Book Review: I am the Sea by Matt Stanley

1870. Apprentice lighthouseman James Meakes joins two others at the remote offshore rock of Ripsaw Reef – replacement for a keeper whose death there remains unexplained.

Meakes’ suspicions grow as he accustoms himself to his new vertical world. He finds clues, obscure messages and signs that a fourth occupant may be sharing the space, slipping unseen between staircases.

With winter approaching, the keepers become isolated utterly from shore. Sea and wind rage against the tower. Danger is part of the life. Death is not uncommon. And yet as the storm builds, the elements pale against a threat more wild and terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

One of multiple books from A Box Of Stories, where this is one of the challenge books to read a non-romance based book. It can also be classed as a Gothic/Spooky novel. The fact I’m still reading it in early September says as much about me as it does the book. (“hiding” in the handbag for 2 weeks of August naturally does not help the reading process. Not wanting to find a book – any book – also says something about me and reading right now).

Set in 1870, James Meakes, a man of undetermined age, goes out to start an apprenticeship at the Ripshaw Reef Lighthouse. There are 2 other men the – the Principal (an older man with peculiar, obsessive habits) and the Second, Adamson, a churlish and moody man prone to vicious mood swings, fuelled in part by alcoholism. Both men are, by definition, flawed. On paper Meakes is suitable for the specific quirks of being a lighthouse man, but it soon becomes clear that his credentials are dubious and open to interpretation regarding their validity (e.g. it appears his letter of recommendation from his uncle was written several days after his uncle’s violent murder).

A commissioner arrives for the Annual inspection, but disappears later that day in rather suspicious circumstances (did he jump or was he pushed – and who by?). The Principal is also heavily injured – likely fatally – following a massive argument. Meakes and Adamson are left alone in a remote lighthouse, cut off from everyone else by the dire winter weather. Where better to keep two men suspected of murder than in an isolated building? No Jail could keep them better.

Everything is made worse by the isolation, the animosity between the two men, and the lack of sleep overall.

There is also a young boy that appears and disappears within Meakes’ company. Meakes cannot trust Adamson to confirm that the child is real, and does not trust him not to use the detail as a way of torturing Meakes in some way. Does the child exist or is he some kind of ghost?

I will admit I skipped parts of this book, especially in the last 100 pages or so. This is partly due to the overall problem I have with reading at the moment, and partly due to the verbosity of the author. Whilst the following is not indicative of the overall book, it is from the book itself and gives an indication of the bits I skipped:

Listen long enough and words materialise in the vortices, the wash of rushing elements – a tumbling, random lexicon. Whittawer hypabyssal, Syncope bursiculate, Onychomancer hellebore. Elytrum murrion, Areopagitic. tephritic. Nephritic. Protomartyr protomartyr somnolescent sesterce

A shipwreck brings strangers into the lighthouse, as well as refreshment casks of alcohol. The mariners dont speak much English but bring disruption into an already strained living environment. Adamson becomes the defacto friend to the sailors (at least whilst they’re all drunk) and the sailor’s behaviour descends into an implied rape and definite murder.

Meanwhile the storm outside is a good allegory for the mess that’s going on inside, where the two keepers are literally at each others;’ throats, making accusations against each other, culminating in the desctuction of both the lighthouse and then men inside.

About the Authour

Normally, at this point I try to give a brief overview of the authour and a link to a relevant website to garner traffic from anyone who has got this far. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out, and this is such an occasion. I’ve found no bio details for this authour, and no link to his books. Please assume you can buy from all known outlets in all known formats. Please advise if anyone knows different, and I will amend accordingly.

This is a good Gothic Horror novel to read as the autumn and winter comes in. I did struggle with the language where some of it could have been dropped. I know in the 19th Centaury, an man of “independent wealth” would expect to have a good Classics education but really, it got too hard and boring to get through.

