Tag Archives: Simon Brett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKillerintheChoirbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, having only recently had the pleasure of reading the previous book, The Liar in the Library – see my review here. So I was still in the groove with the Fethering regulars, as well as easily able to recall the foibles of the main protagonists, Jude and Carol.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

What I particularly enjoy about this series, is that while the murder investigation is the engine that powers the plot, Brett also gives us a real slice of life within the Fethering community. We get an insight into what matters to this community – both good and bad – and Brett isn’t afraid to take a pop at the frailties of the characters he depicts. There is an edge to his observations and I enjoy seeing how he plays with our assumptions – and then throws in a twist, such as the fact that buttoned-up Carol previously had a fling with the village landlord. In fact, I don’t particularly like Carol, whose self-righteous, rather jealous behaviour frankly gets on my nerves – however those traits help to make her effective at worrying at a mystery until she has solved it to her satisfaction. It certainly doesn’t impact on my enjoyment, as her rather jaundiced, sour observations are also insightful and rather funny – and while I don’t like her, I do like the more easy-going, relaxed Jude.

I found this investigation even more enjoyable than the previous one – there were several real surprises that had me reading far into the night to find out what was going to happen next. I’d figured out what happened and why – until the denouement, when I realised that I’d got it completely wrong. Nonetheless, despite my complete misreading of the situation, the perpetrator and the reasons for the wicked deed made absolute sense – and the clues were there. In short, Brett writes a cracking whodunit with a very well-plotted mystery which is a joy to read.

I haven’t read all nineteen of these entertaining books – but given just how much I have enjoyed these last two, I am definitely going to be visiting Fethering again. This series is far too much fun to miss out on. While I obtained an arc of The Killer in the Choir from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 23rd June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been AWOL this week – which has been something of a roller-coaster… We have been embarking on a series of home improvements, given it’s far too long since we spruced up the house and duly got someone in to look at the guttering, which clearly needed replacing. Only it didn’t. Once the builders investigated, it rapidly became clear that we needed a new roof, instead. The roofing felt is like paper mache and the ends of the joists are rotten. The cowboys who replaced our soffits (Anglian Windows, in case anyone is interested…) must have been well aware of the situation when they fitted the soffits by screwing them straight into the rotten joists, but bodged the job and said nothing. Suddenly the house is swathed in scaffolding, the tiles are off, the rotten wood in the process of being replaced, along with the felt. Meanwhile we are frantically arranging finance… The sudden, sharp rainstorms hammering down throughout the week haven’t helped, either.

Other news – I have started my Poetry short course at Northbrook this week, which went well. My writing buddy Mhairi came down for a few days and while she was here, the proof copy of Netted arrived through the post with the awesome cover looking every bit a fabulous as we thought it would. And I spent yesterday with my sister who took me out shopping to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I keep waiting for my life to get more boring… please?

Last week I read:

The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Liar in the Library recently, so was delighted when given the opportunity to also read this offering. Once more Fethering is buzzing with yet another murder – and getting reacquainted with these characters was even more fun than I’d anticipated. I shall be reading more of these…

The Dark Lord of Derkholm AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones
Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.
This is billed as a children’s book – but it doesn’t feel like it. It seems far more like a clever exploration of what happens when people flock to a wonderful place to experience said wonder – all on their own terms, of course. And while parts are funny, other parts are quite dark. But all wonderfully gripping and well realised in this audiobook.

The Halfling – Book 1 of the Aria Fae series by H.D. Gordon
What do you get when you take a highly trained Halfling teenager and throw her into the concrete jungle of Grant City? One badass vigilante, of course! 17-year-old Aria Fae is no stranger to danger. She’s super fast, incredibly strong, and on her own for the first time ever.
Throw in a brand new best friend who’s a computer genius, a mysterious and super-fly older neighbor, and a drug that’s turning people into maniacs, and you’ve got the potion for trouble.
This YA superhero read was unexpectedly engrossing. Yes… Aria has it all – super-human strength and top-notch training. She also has enhanced hearing and sense of smell, as well as effective night vision. But, after a series of traumatic events that dumped her into Grant City, alone and friendless – she is also struggling with depression.

My posts last week:

Review of Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney

Friday Faceoff featuring The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – and I apologise for not visiting or comment all that much. It’s been a tad full on. I hope you have a wonderful week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of The Fethering mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLiarintheLibrarybookreview

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When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 26th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a very, very busy week – as is evident by the fact that I haven’t had time to post anything on my blog since last Sunday – other than the Friday Faceoff. This week it’s been allll about work. As the academic year speeds towards the close, a number of meetings regarding Tim’s progress all converged on this particular week. It meant I haven’t seen much of Himself, either – as this week he had Wednesday and Thursday off. We have half term coming up and I am looking forward to having a few days off just to catch my breath – and have the grandchildren to stay, which is always fun. Though predictably, the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying is now fast disappearing.

