read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Three reviews

In some ways October has turned out to be just as I thought, in other ways - not. I thought I would have hardly any time to read but that was nonsense. I generally average six books a month and that's exactly the number I've read this month too. I also thought I would be very busy and that has turned out to be correct, just not too busy to read. :-)

I have three books I haven't reviewed so I'm going to do quick ones of each in order to get caught up *again*.

First up, The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill. In the small cathedral city of Lafferton a woman has gone missing. Her employer tells police that this is out of character but nothing much is done except that a young police officer, Freya Graffham, new to the area, takes the case on in her spare time. She senses this is a serious case and is proved right when others start to go missing, even a dog. The common denominator in each case turns out to 'the hill' an area used by all kinds of people - walkers, runners, dog owners etc. Freya and Chief Inspector Simon Serailler set about finding out what is going on in their beautiful old city.

The thing I liked about this book was how involved I got with the characters. It's quite a long book and Susan Hill uses that length to give a lot of background information on not only the main police characters but also the victims of the crimes. You feel as though you know them and thus the shock when various of them die is quite profound. Interspersed with the normal narrative are short chapters written in the first person by the killer. This added to the suspense and although I did guess who the culprit was quite early on, it in no way ruined my enjoyment. I found the book atmospheric, well written, and even creepy in places and thought it a superb beginning to the Simon Serailler crime series; I already have the second one on my library pile.


Next, The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb. The scene is London, 1864. Horatio Lyle is a scientist, inventor and special police constable. He's called on by the government to recover a Chinese plate that has gone missing - an embarrassment to one and all. Aided and abetted by Tess, a street urchin and thief, and Thomas, heir to Lord Elwick, Lyle sets about finding the plate which appears to have rather strange characteristics. The problem is, two other sets of people are also desperate to find it: a group of Chinese who, it seems, will stop at nothing and some strange individuals with hypnotic green eyes who might not even be human. Will Lyle succeed in his mission?

I read this YA book while away on holiday and as such it fitted the bill of being a light, humorous read. The author, Catherine Webb, wrote her first book at 14 and this is her fifth, written when she was 20 in 2006. Two more books about Horatio Lyle have already been written. I find this impressive and the young lady obviously has quite a future ahead of her. I would say the books are very much aimed at young adults and perhaps lack a certain depth that you might find in books for older people. But that's fine and I rather enjoyed this easy, undemanding, holiday read.


No pic of Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson as the copy I've just finished is an ancient old library book. Devon library services only had one copy in the whole of Devon - that was in Exeter and the library assitant had to go down into the bowels of the building to get it for me. What a shame that *apparently* no one is much interested in these delightful Mapp and Lucia books any more.

Anyway, this is book two in the series set, and written, in the 1920s. The first was about 'Lucia', living in the village of Riseholme and in this one we meet 'Miss Mapp', living in the village of Tilling. Miss Mapp is a busy-body. She keeps an eye on the comings and goings in the village from the window of her garden room. She also interferes in the lives of her friends, none of whom are very much better than her to be frank. All live off gossip and speculation and this is basically what the book is all about... the day to day happenings, relationships and petty feuds with friends and neighbours.

Delightful. Benson was clearly a very good observer of the foibles of his fellow human beings - these people are very real, good hearted some of them, but often with selfish motives. Issues such as food hoarding before the coal strike, drinking to excess, and how to clothe oneself when money was short are dealt with in a sympathetic and humorous way. I think I have one more book to read, Lucia in London, (unfortunately not available in any library in Devon) and then the two finally meet. Can't wait.

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