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Three books

There were three books I read last month that I didn't get a chance to review; I'm finding more and more that not everything I read makes it onto this LJ, not sure why as it never used to be the case. I think maybe I'm reading a little more quickly now and the increased volume of books means I literally don't have time to review everything. So anyway, this post will be a quick mention of those three books: The Right Attitude to Rain and The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith and Callander Square by Anne Perry.




The Right Attitude to Rain</em> is book three in the Isabel Dalhousie series, set in Edinburgh. Isabel is a divorced woman in her early forties - a woman of independent means who is the editor of a philosophy magazine. Becuase of her deep interest in philosophy she is always interested in other people's lives and often gets tangled up in their affairs. Her friends and family think of this as meddling: Isabel herself thinks herself duty bound to help people if she possibly can. In this instalment Isabel comes across an American couple in an art gallery. It turns out they're friends of Isabel's relatives from Texas who are staying with her at the moment. She discovers that the husband feels as though his life is in danger and the person he's afraid of is his young wife. Isabel has already noticed the wife's interest in Jamie, her niece's ex-boyfriend and the young man Isabel herself is in love with. This is an incredibly complicated situation, especially as the husband is showing a marked interest in Isabel herself...



In The Careful use of Compliments Isabel's life has changed out of all recognition. I can't say how as it's rather a huge spoiler but Jamie is now a big part of her life. Sadly this has caused a virtual estrangement with her niece, Cat. Two occurances form the basis of the storylines in this fourth book. Firstly, Isabel gets a letter from one of her philosophy magazine contributors, Professor Dove, informing her that she has been ousted from her job and that he is the new editor. Secondly, two paintings by the same Scottish painter come on the market at the same time. Isabel wants to buy one but there seems some doubt about the authenticity of the work. Isabel, of course, sets about investigating.

This series just gets better and better. I love the little investigations Isabel undertakes, her agonising about her behaviour and that of others. I think sometimes she's not hard enough on people, her niece especially needs a good talking to! But on another subject she take beautiful revenge on someone, which was just perfect. I don't think I could love these books more, even though I realise they're not for everyone, being so character driven and 'thoughtful' and not really plot or action driven. And I think those of us who love them are unable to explain to those who don't, why we're so enamoured. Odd.



Callander Square is Anne Perry's second book in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series of Victorian crime novels. Charlotte and Thomas are now married. Thomas's salary is not huge so they live simply in a small house - a big change for Charlotte who was brought up in a big London town house with servants and so forth. But she is happy, nevertheless. The story begins when Thomas is called to Callander Square to examine the bones of two babies found buried in the central garden of the square. It's assumed they must be the children of a servant girl who killed her babies rather than lose her job and livelihood. Thomas sets about investigating and realises there are many secrets amongst the aristocracy living in the square. Unfortunately this is a time when the police are not popular with the well-heeled and he comes up against a wall of silence. Charlotte and her sister, Emily, take an interest and before long Emily, now the wife of a lord herself, gains entrance to society in the square and gets Charlotte a position as secretary to a general who is writing the military history of his forbears. Between them can they solve this perplexing mystery?

Another excellent series. The mysteries in these books are very good but even more than that I like the glimpse of Victorian life. The hypocrisy and double-standards, especially of men, are featured very strongly and this I find fascinating to read about. Many women, it seems, actually conspired to keep this kind of thing going but it has to be remembered how little power women had at that time, relying on men for their very existance. Being the subject of gossip was one of the worst things that could happen to you and being an outcast from society a very real threat. So you kept your secrets. Fascinating stuff and I plan to read as many books in this series as I possibly can.

Comments

They all sound fascinating. Especially Callender Square sounds intriguing. I like books that delve into the realities of life in other times, and that neither sugar-coat things nor make them seem worse than they really were. The characters take it all for granted, of course, if they are in and of their time, but a skillful author can shed light on the ways that society at large tramples people and pummels them into the shape that suits the system, which leads one to question our own customs and Unwritten Laws.

Good reviews.
I really like these thoughtful insights into the lives of - mostly - Victorian women. I was thinking we'd come a long way as women, since then, and yes we have, but in some respects not at all. Especially when you consider the 'weaknesses' of a few famous men and how it affects their wives when it all comes out. Fascinating to compare.