I have now completed the first draft of Mantivore Prey which is a relief. I am going to take a bit of a break from writing until the summer holidays to give myself some time to focus on a major clean and declutter, which is desperately overdue…

Last week I read:
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding. It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler. Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.
This entertaining near future space opera was mostly great fun, though I thought the ending was a tad off if this is a standalone.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Fry
The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles’ only heir, Sir Henry – who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past . . .
This whole series has been a complete joy to listen to – I’m prolonging the pleasure by listening to other audio offerings in between each of the books.

 

The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.
This delightful cosy mystery is great fun with an unexpectedly poignant ending. I love the fact that Brett has plenty to say about the state of middle England and library closures in amongst the murder and mayhem.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring A Discovery of Witches – Book 1 of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Sunday Post – 19th May 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Odyssey Theatre
https://twitter.com/OdysseyTheatre_/status/1131638482441572352 Yep – this is me in proud mama mode. My son, Robbie, is busy rehearsing for this production of Loot which is running from 8th June-10th August.

#writerproblems: #characterdeath in #storytelling (Part 2: melting shoes and raising stakes) https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/23/writerproblems-characterdeath-in-storytelling-part-2-melting-shoes-and-raising-stakes/ Once more, a cracking article from my friend Jean…

Why Starve Fish in Spas for Pedicures?
https://chechewinnie.com/why-starve-fish-in-spas-for-pedicure/ How depressing – these poor fish are starved to force them to eat the dead skin on people’s feet…

Game of Thrones: A Song of ‘I Literally Can’t Even’ https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/game-of-thrones-storytelling-cautionary-tale/ Kristen Lamb jumps into the controversy on the final series of GoT – what do you think?

Protecting Your Creative Mindspace https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/23/protecting-your-creative-mindspace/ This nifty article is very helpful if you are struggling with writers’ block.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is patron of the West Sussex Writers club, so I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times. His witty take on the world pervades this pleasing cosy mystery.

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

Any grizzles? Well, I was rather taken aback at having a crucial scene in the book where Jude is explaining the denouement glossed over in half a page, rather than being given the reactions of the characters involved. As the stakes were so high at this stage, I expected at least the first section to be fully depicted and the fact it wasn’t jarred with me. This is, after all, one of the planks of this particular genre and while Brett often successfully plays with readers’ expectations, this time it didn’t work. However, that is the only niggle and it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 20th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett

#cosy murder mystery #contemporary #southern England setting

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery.

Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death.

More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Simon Brett is the patron of the West Sussex Writers club that I belong to and has frequently been a guest speaker. He is an excellent speaker, funny and self deprecating as well as being the author of the Charles Paris series, which have been dramatised on Radio 4 with the wonderful Bill Nighy taking the part of Charles – wonderful stuff! This should be a cracking read – well plotted with plenty of memorable characters and a twist of sharp humour running throughout.

ANNDDD…

O.D. Book Reviews features an excerpt from Dying for Space as well as a guest post where the main protagonist, Elizabeth, reflects on why she feels she has to reveal what happened.

 

ANNDDD…

T’s Stuff features an excerpt from Dying for Space in addition to a guest post where I talk about five favourite science fiction books that also use food as part of the scene setting.

Sunday Post – 2nd April 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a rather roller-coaster week. Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday and we were invited to my daughter’s for a lovely meal, where the pic was taken of all us mothers. We had a wonderful time – plenty of delicious food and lots of laughter and good company.

Meanwhile, Himself and I are getting used to life without his snoring. He is coping brilliantly with his sleep mask – me… less so. I find it difficult to cope with the quiet and keep waking up in a panic, all set to thump him, when I hear the machine whistling and realise he is breathing, after all. So right now, I am very tired.

My Creative Writing classes finished this week – I can’t quite believe the Spring Term is now over. I’ve now completed the editing phase of my major rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest and have started releasing it to my trusty team of beta-readers, who are aiming to have their readthrough completed by the end of the Easter break, bless them.

This week I have read:

A Crown of Wishes – Book 2 of The Star-Touched Queen series by Roshani Chokshi

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. However – he is a very cunning prince of a sworn enemy kingdom…
Another wonderful magical story in the best classic tradition – rich, lush and beautifully crafted. A real treat and an ideal Easter read if you are looking for something suitably rich to read while nibbling on your favourite chocs.