Inspector Montalbano: August Flame, Collection 4 Episode 1

Montalbano August HeatThis is where (apparently) the TV show differs from the source book.  This is number 10 in the Commisario Montalbano books which is called “August Heat”.

Please note that I watched this episode/read the book over two years ago and this post has been sitting around pretty much since then. I am aware I am out of sequence at this point. I decided to publish in order to clear up my scheduled posts. Apologies if i have missed something as a result.

August is the hottest summer month in Sicily and Montalbano is forced to remain at Vigata, taking care of police business.  Apparently in the book, Livia joins him, and brings  a friend (with husband and baby) and asks Salvo to rent a beach house for them. In the TV Programme, a heard but unseen Livia goes out on a boat with a friend called Gianfranco and is fed up with Salvo refusing to come out and join them.  It is Mimi who rents the rather nice house and all is well as the holiday develops nicely, until the day Mimi’s little boy Salvo disappears. Montalbano rushes into the garden to help in the search and discovers a tunnel that will reveal sensational surprises, including a trunk with the body of a missing girl who disappeared six years before.

As he begins his investigation, Montalbano makes the acquaintance of the victim’s twin sister Adriana Monreale. Suffering in the terrible August weather, and jealous of what might be happening with Livia on the boat, Salvo is grumpy, jealous and out of sorts. Having previously rejected the come-ons by various other women, it is the attentions of the much younger and very attractive Adriana – who makes no bones about finding Salvo attractive – that breaks his resolve one night when she strips on the beach to go swimming in the sea. Next thing, Salvo has come up behind her in the water, and one thing leads to another, with the pair finally making it back to the house to finish commisario

Along with Fazio – who has spotted the underlying tension between the two and tries to warn Salvo not to take it forward – the pair hatch a plan to bring the killer to justice, using Adriana as bait. The following morning finds Salvo arriving at the holiday let, Adriana, Fazio and Galuzzo already in place. There’s a short, post-coital kiss between Salvo and Adriana (Salvo looks embarrassed and confused, as if he doesn’t want to be caught by Fazio, or is immediately regretting things) before he hides in the corner for the killer to arrive. Adriana tempts the killer into the basement before grabbing Salvo’s gun and shooting the killer dead.  Fazio and Galuzzo, who have been hiding outside, hear the gunshot and arrive after Salvo has taken the gun off Adriana and he takes responsibility for the killing. Despite suspecting otherwise Fazio and Galuzzo don’t argue with him.

It’s an interesting balancing act when it comes to the relationship between Salvo and Livia – he does seem to love her; has been faithful to her (apparently) all these years, despite the temptations – something Ingrid throws back in his face in a later episode – but he wont marry her and seems satisfied with them living a plane trip apart. It was therefore a case of “oh Salvo, really!?” when he follows Adriana into the sea – he chooses her (of all people) to have his mid life crises with? (she’s early 20s  and judging by elapsed time, he’s in his mid 40s . I did the maths at one point and I think Zingaretti’s actual age closely matches Montalbano’s in the series – there’s 15 years between the first episode and the last of series 9 in terms of both storyline and rate of episode production).

The heat of August is also reflected in the clothes the characters wear – they haven’t resorted to tshirts and shorts, but gone are the leather jackets and the long woollen overcoats favoured during the rest of the series (which is filmed in the off season in Sicily, and therefore relatively cool). Fazio looks suitably hot and out of sorts, and somehow Salvo has managed to acquire the only battery operated fan in the station.

Inspector Montalbano: Find the Lady, Collection 3 Episode 4

Please contact for any copyright issues

Please note that I watched this episode over two years ago and this post has been sitting around pretty much since then. I decided to publish in order to clear up my scheduled posts. Apologies if i have missed something as a result.

“Find the lady” is an old card shark’s game, which links to the original Italian title of “The Game of the Three Cards’. which is not based on any of the books in Andrea Camilleri’s series but may be based on a Camilleri short story.

