Wednesday, 17 December 2008

November's book summary

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham - reread
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
St Mungo's Robin by Pat McIntosh
The Silent Killer by Hazel Holt
Chorister's Cake by William Mayne - reread
The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards
Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Scuba Dancing by Nicola Slade
Opening Night by Ngaio Marsh
Anne of Windy Willows by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham - reread

The murder theme continued throughout November, with more Allingham re-reads and a Ngaio Marsh. After a comment on, I think, Life Must Be Filled Up, I was watching to see on what page Alleyn finally turned up in
Opening Night: it was page 108. Once he was there he was quite forceful, and it was a good story, I thought, with the young heroine arriving in England from New Zealand penniless because she's been robbed on the ship. Determined not to take advantage of her connections, but to make her way in her own merit, she finds herself forced to take a job as a dresser, but on the opening night of a new play, a murder takes place. The theatrical detail, as always with Marsh, is meticulously done, and made me nostalgic for the days of repertory in provincial theatres: though I only observed them from a child's point of view, it was a world I was thoroughly at home in, and loved. My mother might be persuaded to rediscover Marsh for this one, although she doesn't normally read novels.

St Mungo's Robin was a new discovery. Not the first in the series, which might have been a disadvantage, but I don't think that was the reason for my disoriented feeling at the beginning; the problem, I believe, was the host of new characters introduced within a very few pages, most of whom had similar names (the inhabitants of a Scottish almshouse, they were all called Maister Something); also the author frequently fails to attribute direct speech for long passages when several people are speaking at once. This very effectively gives the impression of babble, but leaves the reader somewhat adrift at times, because the main characters don't necessarily have distinctive enough voices. Some speech should be distinguishable by different dialect (for instance, one old man is from Aberdeen, and everyone complains that they can't understand him). I had a feeling that non-Scottish readers might find too much of the dialogue incomprehensible – however, McIntosh deals with this well, usually offering the translation of a "new" word within a line or two. The 1493 setting is Dorothy Dunnett territory (that is, the Niccolo series) – McIntosh isn't up to Dunnett's standard in research or plotting, but now that there is no more from that splendid storyteller, McIntosh will more than do. I'm now reading the first in the series, The Harper's Quine, and for those readers who share my love of cosy crime, I urge you to give them a try (the fully-certified Geranium Cat translation service is available to anyone who gets stuck; a "quine", by the way, is a young woman).

Thanks to Bookmooch I have managed to acquire all six of L.M. Montgomery's Anne books, so that I embarked on a real binge, and am nearly ready to write about them for the Second Canadian Book Challenge. Thanks to a chance comment in someone else's blog (I'm sorry, I've forgotten whose), I learnt that there is now a "prequel", written by Canadian author Budge Wilson.
Before Green Gables tells the story of Anne's life before she sails into the lives of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, and promises to explain how, despite her neglected state, she discovered the world of words and imagination. That should take my score in the challenge from 0 to 7 in one fell swoop!


  1. I love looking at these kind of posts. It helps me keep up to date with the books that are coming out. I am always amazed at how many good books there are coming out. Thank You for this great post.

    Tony Peters
    Author of, Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

  2. I love the expression 'cosy crime' - it so sums up the genre that I turn to for relaxation. Dson't be surprised to see me pinch the phrase some time in the future.

  3. What a good reading month you had!! That's a lot of books. I've never read this E. Peters series, just her Amelia Peabody books. I do love the Anne books, and I think we've talked about the name of our place comes from what you know as Windy Willows and we know as Windy Poplars. I still have my childhood copy of this book. I've just ordered the next two books after The Coffin Trail - can't wait! And I already mentioned that I must read Scuba Dancing soon. I remember 'quine' from the PBS show of many years ago - A Scot's Quair. I tried reading the books (a trilogy) but I hated the father so much I couldn't do it. :<)

  4. Anne talk, my favorite!

    There are 8 books about Anne and her family. Keep going to Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, about her children. Rilla is my favorite book.

    Great month of reading

  5. Tony, will your book be published here in the UK?

    SS, I can't take credit for "cosy crime" but it's too useful a phrase not to share it!

    Nan, I read The Scots Quair at school and just wallowed in its use of language. I remember the series as being pretty good, too.

    Was it just the American version of Windy Willows which was Windy Poplars? Lovely name, either way.

    Raidergirl, I'd somehow formed the impression that these were a separate series - probably confusing them with the New Moon books. So I shall track them down. I've just finished Anne's House of Dreams.

  6. A lovely list of books - can you send them over here please?? I love Marsh but haven't read the one you mention. She is a bit less 'sweet' than our home grown goldern agers I think. her books date more slowly than, especially, Christie's.

  7. Juxtabook, it was a pretty satisfying month's reading!

  8. I read Before Green Gables earlier on this year with slight apprehension, but it is well done and I enjyed it very much. So glad to see all the Anne books on your list as they are one of my enduring reading delights and I love them all.

    I am also a huge Ngaio Marsh fan and simply adore her detective. I am currently on my umpteenth reread of all of them

  9. GeraniumCat,

    My book is available in the UK. You can purchase it at the UK version of amazon, there are also UK bookstores that have my book, not sure which ones. Even a bookstore in Norway is carrying my book now. search "kids on a case" in google (with the quotation marks), to find the UK amazon link, or just search it in the UK amazon, but with amazon search, Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping.
    Hope you enjoy reading it and thank you for your interest.

    Tony Peters
    Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

  10. The prequel to the Anne books has gathered a lot of publicity -- and of course, new popularity for the series. One of the interesting happenings this year was the revelation that L.M. Montgomery had committed suicide:

    Linda Aksomitis
    author of Longhorns and Outlaws