 

Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations – A Mrs Pargeter Mystery by Simon Brett

It is her characteristic generosity rather than her love of animals that finds Mrs Pargeter supporting her friend, Jasmine Angold, at a charity reception for PhiliPussies, whose worthy aim is to rehabilitate stray cats from the Greek island of Atmos into caring English homes. But the evening is to have unexpected consequences. At the event, Mrs P is taken aback to meet a woman who claims to be the sister of her late husband, the much-missed Mr Pargeter. This surprising encounter leads to unwelcome digging into past secrets, the discovery of a body in Epping Forest, an eventful trip to Greece – and unexpected danger for Mrs Pargeter. In the course of her investigations, she learns the true nature of charity and the dubious skills by which Public Relations can make evil look good.
This is another book that was released during this week and I thoroughly enjoyed this welcome change in pace and genre. An enjoyable and charming mystery that is an ideal holiday read – and the fact that I crashed in mid-series didn’t matter a bit.

 

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author. Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.
I love Tricia Sullivan’s writing – she is an awesome talent who takes the genre in amazing directions and when I saw this one on the shelves, I was delighted. It is a real treat in a year of marvellous books.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 26th March 2017

Review of My Parents Are Out of Control by Pete Johnson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of A Crown of Wishes – Book 2 of The Star-Touched Queen series by Roshani Chokshi

Friday Face-off – Without gambling, I would not exist… featuring The Player of Games – Book 2 of the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations – A Mrs Pargeter Mystery by Simon Brett

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Tough Travelling: Beginnings https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/04/01/tough-traveling-beginnings/ This the restart of what looks like an excellent meme that will be running for the month and I enjoyed Wendy’s choice of books.

Alternate Writing Resources https://richardankers.com/2017/03/27/alternate-writing-resources/ It’s always intriguing to see what resources other writers use – and Richard has a useful clutch here – some I know, and others I don’t, but will be hunting down.

Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge – 1st Quarter check in http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2017/03/31/women-of-genre-fiction-reading-challenge-1st-quarter-check-in/ This is very similar to the Discovery Challenge I run throughout the year and it is interesting to see how fellow book-blogger, Tammy, is getting on.

Lessons Learned in Writers’ Music from the Rolling Stones: Don’t Misunderstand Your Villain https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/03/30/lesson-learned-in-writers-music-from-the-rolling-stones-dont-misunderstand-your-villain/ Jean always has interesting things to say – and this is another well written, enjoyable article.

Five Fascinating Facts about Vampire Fiction https://interestingliterature.com/2017/03/31/five-fascinating-facts-about-vampire-fiction/ Yet another excellent, informative post from this superb site.

 

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations – A Mrs Pargeter Mystery by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is an experienced author and scriptwriter who lives locally, so when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist.

It is her characteristic generosity rather than her love of animals that finds Mrs Pargeter supporting her friend, Jasmine Angold, at a charity reception for PhiliPussies, whose worthy aim is to rehabilitate stray cats from the Greek island of Atmos into caring English homes. But the evening is to have unexpected consequences. At the event, Mrs P is taken aback to meet a woman who claims to be the sister of her late husband, the much-missed Mr Pargeter. This surprising encounter leads to unwelcome digging into past secrets, the discovery of a body in Epping Forest, an eventful trip to Greece – and unexpected danger for Mrs Pargeter. In the course of her investigations, she learns the true nature of charity and the dubious skills by which Public Relations can make evil look good.

I have once more crashed midway into this long-standing series, but Brett is far too deft and experienced to make that a problem. It didn’t take me all that long to realise that Mrs Pargeter is a widow, whose deceased husband was a crime boss – a detail that those who are in her employ go to some lengths to keep away from her. To be honest, that aspect of the storyline was a tad irritating, given she is also supposed to be intelligent and perceptive, as well as honest.

However, it certainly wasn’t a dealbreaker as this cosy mystery soon swung into action as Mrs P finds herself enmeshed in a tale of blackmail and wrongdoing. I found her a mostly endearing character – except for the aforementioned annoying blind spot – and she leads an enjoyably luxurious life, given she is very wealthy. However, that doesn’t necessarily shield her from those who would harm her. I liked the fact that unlike many protagonists, she’s not all that cat-minded – but gets involved with the charity because a friend wants her along. This is important, because when she is threatened, I cared. Despite the fact that there was no gore and this is as gentle as mysteries get, that didn’t stop there being plenty of pace and tension in this tale such that I tucked into this one and finished it in two greedy gulps.