The episode stats with an old man taking a slow evening walk along a well-lit empty street, not noticing he’s being followed by a car. As he goes to enter a house, the car pulls up, and a man gets out, and “persuades” the old man (Girolamo Cascio) into the car.

On the way into work, Salvo sees a funeral with only one mourner. The dead man is Cascio, the mourner is his accountant Ciccio Monaco. Having got wet in the rain, we get the mandatory topless shot of Zingaretti as he changes shirt whilst talking to Fazio. Girolamo died in a hit and run which was dealt with by Mimi, who hasn’t been seen for days.

Salvo goes to lunch…..I’m beginning to recognise external sets!…..and is approached by Monaco, who says the death makes no sense….there are no skid marks on a well lit road, Cascio had been nervous due to phone calls, and had asked to be walked home after dinner with Monaco, which Monaco couldn’t do due to his sciatica.

Salvo visits Dr Pasquano in his private club, to hear that Cascio died at 2am, full of drink, covered in vomit, and hit with such force that his spine was broken in half.

Coming out of the club, Salvo finds Mimi and makes him sit and talk at a local cafe. Mimi’s had a tip that Tarantino is in town, a fraudster who robbed half of Vigata, then disappeared. Salvo complains that Mimi has spent no time on the Cascio case, then realises why as a beautiful woman in a tight dress comes sashaying down the street. It is Gloris, Tarantino’s wife, and Mimi is clearly in lust.

Salvo goes to visit one of the older judges, who tells him of the Rocco Pennisi case from 20 years earlier. Pennisi killed his lover’s husband, was convicted of murder, and had been released several days before and now Cascio is dead. Turns out that Cascio worked for Pennisi, and his fortune only started after Pennisi was jailed.

Pennisi comes to the station but the interview is unproductive. Salvo goes to visit Tommasino, who has appeared in previous episodes, who is Pennisi‘s cousin and he fills in some background. Renata was initially engaged to Rocco, but then got married to business partner Giacomo. Giacomo finds out about the affair, and when he is found dead, Rocco is blamed. Renata is the one to initiate everything, but was ambivalent at the trial. Tommasino thinks that with the conviction, she manages to get rid of Rocco and Giacomo in one go. There is good use of flashbacks, showing that Rocco in particular was much more dynamic and animated than when Salvo met him. It’s also rare to see people smoking on tv anymore, especially at the dinner table!

Salvo visits Gloris, who is a massive flirt, showing legs and cleavage a plenty. She takes the phone off the hook as they talk “in order to not be disturbed”. Salvo asks a few light questions, but mainly takes the chance to look round the rooftop of the house, which has a very nice garden connecting to other buildings.   Mimi is upset when he finds Salvo has visited Gloris, but calms down a little when Salvo points out what Mimi doesn’t see because he is thinking with the wrong part of his body…there are multiple escape routes from the house, Mimi needs to check out for garages or something similar that Tarantino could be hiding from. Taking the phone off the hook is to allow Tarantino to listen in, as he’s jealous, but it means he’s nearby.

Salvo visits Rocco’s sister Virginia who is blind. She tells of days leading to the murder where some gas men came to the house to do checks and went upstairs even though there were no pipes there. A few days later the gun that had previously been kept in the bedroom gets used in the murder.

Xavier Granieri, an Argentinian, is found dead, having being killed execution style. Pasquano thinks he was killed elsewhere and has had plastic surgery.  Investigations into Cascio show that he colluded with the Ricolo mafia family that got him the contracts that made the company rich. Salvo visits Monaco, who tempts Salvo to stay for dinner….it is pasta with broccoli after all!…..and manages to get Salvo talking as he eats. Monaco confirms the mafia connection, whilst giving detail of the voice calling Cascio having a weird accent and sounding rough.

The team get a recording of Granieri’s voice from his answer phone….well done Caterella! Monaco confirms it was the man calling Cascio. Rocco’s sister isn’t sure, but could have been the gas man.

