read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Three short reviews

Rather busy at the moment still. I've been reading but not reviewing much and am three books behind so it's time for another batch of quickish reviews. First up, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith.

Isabel Dalhousie is a single women, a divorcee, in her forties, living in a nice part of Edinburgh. She's a woman of means who has no need to work, her 'job' being that of editing a philosophy magazine. One night, after an evening of classical music, she is a chance witness when a man falls from the upper circle of the theatre, to his death. To all intents and purposes it appears to be an accident but, looking closely at the scene of the accident, Isabel decides it is not and sets about investigating the mystery.

This is the first book of McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. It's no good comparing these to his Mma Ramotswe books because they are not the same - though it seems some people on Amazon expected them to be. Isabel is a sophisticate and, if the truth be known, a bit of a snob. She's quite likeable though, as she goes about her business observing people and philosophising about life (in that respect I suppose she is a 'bit' similar to Mma Ramotswe). We meet her neice, Cat, and hear about her failed love life and how Isabel dislikes her current boyfriend, and Grace, Isabel's opinionated housekeeper who is devoted to Isabel. All good fun and I easily liked it enough to continue with the series, have got book two on my library pile right now as a matter of fact.

Next - The Cipher Garden by Martin Edwards.

Some years ago Warren Howe was murdered. He was a landscape gardener and was hacked to death with his own scythe in the garden of a client. Warren was a habitual womaniser and not a pleasant character; there are several suspects but the case was never solved. Fast forward a few years and someone is sending short poison pen letters about the case, including one to the new cold case police dept. in The Lake District, headed by Hannah Scarlett. The case is reopened and, with the unoffical help of historian, Daniel Kind, Hannah sets about solving this difficult and emotive case.

Another excellent 'Lake District' mystery from Martin Edwards. A good crime yarn but also quite a lot about the personal lives of both Daniel and Hannah. I like the way the author is clearly leading up to something with these two and am quite happy that he's taking his time about it. It's good on setting too, The Lake District is beautifully described and it's quite easy to imagine yourself striding out on some of the wild, exposed fells. The title refers to Daniel's garden which he discovers is hiding a secret as he tries to bring it under control. I expected that to play more of a role I must admit, it being referred to in the title, but that aspect was interesting nevertheless. A good second book and I will definitely be continuing with the series.

Lastly a Young Adult fantasy, The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer.

Jack lives with his mother, father and younger sister, Lucy, in the north of what is now England, somewhere around the end of the 7th century, AD. He's just an ordinary boy, loved by his mother but treated a little unfairly by his father who is besotted with sister, Lucy. Until he is taken on by the local bard as his apprentice and then it seems he is not so ordinary after all. The bard is from Norway and has lived there with the Vikings, until expelled for a reason Jack is not told. When a Viking raid occurs just a few months into Jack's training, Jack and Lucy are captured and taken across the North sea to the court of one of the viking kings, Ivar the Boneless and his half-troll and shape shifter wife, Frith. Jack mistakenly casts a spell on the unpredictable and bad tempered queen and has to go on a quest to save his sister. It's the adventure of his life... and might even *cost* him his life.

Thoroughly enjoyed this tale of bards and Vikings, 'berserkers', trolls and Norse mythology. It was great fun and very well written indeed. I actually thought Nancy Farmer was British because she made no mistakes whatsoever with the speech of the 'English' children, but it turns out she's American. Very nicely done. Lots of adventure, some humour, and some interesting references to Norse mythology and real Viking history. I have book two - The Land of Silver Apples - on my current library pile and am really looking forward to reading it.
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