This is an ideal summer read and if you want an entertaining mystery adventure that isn’t drenched in gore with some pleasing flashes of humour in amongst the adventure, then give this one a go.
8/10

Review of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde at the Theatre Royal, Brighton

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Martin-JarvisThis comedy classic that the author described as ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’ which, under all the witty wordplay, is an attack on the hypocrisy and double standards prevalent in the society of the day clearly irking Wilde. Hardly a surprise, given the tragedy that consequently engulfed him…

But that isn’t what caught my husband’s attention and prompted him to rush to the computer and book these seats as soon as he got home from work – it was the cast list. It’s not often you can get to see the likes of Rosalind Ayres, Martin Jarvis, Siȃn Phillips, Nigel Havers, Niall Buggy, Cherie Lunghi and Patrick Godfrey all in the same production…

Hm. But the heart of this play is a mix-up over names preventing two young men about town getting together with the girls of their dreams – and let’s face it, while all the cast weearnest2ar their years well, not one of them have seen their thirties in a while. How are they going to play the love scenes written for twenty-somethings without looking ridiculous?

There is a nifty play within a play, whereby the cast play an amateur dramatic group, The Bunbury Company of Players, who revisit one of their favourite and most successful productions – The Importance of Being Earnest. The actual performance is played as one of the final run-throughs they perform in the lounge of George and Lavina’s sitting room – played by Patrick Godfrey and Siȃn Phillips. The set is beautiful – a far cry from modern stark staging where clever lighting makes up for the absence of props and furniture – where the room is dressed in the arts and crafts style, with loving attention to detail. The direction by Lucy Bailey was sure-footed, allowing each actor to play to their strengths without undercutting or distracting from the original narrative.

earnest1Simon Brett wrote the ‘Bunbury’ additions to the play – and while I am sure there will be some dubious headshaking by the purists, I thoroughly enjoyed the extra layer of humour he added. He could so easily have overcooked it, but didn’t… And it meant that when Martin Jarvis as Algernon confessed to being twenty-nine, he got a huge laugh. Though nothing compared with the delighted roar from the audience when Lady Bracknell (Siȃn Phillips) delivered the ‘handbag’ line.

The cast were clearly having a wonderful time – and everyone’s performance was pitch perfect, as you’d expect from a cast of this calibre. I watched with delight, conscious that a classic was being given a respectful makeover by artists with the experience and skill to produce something very special. This is a night at the theatre I am going to remember for a long time – for all the right reasons.
10/10

Review of Death on the Downs – A Fethering Mystery by Simon Brett

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In the depths of winter, still recovering from the over-indulgence of the Christmas holidays, this entertaining whodunit certainly hits all the right spots.

Caught out in a sudden downpour during a walk on the South Downs, Carole Sedden shelters in a dilapidated barn – only to discover deathonthedownstwo fertiliser bags packed with human bones. The gossips in the Hare and Hounds, the local pub in the hamlet of Weldisham, immediately identify the corpse as Tamsin Lutteridge, a young woman who disappeared several months earlier. But when Carole and her new neighbour, Jude, investigate further, they are not so sure…

Firstly, what this novel isn’t. You don’t get a graphic anatomy lesson in decomposition as in a Patricia Cornwall or Kathy Reiches – neither is this a Rankinesk study in world-weary cynicism. Which is a refreshing change as the current whodunit trend seems to be striving to make each book more bloodily horrifying than the last. Though neither are we in a Disneyland version of the genre. Brett treats the murder with suitable seriousness and his well written heroine is far more likely to be standing next to you in Tescos than some protagonists found in more lurid novels.

However, for me the outstanding feature of the book are the descriptions of the local landscape and characters. The acerbic humour running through these word sketches are a joy to read. The narrative pace is apparently unhurried, so I wasn’t flipping back to check up on clues or characters I might have missed during a half-page of inattention. Which didn’t prevent me staying up till 2 am in order to reach the denouement, where again, Brett’s capable storytelling pedigree is apparent. The ending was suitably satisfying with all the major plotlines thoroughly tied up.

My only niggle – and I am conscious that this a matter of personal preference – is that a certain amount of mystery regarding one of the protagonists wasn’t resolved. As this was a theme running through the story I did feel a little cheated that by the end I still didn’t know all the details. However, when writing a multi-volume series, it is always a fine judgement call as to how many hooks to leave trailing in order to tempt readers to continue with the other books.

I don’t need any such inducement. Brett’s witty, well-crafted slices of West Sussex murder and mayhem are right up there, jostling with the latest steampunk and urban fantasy offerings.
8/10