Weekend at Thrackley
August 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Jim Henderson, unemployed for three years since WWI, gets an invitation from a friend of his father for a free Weekend at Thrackley. The mysterious owner, Edwin Carson, has something rather different planned than a typical country house weekend.

The residents are Mr. Carson’s daughter, Mary; his butler, Jacobson; and four other burly male servants. The guests are Freddie, Jim’s rich club mate; Lady Stone, a wealthy socialite; Raoul, a beautiful female entertainer; and finally poor—but still maintaining the facade—twins, Marilyn and Henry.

Weekend at Thrackley is a British debut mystery originally published in 1934. At the time, it was a best seller. It hasn’t held up as well as the Christie canon unfortunately. There are many long and irrelevant descriptions of people, places and bridge games that can safely be skimmed with no impact to the main plot. The biggest issue is that the plot itself has been remade a countless number of times since 1934. Think of the movies Clue and Murder by Death without the humor. Overall, even though I adore British golden age mysteries, I can’t recommend Weekend at Thrackley. 2 stars.

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.


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Aunt Dimity and the King's Ransom
August 5th, 2018 by diane92345

Not much of a mystery, more of a history, is found in Aunt Dimity and the King’s Ransom.

Lori is trapped by flooding rains in rural England in Shepney when she meets former Bishop Christopher. When only a supposed haunted attic room is the only area left to sleep, Lori makes the best of it. Her mother’s deceased friend Aunt Dimity contacts Lori by automatic writing in a blank blue notebook. Dimity states there is no ghost in the attic but tells of several in different areas of the King’s Ransom Inn, where Lori is staying. Christopher and Lori hunt for the ghost story’s origin as well as that of the inn’s name.

I’ve never read any books in the Aunt Dimity series before and was disappointed by her extremely small role in this book. I verified that this is marketed as a cozy mystery though the mysteries also seem rather scant. There are no present day crimes in Aunt Dimity and the King’s Ransom at all. It is all smugglers’ gold and 1700’s English history. To be honest, it reminded me of the books and cartoons of my youth like Scooby Doo, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. While the plot wasn’t to my taste, those interested in British history or looking for a non-violent mystery might find it interesting. 3 stars.

Thanks to Viking Books and NetGalley for a copy.

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Bats in the Belfry
May 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Characterization is sacrificed for plot in Bats in the Belfry.

There are a multitude of characters in Bats in the Belfry. Most are only vaguely fleshed out.  We first meet the main players at a funeral where they begin to discuss how they would hide a dead body.  Old Agatha Christie paperbacks always included a cast of characters at the beginning of the book.  However, this book doesn’t have one so here is my own:

  • Bruce Attleton, former bestselling author but now nearly destitute
  • Sybilla Attleton, wife of Bruce, famous actress and family breadwinner
  • Elizabeth Leigh, Bruce’s ward
  • Debrette, a mysterious foreigner who wants to speak desperately to Bruce
  • Thomas Burroughs, rich family friend perhaps too interested in Sybilla
  • Neil Rockingham, another family friend who is worried about Bruce’s reaction to Debrette
  • Robert Grenville, hopeful suitor of Elizabeth who is willing to check into Debrette for Neil

The plot has so many twists that admittedly I gave up trying to decipher the victim much less the murderer by the mid-point. If you wait until the end, the murderer is easily determined by seeing who has not either been killed or at least wounded yet.

Written in 1937, the convoluted plot in Bats in the Belfry holds up well for modern audiences. The best part was some of the 30s slang like ker-wite, bally-nix and prosy.  I was surprised that most of the words were found by my Kindle simply by clicking on the word so I would recommend reading this book on a Kindle just so you aren’t constantly looking up words on your phone. I was also surprised by the use of nouns for verbs (that practice that drives me crazy now) like corpsed for killed. The reverse was also true. For example, bury-ee is used for corpse.

Bats in the Belfry was a good, not great, golden-age British mystery. It is recommended for those readers that look more for plot than characterization in their fiction.  3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Charity Ends at Home
April 20th, 2018 by diane92345

Fifth in the Flaxborough Mystery series, Charity Ends at Home is another late Golden Age small English village cozy.

The village coroner, constable and editor of the local paper each receive an identical unsigned note stating that the writer is fearful of being murdered. The note references a photo of the writer but the photo is not included in any of the notes.

The plot and characters within Charity Ends at Home are unique. The mystery is great and unusual. This 20th century police procedural is worth 4 stars.

Thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for a copy. #FrugalFriday Short Review

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Murder for Christmas
October 4th, 2017 by diane92345

Splendid British Golden Age murder mystery.

For several years, Benedict Grame, a rich eccentric billionaire, has invited his friends to celebrate a traditional Christmas celebration in his mansion in a remote British village. However, this year he has also invited celebrated amateur detective Mordecai Tramaine. On Christmas Eve, a woman’s scream rends the night.  Santa is found sprawled dead under the Christmas tree.  Will Mordecai be able to assist the local Constable to solve the crime?  What is the meaning of the mysterious footprints to and from the murder scene? Does the secret passage between rooms impact the murder? What secrets are hidden among the guests, residents, or even Benedict himself?

The fun in this novel is trying to determine where all the clues lead.  Some lead to the solution.  Some lead to other activities unrelated to the murder.  Some are pure red herrings.  All are explained by the finale, which is challenging to determine prior to the last ten pages in the book.

This novel, which was previously published in 1949, is the second in the Mordecai Tremaine series of five books. Murder for Christmas can be read without any further exposure to the series. The language is easily understood by modern readers.

This book is highly recommended for fans of Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout and John Dickson Carr.   Anyone who enjoys a good mystery and especially readers who like playing armchair detective will enjoy Murder for Christmas.

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and netgalley for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. Murder for Christmas (Mordecai Tremaine Mystery) will be published on October 10, 2017.

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