I’m back once more with my Spell the Month in Books titles, once again bringing you some of the crime and mystery books on my bookshelves. There are some fantastic authors in this little stack, and one or two of my favourite contemporary authors who write historical mysteries here.
Here’s my list for April:
Angel with Two Faces – Nicola Upson
Poor Tom is Cold – Maureen Jennings
Return of Sherlock Holmes (The) – Arthur Conan Doyle
Incomplete Revenge (An) – Jacqueline Winspear
Last Seen Wearing – Colin Dexter
I really do enjoy Nicola Upson’s novels. Angel with two Faces is another of her mysteries set in the interwar period. While Josephine Tey recovers from a trauma, she is invited to Cornwall, to the family home of Inspector Archie Penrose. She is delighted as there is an open air theatre right next to the cliffs. When she arrives, the place is coping with a young man’s funeral. His horse leapt, strangely, into a lake, and the man was drowned. This is odd enough, but when another young man disappears and the curate also falls from the clifftop Josephine likes so much, it becomes apparent that there’s a murderer on the loose. This is another of Nicola Upson’s books that I became totally immersed in. While it’s classified as a cozy mystery, what I love about this series are the undertones of darkness that lurk just near the surface.
Poor Tom is Cold is the third of the Murdoch Mysteries. If you’ve read any of my other Spell the Month in Books posts then you’ll already know that I am a huge fan of these stories in book and TV series format. The story is set in 1895 Toronto. Murdoch is not convinced by the apparent suicide of Police Constable Oliver Wicken, discovered in an abandoned house, even more so when he encounters Wicken’s mother and invalid sister and realises that the constable was the family’s only means of financial support. Why on earth, when he was needed so much, would he commit suicide? Nearby, Murdoch sees one of the Wickens’ neighbour being taken to a lunatic asylum. When he starts wondering if the woman has actually been driven insane, it makes Murdoch think that the two events are linked in some sinister way. As always, this is a fabulous mystery and Murdoch’s incredible brain weaves its intrepid way through the clues to get to the truth.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle in response to the public outrage that the author had previously killed off Sherlock. This collection of stories sees Holmes returning from his supposed death to recount the adventures that happened to him during those ‘missing’ years. I think that, whether you love the character of Sherlock Holmes or find him obnoxious and irritating, the stories are always great Victorian mysteries. I personally find Holmes exasperating (except in the TV version with Jeremy Brett as the star – totally brilliant!), but my feelings about Holmes are counteracted by the lovely, down-to-earth character of Dr Watson. I always have a very soft spot for Watson, who is often as baffled as the reader at the antics and puzzle-solving of Holmes. The parallels between these two and Christie’s Poirot and Hastings decades later are clear.
Anything by Jacqueline Winspear is a hit with me. An Incomplete Revenge is another Maisie Dobbs book, set in a Depression-filled 1931. Maisie accept a commission from a friend who wants to buy an estate in the village of Heronsdene, Kent. The problem is, the place has been denying all knowledge of the thefts, arson and vandalism that have been going on for a decade. Maisie has to find out what on earth has been going on and why the culprits have never been caught, so her friend can buy his estate with an easy mind. It’s not made easier, however, by the way that the villagers close ranks on outsiders and seem steeped in the past. This is a beautiful, entertaining mystery, which deftly reflects class and social differences of interwar Britain. I’ve not yet come across a Maisie Dobbs story that I didn’t enjoy.
Last Seen Wearing is a Morse book I haven’t read, but I’ve no doubt that I’ll enjoy it when I do. The story centres around the disappearance of Valerie Taylor, a teenage schoolgirl. After over two years, her disappearance has become a cold case. But then new evidence is revealed and Morse is asked to reopen the case. I’d love to be able to talk more about it. If you’ve read it, or manage to before I do, I’d love to know what you thought.
I hope that you might feel encouraged to try something on my April bookstack – and you’ll note that, aside from my mug in the picture, there’s no Agatha Christie here this time (which may shock you. It did me – although I did still manage to squeeze in a reference, you may have noticed!). As always, any affiliate links I use here (which apply to the US only) are for books and products that I have personally used and loved, so you know it’s a genuine recommendation from me.