Salvo returns to find Tarantino being taken away after being arrested. Mimi assures Salvo he’s stopped sleeping around but it seems more to convince himself.

It turns out that Granieri is not who they think he is, but is an ex Sinagra man called Salvatore Lucia, “leant” to the Riocolo family, and who emigrated to Argentina a few months after Rocco’s trial.

The team know that Lumia is the son of the shepherd they met when they found the body, so pay him a visit. He’s not home so Salvo waits alone. When the Shepherd comes back, it is clear he is old and probably ill. He admits his son returned after 20 years away, and admitted killing 8 people. It was when he admitted to killing a 9 year old that the father shot him with his own gun. He hadn’t killed himself as he wanted to square things with Salvo before dying. Salvo leaves the building, alone, and it is unclear as to whether the man is dead or alive – if the former, has he shot himself in Salvo’s presence, or, if Salvo did it himself?

Salvo calls Renata in, and puts a theory on table….Cascio had Giacomo killed and framed Rocco as a favour to Renata, Granieri returns to blackmail Cascio and put pressure on Renata but kills him when it doesn’t work. She kind of confesses, but believes it won’t go anywhere due to lack of evidence. The question therefore is….who killed Granieri?

Inspector Montalbano: The Spiders Patience, Series 3 Episode 3

The Patience of the Spider is book 8 in the series. In the book, Salvo is recovering from injuries from the previous book and having to pull himself out of self-imposed seclusion. This is different to the upbeat note on which we finished the previous TV episode Equal Time.

Please note that I watched this episode/read the book over a year ago and this post has been sitting around pretty much since then. I decided to publish in order to clear up my scheduled posts. Apologies if i have missed something as a result

Salvo is woken by Caterella who explains in his roundabout way that a girl has been reported missing. Her father went looking for her when she didn’t return home the previous evening, but he found nothing. Her moped was found by her boyfriend, off her usual route and facing the wrong way. The working theory is that it’s a kidnapping, so the team go to visit Susannah’s father Salvatore Mistretta at home. The house has a large hallway with impressive stained glass in one of the indoor doors. Rather than stand in the hallway, they go into a more private area, another large room that’s well-lit but heavily underused. There is no money to pay any ransom, with the house already mortgaged, and the mother lying upstairs dying from an unknown undefined illness.

Salvo goes to visit Tina, the girl Susanna was studying with the day before. A big fan of Salvo’s, she tries to delay him long enough to allow her friends time to come round for photos, and she lets it be known she’s single etc. Nothing really useful comes out from the interview and Salvo excuses himself as soon as possible (note to the set people: I think I’ve seen this apartment door before).

Salvo talks to Susannah’s boyfriend, who admits that they had had sex for the first time on the day she disappeared.

The Commissioner calls to say the kidnapping has been handed over to Valente as he is more experienced with kidnappings. A taped phone call is made to the house, and in talking things over with Valente…who Salvo calls Fifi….the theory is that these are not professional kidnappers and are therefore more dangerous.

Nicolò , the TV journalist, makes Salvo come to the office and plays him the kidnap tape – the same one that was played at the home. As they discuss whether to broadcast the recording, the rival station plays it anyway. It appears the tape has been sent everywhere which is contrary to what kidnappers usually do. It seems the family lost all their money about 6 years previously, Nicolo doesn’t know why.

Salvo gets a call from the Commissioner to say that Mimi has been in an accident, which means he will be out of action for a while. Salvo goes out with Galluzzo, who has some form of food poisoning. Whilst Galluzzo is on a toilet break in the bushes, Salvo looks around, sees a farm offering fresh eggs, but also thinks he’s found the girl’s moped helmet, which has been missing until now.

