Agatha Raisin is back in fine style literally (or in a book would it be literarily?) Beating about the Bush and finding a severed leg. Or is it severed? Or is it even a leg?
Raisin Investigations is hired by an electric car battery company to determine who is perpetrating industrial espionage on their new, longer lasting battery. Before their investigation has even begun, Agatha and her trusted assistant Toni find a leg in a hedgerow that appears to be wearing the shoe of the company president’s secretary, Mrs. Dinwiddy.
Soon Agatha and Toni are investigating a death by donkey. Agatha, of course, is siding with the donkey. Perhaps they feel a sisterhood in attitude?
In the meantime, Agatha’s on again-off again with Sir Charles takes a wild turn. Toni’s romance with a young doctor has its problems. Good thing that they have the battery company’s cast of suspects to keep them busy.
Wow, this is the best Agatha Raisin in a while. At number thirty in a slowly declining series that is truly amazing!
Beating about the Bush is as good as the first few in the series. If you have given up on them awhile back, it is well worth your time to check out this excellent mystery. Fans of the show will also enjoy catching up with a slightly older, but probably not much wiser, Agatha and her friends. With such great and even iconic cozy mystery characters plus two puzzling mysteries, you can’t miss with this book. 5 stars!
Thank you to Constable; Little, Brown Book Group UK; Minotaur Books; and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in return for my honest review. Out October 24, 2019 in the UK and December 3, 2019 in the US.
Hazards in Hampshire (A British Book Tour Mystery) by Emma Dakin
The Author’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe
The George, Wallingford
In the book, Claire Barclay met Detective Inspector Mark Evans at this restaurant near the Agatha Christie Museum in Wallingford. The women on her tour were impressed with the menu and were delighted to indulge themselves.
The George has sticky toffee pudding with, as usual, your choice of ice cream, toffee sauce or custard with it. It seems silly to have sticky toffee pudding without the toffee sauce but I have had it with custard and it is delicious.
One May, my daughter, two of my friends and I took a trip to Scotland. The friends and I carried fiddles on our backs and we were determined to experience the country with as much gusto as possible. We did play Celtic tunes in pubs occasionally, and one memorable evening were served with free drinks, a sign that we were contributing to the pleasure of the patrons. We made a lot of friends on the trains who thought we were professional musicians instead of neophyte fiddlers. A goal of one of my friends was to experience all the different kinds of sticky toffee pudding and she ordered it almost daily. We all solemnly took a bite of her choice to do a comparative analysis. I consider myself now an expert in sticky toffee pudding.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
In England, restaurants can label all desserts “pudding”.
“Want a pudding then, love?” Means “Would you like some dessert?”
1 cup of diced, pitted dates
1 ½ cups water
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar ( I use the yellow kind as the molasses content is high in this recipe)
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup molasses
1 2/3 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
What to Do
Preheat over to 350’F, grease a 9 x 5 inch baking pan
In a saucepan on the stove, put the dates and water, bring to boil and then simmer for about 2 minutes, just to soften. Then put in a blender and pulverize the mixture. Set aside.
Cream butter with brown sugar and eggs. Beat well until the mixture lightens in colour.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing as you go.
Add molasses and keep beating it. It’s a cake so it needs that vigorous beating.
Sift together flour and baking powder.
Add to creamed mixture and stir until smooth.
Stir in the dates and the baking soda.
Bake 30 minutes. Let cool.
½ cup of butter
½ cup of heavy cream (milk will do)
1 cup brown sugar
What to Do
Put everything into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Boil gently. Stir it continually.
It takes about 5 minutes to thicken, but you can serve it thin or thick.
Pour over the pudding.
It’s rich, but delicious.
I loved the new cozy mystery, Hazards in Hampshire, from its first lines:
“I had expected my hostess at the tea party to be boring. I hadn’t expected her to be dead.”
Claire Barclay is newly returned to England after inheriting a substantial sum from her stepfather. After years of travel, Claire is finally home to start her new business, British Mystery Book Tours, and reconnect with her barrister sister, Deidre. However, her new village is soon roiled by Claire finding a murder victim and a nearby arson. Everything seems related to the town’s book club, where the victim was the dictatorial president. Did someone dislike her enough to poison her? Was Claire going to be arrested for her murder simply because the stranger in town had to be the perp?
