapless husband, and the governess of his two children, Miss Rosie Leamington. Natasha, a retired Russian ballet dancer, her husband and step daughter are also in residence, with the remarkable Miriam Birdseye and her two associates. When a suspicious death occurs, more than one of the guests decide that it needs investigating, despite the official line.

As Sandi Toksvig points out in her informative Introduction, the humour in this novel works on various levels, with in jokes for those who are aware of the context in which it originally appeared, as well as the somewhat obvious humour of murder mystery set in a confined community. Some of the former humour could be now seen as dubious in the twenty first century, but is no more controversial than many authors’ work produced at the time. Indeed, Spain’s somewhat outrageous personality adds a knowing tone to a book which was very self aware even in its day. As a slice of social history it is revealing, as a postwar read it is lively and funny, and as a simple historical murder mystery with a comic theme it is just enjoyable. I found it an entertaining read and recommend it as such.

I was glad to find a list of characters in the front of this book, as when the story begins to unfold it is useful unless you have previous knowledge of Spain’s novels, where some of the characters are featured in other investigations, as they refer to themselves throughout. Book One “The Journey”, sets up the characters as they travel to the ski resort. Kathleen, a young woman, is described with her hair in a “black page-boy bob (which) flew behind her in elf locks. The effect was hysterical”. Her sister, Toddy, is described as “a tough, gentlemanly young woman…with a polished Eton crop”. Spain’s flair for description flows throughout the novel, as Pamela is later described “she seemed detached, intelligent and amiable”, whereas a room is described as “turbulent with the effects of someone who had dressed in a hurry for dancing without the help of a lady’s maid”. She uses the dialogue to further story and reveal much about the character of the speaker; “It is not money that I mind people stinking of” said Natasha, and moved gently away.”

It is difficult to summarise what exactly this makes this book so memorable; the murder mystery among a small group of potential suspects, romance and attraction among the strangest people, two pairs of people: Roger and Morris who are devoted to Miriam, two appalling little girls who nobody finds likeable. The setting, of a ski resort which allows some characters to show off their skills, others to discover a talent, and the rest to shun skiing with determination. The currency limitation for the British abroad is an issue for some, while others rise above it, and yet others will bet on anything. Overall, this is a book for those interested in women’s writing of the first half of the twentieth century, those who have an interest in murder mysteries written with little reverence for the rules, but most of all for those who enjoy an entertaining read. I will be reading more Nancy Spain books soon!

Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee -Revealing the cover of a book to come in July!

At last – the third book in the entertaining series of canal boat life, murder mystery and a singular journalist! Andy Griffee is responsible for “Canal Pushers” and “River Rats” – featuring the somewhat hapless but always interesting journalist Jack Johnson and the unpredictable Nina Wilde, life on a canal boat over winter is always challenging. It gets more worrying when a body is found in the canal at Oxford, especially when it turns out to be an undergraduate known to Nina’s niece Anna. What is guaranteed is that Jack will get involved – though not in a straightforward way…