He visits the farm which does sell eggs, but the wife offers sex as a sideline, as a result of her husband losing his legs in an accident several years previously. She believes a car turned up one evening and turned around but she didn’t see who. Salvo says that she will be interviewed, but she must make out to be just an egg seller. The woman mentions Dr Mistretta (Susannah’s Uncle) in passing as the one who recommends pain relief, which costs money she doesn’t have.

Salvo visits Dr Antonio Peruzzo, who lives alone in a country home far too big for a single person. It was a working farm/press/grove but most is now shut up. Antonio says his Sister In Law Giulia was poisoned. Seems everything went downhill 6 years previously, where Giulia and her brother Antonio had been close after being orphaned as children. When Giulia got married she and Salvatore went to Uruguay, bringing Antonio with them. At this point of the interview, the phone goes….there’s been another ransom call. They ask for 6 billion lire, rather than euro, which gives a clue they are still thinking in old terms. Salvo wants to put pressure on Mistretta to come up with money, but Fifi is not sure…

The rest of the story comes out…Antonio Peruzzo makes money in Uruguay through shady deals, returns to Sicily, makes more shady deals, gets investigated, borrows money, doesn’t repay, companies are made bankrupt, everyone falls out. Giulia is now sick from life whilst her brother’s businesses are doing fine.

Salvo visits Mimi in hospital where he has broken ribs etc but is still walking. Salvo now thinks they didn’t kidnap Mistretta’s daughter but Peruzzo’s niece. The town’s gossips are split in two as to whether Peruzzo should made to pay of not. Photos of the girl, proving she’s still alive are sent in and Salvo has some of the photos enlarged, spotting something interesting on the wall. He also visits the Mistretta house, which looks a fabulous house, but the further in you get it is clearly in bad repair.

Mimi discharges himself from the hospital, reports that Peruzzo’s wife got recognised and attacked in the street and two lorries got set on fire the night before. Mimi thinks Peruzzo will pay up.

Salvo and Valente go visit Peruzzo’s lawyer Luna, who tells them the kidnappers rang Peruzzo 6 hours before they rang the police, to say that Peruzzo has the money but no instructions what to do next. Salvo doesn’t like the Lawyer’s use of the word “inexplicably” as he believes the lawyer has known a lot more for a long time.

Fazio pops round to tell Salvo that Susanna had been released an hour before with some drama.

Luna rings Salvo, all miffed, saying that Salvo didn’t think his client would pay up. Money was left in an old necropolis in a bag. Salvo goes to the necropolis and as he’s checking out the bag of money – it’s full of paper and no money -he gets a call from Fazio, saying Valente is on his way, being followed by journalists. Not wanting to be found on site, Salvo makes off, only to find boyfriend at police station having been dumped by Susanna – he realises the sex was a form of saying “Goodbye”. The mother has also died.

Book Review: The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

The Shape of Water is the first in Andrea Camilleri’s wry, brilliantly compelling Sicilian crime series, featuring Inspector Montalbano.

The goats of Vigàta once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner’s verdict is death from natural causes – refreshingly unusual for Sicily.

But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case – even though he’s being pressured by Vigàta’s police chief, judge, and bishop.

Picking his way through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter.

The Shape of Water is followed by the second in this phenomenal series, The Terracotta Dog.

Whilst this is the first of the book series, it is not the first in the TV series. My review of the exact episode can be found here.

Anyway, the events of the book are very similar to that of the TV episode, so I wont repeat here.  The books is translated from the Sicilian-Italian (a feat in itself, apparently). One of the things i struggle with with the TV episodes, is that not everyone gets named. Turns out, the same happens in the books. There are also things/inference in the show that doesn’t happen in the book.

Also: The relationship with Ingrid happens much earlier in the tv show than the book, with a seemingly different over tone in the book than in the book. In the book it’s Fazio, not Ingrid that takes the car down the waterway.

In Summary: the book is similar to the TV episode (something you should expect when Camilleri writes the screenplay too) but there are enough differences to make it worth the read.  Neither is better than the other, so feel happy in reading this book, and the series as a whole

Book Review: Watch the Wall, Miss Seeton by Hamilton Crane

Have the smugglers made a grave mistake?