Reminiscent of Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries, this series is sure to introduce you to some new authors. The small-town feeling of everyone knowing each other’s business is similar to the feeling in Broward’s Rock Island too. My favorite part of this book was the authenticity of all the characters. It was easy to identify with forty-six-year-old Claire, especially her recent inheritance that allowed her to restart her life in a new direction. The mystery was puzzling too. Overall, Hazards in Hampshire is a great start to a sure-to-be topnotch series for cozy mystery readers. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Blog Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below to receive one of ten digital copies of the book!
Moving to a quiet English village should have been tranquil, but Claire Barclay learns that even an invitation to tea can be deadly. Who killed Mrs. Paulson, the president of the local Mystery Books Club? Was the motive for murder located in the archives of the book club? The members of the books club might have reason to want Mrs. Paulson’s out of the way. She had lived in the village all her life, been involved in many organizations and societies and knew many secrets of the villagers. Was one secret too dangerous for her to keep? She had been wealthy and left her money to a member of the club. Could the legatee have been impatient for her inheritance? Who cared enough to want her dead? Claire, an expert in solving problems in her job as a tour guide, decides to delve into the archives and into the lives of the villagers—and find out.
About Emma Dakin
This is Emma Dakin’s first series, set in Britain the homeland of Emma’s grandparents. Emma channels her mother’s inherited English culture along with the attitudes and sayings of the modern Brits. She travels widely in England and at one point this May while travelling through the Yorkshire Moors she had all the tourists in a tour bus looking for a good place to hide a body. As Marion Crook, she has published many novels of adventure and mystery for young adult and middle-grade readers as well as non-fiction for adults and young adults and non-fiction on social issues. Firmly in the cozy mystery genre now, and committed to absorbing the culture and changing world of Britain, she plans to enjoy the research and the writing of cozies.
Raymond Chandler has been reincarnated in the expressive prose of Shamus Dust.
On Christmas Day, a man is found dead on the porch of a church in post-WWII City of London. By all accounts, the victim, Raymond Jarrett, was up to no good. Pictures of young boys in compromising positions are found in his apartment. The apartment is owned by a government official who hires private eye, Newman, to figure out what happened and hush up any scandal.
While the mystery is good, it is the lush writing style that makes Shamus Dust stand out.
“In this mile-wide hub of empire and enterprise there are operators who rub against other operators with fewer scruples than they own themselves. When that happens and they get taken to the cleaners, it’s not a thing they advertise or mention to police. Not even to a high-class agency, on account of the embarrassment. So far, I don’t see what your embarrassment is. Without it the job wouldn’t be in my line.”
The author appears to have polished each sentence within the book to a high shine. This book needs to be slowly savored like a fine wine. It is also the type of book that will be even better the second time around. I highly recommend this literary noir. 5 stars!
Thanks to Matador and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
You don’t have to have lived in the 1950s to enjoy The Man that got Away. However, it is eminently easier to understand if you’re from England.
There is a murder, a con man, and a criminal mastermind in Brighton, a beach town on the English coast in1957. Only young Constable Twitten has a chance to solve the crime if his bungling co-workers don’t stop him.
I read many British mysteries. But this series continues to confuse me with Briticisms and product names available only in England. Possibly only in the past. My Kindle dictionary doesn’t even know what they mean. I also don’t like or relate to the bumbling policemen. They have an office cleaner who is really a master criminal. Their chief didn’t notice he was being conned by the local wax museum. Reading The Man that got Away forces the reader to totally suspend disbelief.
While I enjoyed this entry, the second, more than the first, I still believe it was only good—not great. Still the mystery itself was entertaining. Plus I enjoyed the delights and surprises of an English beach town. 3 stars.
Thanks to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Another great selection of eleven British golden-age mystery stories is found in the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories.
From Blind Man’s Hood from the great John Dickson Carr to ‘Twist the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons, many of the authors will be familiar to those who love golden-age mysteries. Even better, some are complete unknowns to a modern audience though they were famous in their day. The introductions to each story explain each author’s place in the universe as well as their most famous characters.
I love these British Library Crime Classics Christmas anthologies. The stories are excellent. All have some sort of a twist on the Christmas setting, either a ghost story of murder on Christmas Eve or a mysterious woman on a train with a trio of policemen who are heading to Christmas dinner. Each story has aged well with no blatant racism or sexism in sight. But I am sure that you, as do I, read these tales for the puzzles. The game is afoot, indeed, with some clever misdirection so famous in British golden-age plots.
Whether you want to get into the Christmas mood without all the saccharine carols, or as a perfect gift for the mystery fan in your life, the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories will meet, and exceed, your expectations. 5 stars!
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing.”
