Sunday, 28 February 2010
• The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
• Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
• The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
• The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards
• What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies
• Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes
• Clouds Among the Stars - reread
• Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
• The Green Library by Janice Kulyk Keefer
• Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde
• Three Houses by Angela Thirkell
• The Cat Who Tailed a Thief by Lilian Jackson Braun
Goodness, another month gone by already. There are reviews for several of these books to come, particularly for the Robertson Davies Cornish trilogy, which I have decided to tackle in one post. It’s a re-read, for the Canadian Book Challenge, and I’m enjoying it immensely. A new discovery is Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series, which is fun. Following my last visit to visit the Aged Parents, I was rather unwell for a couple of days – once I was capable of reading again I waded through What’s Bred in the Bone followed by The Winter Garden Mystery, which had a suitably restorative effect. I managed to schedule some reviews, too, courtesy of my new amanuensis. Just as well, as the days until the annual conference that I organise are ticking by fast, and I’m up to my neck in work.
Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer is a country house murder mystery, set in that between-the-wars golden age, an amiable story of four young people who inherit an old manor-house which is reputed to be haunted. Within moments, it seems, of their arrival, strange noises rend the air and shadowy figures are seen in the grounds after dark. Being modern young people (except for Celia, who's a drip) they are determined that they won't be driven out, and instead set about investigating. It’s all good clean fun, but if you come to it from Heyer’s regency romances you may well be disappointed. Her crime novels are all well crafted but they lack a certain something. You can’t help feeling that if Inspector Draycott had been wearing highly polished boots and had been helped by his sergeant into a coat of superfine by Weston, the whole thing would have had more sparkle. Nonetheless, I’m very happy with my set of 10 reprints by Arrow, courtesy of the Book People. I only had one already, and will be trying to ration the remainder so that they at least see me through the year.
Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld has been reissued in the Fantasy Masterworks Series, deservedly so. It’s a lyrical and delicate piece, but with more narrative drive than Winter Rose, which I found so achingly slow that its impact was blunted. Personally, I prefer The Riddle Master of Hed, in which McKillip seemed happy just to tell a good story, but the heraldic Beasts of Eld will haunt me the longest, I think, with its hints of archetypes in our racial unconscious. Curiously, though, I don’t seem to have a great deal to say about it, which suggests a degree of beauty without substance.
February’s reading has been framed by The Cat Who... books – given my past comments on the lack of anything remotely approaching substance in these, you may wonder why I am still reading them. Insomnia is the answer, and when I finish them I shall have to look for something equally anodyne as a replacement. I always start reading them at about 4am, when concentration is at its lowest, and they are so repetitious that it doesn’t matter how many times I doze off. Perhaps I’ll just start again at the beginning!