Customs & Excise are tracking a gang of cigar-smugglers who operate on the quiet Kent coast near Plummergen, home to retired art teacher Miss Emily Seeton. Their attempt at a midnight ambush goes wrong, and a man is found dead.

As Miss Seeton sketches the most notorious tomb in Plummergen churchyard – the one built for 19th-century smuggler Abraham Voller – she meets a young American tourist. He claims to be a descendant of the Voller family, but is he a truly innocent ancestor-hunter, or do smugglers inherit their trade?

When the school concert includes a performance of Kipling’s “A Smuggler’s Song” it begins to seem that everyone is at it … but we can rely on Miss Seeton to ensure that the police will get their man, and the smugglers’ dreams will go up in smoke!

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Ghost by Robert Harris

From the No. 1 bestselling author of Fatherland; Enigma; Archangel; Pompeii and Imperium.

“The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now. I should have said, ‘Rick, I’m sorry, this isn’t for me, I don’t like the sound of it,’ finished my drink and left. But he was such a good storyteller, Rick — I often thought he should have been the writer and I the agent — that once he’d started talking there was never any question I wouldn’t listen, and by the time he had finished, I was done for.”


From my book group (I *Think*!), this is a paperbook, and the latest addition to my #paperonlyreadingchallenge

Continue reading

Book Review: Murder in the Museum by John Rowland

When Professor Julius Arnell breathes his last in the hushed atmosphere of the British Museum Reading Room, it looks like death from natural causes. Who, after all, would have cause to murder a retired academic whose life was devoted to Elizabethan literature? Inspector Shelley’s suspicions are aroused when he finds a packet of poisoned sugared almonds in the dead man’s pocket; and a motive becomes clearer when he discovers Arnell’s connection to a Texan oil millionaire.Soon another man plunges hundreds of feet into a reservoir on a Yorkshire moor. What can be the connection between two deaths so different, and so widely separated? The mild-mannered museum visitor Henry Fairhurst adds his detective talents to Inspector Shelley’s own, and together they set about solving one of the most baffling cases Shelley has ever encountered.

The British Library Crime Imprint is one of the favourite publishers in my book group and the books are often snatched up as soon as they hit the table as an offering.  Unfortunately, this was not the strongest one I’ve picked up in this series, and I found it dragged somewhat and was like reading in treacle. I dont know whether this is because of the fact this is actually #6 in the Shelley series, but the first one I’ve read, and therefore I’ve not got used to Shelley’s ways of working, especially with how he interacts with his staff and his suspects.

The story starts with the death of Julius Arnell in the British Museum’s Reading Room and investigations are clouded from the outset in that there have been 2 other deaths of other English Lit Professors in the same place.   In the end Investigations are concentrated on the death of Arnell, in part because of his daughter, who gets kidnapped partway through the story, and the rush is on to find where she has been taken and rescue her before anything bad happens.

The pace of the story can be slow, in part because Shelley talks in circles with his Sergeant (Cunningham) and various people who were potential suspects minutes before. For example, when the team are off on to the station to hunt down Violet and her kidnapper, her boyfriend turns up with potential new information and instantly gets invited on the trip.  It is whilst on the trip that it turns out that Shelley already knew the information, which begged the question of why the boyfriend was there (to be the one to listen to the summary of the story to date, that’s why).

In short – not my favourite book from this publisher, with a sluggish pace (to me) and the cast rotating just a little too much

Book Review: Death In Provence by Serena Kent

The first entry in a clever, lighthearted mystery series set in modern Provence—a delightful blend of Agatha Christie and Peter Mayle—featuring the irrepressible Penelope Kite, a young-at-heart divorcee with a knack for stumbling across dead bodies.