Maddie is feeling unfulfilled in her life as a full-time wife and mother of one. It’s 1965, when women can dream of careers—and Maddie is a good dreamer. She leaves her husband of twenty years to become a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. Stuck with fluff pieces, she dreams of breaking a big story. She finds that story in Cleo Sherwood.
The Lady in the Lake is an almost perfect sixties adaptation of a forties crime noir. Instead of a good man in a hat, it’s feminist Maddie finding truths that are best kept hidden. Like classic noir, most of the characters are unsympathetic. The pacing is slower than modern thrillers. If both of those traits are fine with you, you will enjoy this “modern” update. 4 stars!
Thanks to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In 1894, there is a Murder in the British Museum. Private Inquiry Agent Daniel Wilson and his live-in lover Abigail Fenton, a famous archaeologist, investigate at the request of the museum director.
Esteemed Professor Lance Pickering is most famous for his work on the new King Arthur exhibit and for his new book about Arthur’s uncle, Ambrosius. That is until he is stabbed in the museum’s restroom behind a locked cubicle door.
Daniel quickly guesses how the murder was done. Unfortunately, he must work even faster to discover the who before his nemesis, Superintendent Armstrong of Scotland Yard, beats him to it.
If you enjoy learning some Arthurian and 19th century London history while reading an engaging mystery, you will enjoy Murder at the British Museum. There is also a strong feminist as the detective’s side kick plus the almost obligatory bumbling Scotland Yard employee complicating the case. I liked the no-nonsense romance between Daniel and Abigail. The mystery was good too. Overall, I rate it at 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Allison & Busby and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Definitely the best noir I’ve read this year! The Sleepwalker is the third dark thriller in the terrific Aidan Waits series.
Down these dark hospital corridors a man must go… Aidan and his shady partner Sutty are watching a serial killer called The Sleepwalker die. The Manchester Police are hoping that the prisoner will tell Sutty where he left the body of his last victim. Instead, he denies the killing immediately before both he and Sutty are bombed in the hospital room.
While this is only the beginning of the twisty tale, I can’t even begin to tell you more without it being a spoiler. What I can do is highly recommend this gritty British noir for its impeccably nuanced characters and impressive plotting. Every noir fan must read this book! Fans of thrillers and police procedurals (though Aidan is not one to follow many rules) will enjoy it also. 5 stars!
Thanks to Doubleday UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In Truth or Die, Detective Sergeant Imogen and her partner (and friend with benefits), DS Adrian are investigating a professor’s death. The philosophy professor’s head was bashed in with a glass paperweight. Their sleuthing uncovers an awful truth playing out at the university.
Both Imogen and Adrian are getting over recent relationships when this tale begins. While there is a mystery and some police procedures described, this seemed more an excuse to show Imogen and Adrian’s relationship moving forward rather than the other way round. There were also a lot of character names to juggle. I found myself frequently backtracking to determine who the character was that was speaking. I believe my problem was that I was trying to read this as a standalone. It would be much easier if I had the previous four books experience with many of the characters.
If you have read the previous books in this series and don’t mind some romance, frequent gore, and occasional twists in your police procedurals, you will already know whether you will enjoy Truth or Die or not. However, if you haven’t read the other books (at least the last one, The Promise), I think you will be as confused as I was while reading this one. I can only give my own review of course, so 3 stars for this character-driven thriller.
Thanks to Avon Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Roxane is a complex, underworked private investigator trying to save her brother from a murder charge in the Stories You Tell.
When her brother Andrew calls Roxane in the middle of the night, she comes running. Andrew is worried about former co-worker and one-time (or maybe two time) lover, Addison. Addison arrived at his house earlier bloody and incoherent. She then ran off before he could get the whole story. Work has been slow for PI Roxane so she agrees to check on the girl.
Roxane discovers Addison really is missing and she worked at the nightclub across the street from Andrew’s home. When Addison’s father reports her missing, Andrew is the police’s number one suspect. Roxane decides she must solve the crime to prevent Andrew from being indicted for murder.
Stories You Tell is a character-driven police procedural where the winter setting in Ohio almost feels like a character too. Roxane’s relationships are the heart of the book with lover Catherine, ex-lover Tom who was also her dead policeman father’s partner, and her brother Andrew. There are many mysteries to solve within this book but the clues are carefully hidden making it a fun tale for armchair detectives.
Overall, the book received 4 stars from me. I’m looking forward to reading the earlier, and subsequent, books in this series.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
“Clap clap. She ducked a minute too late as the coil of rope settled around her neck.” from the prologue of the Suffering of Strangers.
