First up, Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin. I read this for Bev's Vintage Mystery 2014 challenge and as I borrowed it from the library it covers the category, 'A book that you have to borrow'.
English professor, Gervase Fen, has decided to run for parliament as an Independent. He's come to the village of Sanford Angelorum for an extended stay, to canvas in the area, and is staying at The Fish Inn. He thinks he recognises another guest at the pub but can't remember how, and the man seems to be avoiding him. Eventually it dawns on him that he was at university with 'Bussy' and Bussy then reveals that he's now a policeman and is investigating a rather hush-hush case. It seems there's been a suspected poisoning in the village and blackmail is probably involved. Fen tries not to get involved himself but it's almost impossible and before long he's heavily embroiled in chasing after escapees from a local mental home, a non-doing pig, a hotel that appears to be falling down around his ears, poltergeists, and a murder on the golf-course. And all this whilst still trying to campaign for a place in parliament.
This is my second Gervase Fen book and, although I liked The Moving Toyshop slightly more, Buried for Pleasure still has an awful lot to recommend it. The humour is what I like about this series. Yes, this book had a jolly good mystery element to enjoy and to try and figure out... I was spectacularly unsuccessful in the latter endeavour. It's also very much an English countryside and village location story and the setting feels very authentic. The pub, the village characters, their idiosyncracies, all were very well drawn. But it's the humour which gets to me every time. Crispin was so good at ridiculous situations, dryly commented upon by Fen. The recounting of how he tries to get elected is very amusing. The poltergeist in The Rectory too. But I especially loved the non-doing pig, a pig which apparently wouldn't grow and 'fatten up' no matter how much the owner of the pub fed it. She then sold it but it kept coming home. Mad... but charmingly mad, a bit like an Ealing Comedy... 'English eccentricity' sort of thing. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the rest of this wonderfully entertaining series.
Next, The Sixth Lamentation by William Broderick. This is my book seven for the My Kind of Mystery challenge which is being hosted by Riedel Fascination.
An old man is demanding sanctuary at Larkwood Priory, a monastery in Suffolk. The concept of sanctuary is rather an outdated one and the monks don't know what to do. The situation worsens when it's discovered that the man in question is Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal. In London, young Lucy Embleton discovers that her beloved grandmother, Agnes, has motor neurone disease and probably has not got long to live. Before she dies Agnes wants Lucy to know something important about her life. She buys some notebooks and commences writing about her experiences in Paris when the Germans took over the city. Back in the monastery, Father Anselm is tasked with investigating the Schwermann business as he was once a lawyer and knows his way around the criminal justice system. What he discovers will have long reaching repercussions for many many people, including Lucy Embleton and her family.
Very occasionally I cry at the end of a book. It's rare, but it does happen: this was one of those rare occasions. In one respect this is a darn good mystery... not in the traditional sense of there being a dead body and someone has to find out who killed him or her, with what, and whether it was in the library, the shrubbery or pushed off a cliff... but in the sense where very dark secrets have been kept and someone is tasked with getting to the bottom of it all. The thing that makes this book different is that the background is Paris during WW2 and the purgings of the Jewish people from that city by the Germans. It's serious stuff and possibly not for the faint-hearted. This is not a cozy mystery and some of the details within this book are heart-breaking. They make you ponder on the inhumanity some people seem capable of in times of war. Desperate times I suppose but even so... If anyone ever wondered why The Allies went into the war this would be a good book to give them to explain a few things.
This is definitely one of the best books I've read this year - without a doubt. I gave it a four star rating on Goodreads which now seems a bit mean. A four and a half is more suitable and that's only because some of the action later in the story is court-room based and I'm not keen on court-room dramas. Otherwise this a tightly written book, full of twists and turns, very much a history lesson but also a thoroughly engrossing mystery story. It's the first book in William Brodrick's 'Father Anselm' series, of which there are currently 5 books. The author did the reverse of what Father Anslem did I gather, he was an Augustinian friar before leaving to become a barrister. I shall 'certainly' be reading more in this series and am hoping subsequent books are as good as this one.