It’s love at first sight when Penelope Kite sees Le Chant d’Eau—The Song of Water—the stone farmhouse tucked high in the hills above the Luberon valley, complete with a garden, swimming pool, and sweeping mountain vistas. For years, Penelope put her unfaithful ex-husband and her ungrateful stepchildren first. Since taking early retirement from her job in forensics at the Home Office in England, she’s been an unpaid babysitter and chauffeur for her grandchildren. Now, she’s going to start living for herself. Though her dream house needs major renovations, Penelope impulsively buys the property and moves to St. Merlot.

But Penelope’s daydreams of an adventurous life in Provence didn’t include finding a corpse floating face down in her swimming pool. The discovery of the dead man plunges her headlong into a Provençal stew of intrigue and lingering resentments simmering beneath the deceptively sunny village. Having worked in the forensics office, Penelope knows a thing or two about murder investigations. To find answers, she must carefully navigate between her seemingly ubiquitous, supercilious (and enviously chic) estate agent, the disdainful chief of police, and the devilishly handsome mayor—even as she finds herself tempted by all the delicacies the region has to offer. Thank goodness her old friend Frankie is just a flight away . . . and that Penelope is not quite as naïve as her new neighbours in St. Merlot believe.

Set against the exquisite backdrop of Provence, steeped in history, atmosphere, and secrets, Death in Provence introduces an irresistible heroine and a delightful new mystery series.

This makes a change in my “English woman moves to romantic European country” novels, where I usually go for ones based in Italy, so it took me a while to get used to this being set in France.

So: Penelope, recently divorced and recently retired, falls in love with a run down house, buys it on the spur of the moment (partly because she’s fed up with her step-children’s bratty children), and moves in.  Things dont go according to plan, with some of the locals not wanting someone foreign to the area coming in, some of the older gents dont like certain women disrupting their lives (especially women who have experience in forensics finding dead bodies in their swimming pools and challenging investigations); there are still long held grudges about what happened during and immediately after WW2.

However, Penelope becomes sort-of-friends with her chic estate agent (possibility of them becoming investigating partners in future books) and settling in is helped by the arrival of her friend Frankie, who not only knows a thing or two about house renovations, but also has a hitherto unknown ability to speak fluent French (and an ability to down a remarkable amount of wine). Investigations drag on, Penelope begins to settle in and make herself known to the locals, and then there are more murders and threats, culminating in Penelope being in danger herself from a most unexpected source.

In short, an interesting but light hearted crime novel and I would certainly look for further books in this series!

Book Review: Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull

‘From the point of view of the nation, it’s a good thing that he died.’

Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified – but which of them is on trial? This novel has all the makings of a classic murder mystery, but with a twist: as Attorney-General Anstruther Blayton leads the court through prosecution and defence, Inspector Fenby carries out his investigation. All this occurs while the identity of the figure in the dock is kept tantalisingly out of reach.

Originally published in 1938, this was recently republished in under the British Library Publishing under their “Classic Crimes” series.

This is a crime story with a slight difference – the events before and after the death of victim is presented to us as part of the prosecution’s case against the person in the dock. The main difference being that, until late in the book, we dont actually know the identity (or even the gender) of the person in the dock.  the majority of the story is presented either directly as evidence as part of the trial, or via the story of the investigations being undertaken to get the evidence.

Fenby is presented as dogged, persistent, and certainly not as stupid as he likes to portray. Blayton is a seasoned barrister, but this is his first significant murder trial. He believes that he is leading the prosecution case in a suitably professional manner, without realising that he is in fact, annoying the judge with his mannerisms.

The majority of the story is presented in retrospect, starting on the day of the death (there is always the uncertainty of whether the death was natural or actually murder), through the death and the subsequent investigation. Much depends on how the poison got into the snuff, and whether it was the snuff or the subsequent sneeze that killed the man with the weak heart.

(This book was actually read a few months ago, and I’ve only just gotten around to reviewing it, so apologies).