Roberta has had a day. Her six week old son will not stop crying. Her husband calls and wants her to pick up some champagne to celebrate his new job. When she reaches the store, her son is blessedly silent. She decides to just run into the shop quickly while leaving her son in the car. When she returns both her car and son are gone. After a frantic search, Roberta finds her car but the infant in the car seat is not her son. DI Costello investigates.
Meanwhile, DCI Anderson is investigating a 20 year old cold case. A young mother is out late buying milk when she is roped around the neck, raped, and tossed behind some rubbish bins. She can’t recall what happened. Could this be part of a series?
I enjoyed guessing how these cases were connected and whodunit. However, jumping into this series at the ninth book may not be wise. While it can be read as a standalone, the sheer number of characters—some important for this story and some obviously carryovers from previous books—makes a slow and confusing book at the start. However, the momentum quickly builds after about 20% into a twisty conclusion.
The Suffering of Strangers is a rip-roaring British police procedural highly recommended for armchair detectives. However, it might be best to read at least one other entry in the series before beginning this book. 4 stars!
Thanks to Black Thorn Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
A historical mystery set in 1926, but written in 2018, describes a Death at the Wychbourne Follies.
Lady Gertrude Ansley was an actress before landing her Marquess husband and retiring. Wishing to relive her youthful adventures she invites her fellow actors to her country house, Wychbourne Court. She hopes to put on the Wychbourne Follies at the local pub with her former friends.
Things turn uncomfortable when the topic turns to Mary Ann Darling whose disappearance allowed Gertrude her star turn in the play, The Flower Shop Girl. After hinting at having incriminating evidence about Mary Ann’s disappearance, one guest is found bludgeoned to death.
Death at the Wychbourne Follies is a fine Agatha Christie’sque mystery that includes the usual rounding up of all the suspects by the Inspector at the denouement. Chef Nell is an unusual amateur assistant to Chief Inspector Melbray. Nell acts as a younger Miss Marple with her observant eye and knowledge of human nature.
If you like golden age mysteries, you will enjoy this book. The mystery is challenging because everyone seems to have secrets they are protecting. Even though this is the second in the Chef Nell series, I had no problems reading it as a standalone. 4 stars!
Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Death in the Stocks is the first Superintendent Hannasyde mystery written in 1935.
Arnold Vereker is found locked in the village stocks and stabbed to death. Superintendent Hannasyde has a multitude of suspects since everyone seemed to dislike him and no one has an ironclad alibi.
Maybe it is the shadow of Agatha Christie, who was writing at the same time, but Georgette Heyer’s mysteries seem overlong and rather stuffed with English upper crust commentary that seems irrelevant more than eighty years after they were published. Rather than reading Death in the Stocks, read one of the author’s excellent regency romance books for which she is famous. For a great mystery, read Agatha or Dorothy L. Sayers. 2 stars.H
Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Set in the houses of Parliament in 1932, when it was also written, the Division Bell Mystery is the first mystery written by a female member of Parliament.
Someone is murdered. However, the focus is on British politics. Not being British, I had a hard time following the story. Those familiar with Parliament might enjoy the intrigue. However, I didn’t think the mystery was good enough to wade through all the politics. It is more of a curiosity than a good read. 2 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
It’s 1969. Bryant and May are tasked with keeping a witness safe at an English Country House weekend. Unfortunately, the Army has closed the only exit road due to war games. There are nine suspects and more than one potential victim in this Hall of Mirrors.
Hall of Mirrors is the fifteenth entry in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series but the first I’ve read. It is a perfect entry point because it is a prequel of one of Bryant and May’s early cases. London in 1969 sounds like a groovy time, man. The setting of hippies, eastern spirituality and old staunch England all collide with humorous results. This book includes everything but the kitchen sink: mythical creatures, WWI heroes, innovative murder methods and motives. The conclusion was fabulous. I loved this book and will be looking for more from this series. It is highly recommended to armchair detectives and anyone looking for a challenging mystery. 5 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine is back is the fine mystery In at the Death.
Dr. Hardene is found bludgeoned to death inside a vacant house. When Chief Inspector Boyce of Scotland Yard is called to investigate, he brings his buddy Mordecai Tremaine. Numerous questions emerge. Why was the Doctor carrying a gun in his bag? Why was his car parked down the street? Why does everyone in the small town seem to be hiding something?
Written in 1952, In at the Death showcases the puzzle making skills of the author. He seems to be hitting his stride in the fourth Mordecai Tremaine mystery. I was totally blindsided by the conclusion. If you want to play armchair detective too, I highly recommend reading this book. Hopefully, you will have better luck guessing the murderer. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.