My Month in Review | May 2021

I can’t believe that we are already at the end of May (or the start of June when this will be published); almost halfway through the year. So much better than this time last year. The Book God and I have both been fully vaccinated, we’ve ventured out to a restaurant for the first time in I don’t know how long, and we have plans to do interesting things over the next few weeks.

The sun is also shining and the temperatures are beginning to climb above 20 degrees (centigrade) and things are looking good.

I’ve probably jinxed it now!

It’s been a good reading month too.

  • Books read this month = 8
  • Pages read = 3417
  • Progress against Goodreads challenge = 53% (8 books ahead of schedule)

In terms of challenges, I have half-heartedly started the David Copperfield Reading project with nothing substantive to report so far, and the Twenty Books of Summer challenge starts tomorrow (1 June). You can find my book selections here.

Next month’s pre-orders:

  • Castle Shade by Laurie R King – Mary & Holmes get caught up in a mystery involving Queen Marie of Romania. Transylvania might just be involved! This is the 17th entry in this series and I really do need to get caught up
  • The Wood Bee Queen by Edward Cox – librarians, local folklore, magical stones – what’ not to love! 
  • The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe – death of Mr C thought to be solved, done and dusted but along comes one of those pesky true crime podcasts to stir things up again
  • The Maidens by Alex Michaelides – exclusive students in a Cambridge college – actually made it four comments down on the Amazon page before I hit my first reference to The Secret History
  • Falling by TJ Newman – pilot’s family is kidnapped and the only way to save them is to crash the plane…..
  • Star Eater by Kerstin Hall – magical bloodlines, shadowy factions, spying, all of the things
  • Artifact Space by Miles Cameron – what is targeting the great spaceships which transport stuff  in human occupied space?

I’m going to try really, really hard not to buy anything else but we shall see. My track record is not good…

Nothing much else to add here, so I’ll wish you very happy reading, and stay safe!

Twenty Books of Summer 2021

Better late than never with formally signing up to and producing my selection for this years 20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy over at 746Books. I have been dithering about what I want to read for so long, and have decided that I will pick from a selection of 25 books, which allows me to put aside any duds or things I’m just not in the mood for at that moment.

THE LIST

PART 1 – Kindle editions

Civilisations by Laurent Binet (bought in 2021 – 311 pages)

I really enjoyed his novel HhHH (capitalisation may be incorrect but I’m too lazy to check) and thought I would try another. This is a counterfactual story (I’m a sucker for those) and it will be good to read some European literature.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb #2 (bought in 2020 – 512 pages)

I read the first book in this series during last year’s challenge so it seemed only fitting to include this one here.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (bought in 2021 – 336 pages)

This has an interesting premise, as it looks at the infinite possibilities of five lives during the 20th century in London. Will I be able to read this without comparing it to Kate Atkinson? Perhaps….

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (bought in 2020 – 341 pages)

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. Irresistible.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (bought in 2020 – 463 pages)

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. Ooh, interesting!

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (bought in 2020 – 574 pages)

I love David Mitchell. I love books about rock bands. No contest, but how will this measure up to my all-time favourite Espedair Street – we will see….

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – Borne #2 (bought in 2019 – 352 pages)

I adored Borne and will read anything set in the same universe, so here we are!

Comet Weather by Liz Williams (bought in 2020 – 304 pages)

There’s a comet. There are four sisters. There is a missing mother who used to be a Vogue cover model. It has a gorgeous tree on the cover. People I admire have given it good reviews. It’s on the list!

The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford (bought in 2011 – 624 pages)

If you have been around here for a while you will know that the 16th century is my jam (I will not bore you with my dissertation title) and of course the Six Wives are a topic of interest. Kat Howard is the one I know least about and this novel comes recommended.

Queen of the Underworld by Gail Godwin (bought in 2012 – 368 pages)

I used to devour Gail Godwin’s books but haven’t read one in a while. This is apparently sultry literary fiction so ideal for summer. Probably.

Rustication by Charles Palliser (bought in 2014 – 337 pages)

It is winter 1863, and Richard Shenstone, aged seventeen, has been sent down—”rusticated”—from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by sexual desire, he finds temporary refuge in a dilapidated old mansion on the southern English coast inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie. Soon, graphic and threatening letters begin to circulate among his neighbors, and Richard finds himself the leading suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from vivisection to murder. Enough said.

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand (bought in 2015 – 148 pages)

More music, this time acid-folk, the big break and a lead singer that goes missing… Gothic.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (bought in 2017 – 240 pages)

Facing his sixty-third winter, internationally acclaimed novelist Paul Auster sits down to write a history of his body and its sensations both pleasurable and painful. I will be 60 in January. Aches and pains are a way of life.

Blackwater by Michael McDowell (bought in 2017 – 895 pages)

Blackwater traces more than fifty years in the lives of the powerful Caskey family of Perdido, Alabama, under the influence of the mysterious and beautiful—but not quite human—Elinor Dammert. I read my first McDowell novel not that long ago and loved his style. This is apparently very cool and I’m looking forward to picking it up.

1974 by David Peace (bought in 2018 – 322 pages)

It’s winter, 1974, Yorkshire, and Eddie Dunford’s got the job he wanted – crime correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. He didn’t know it was going to be a season in hell. I have never read David Peace so thought I would start here.


PART 2 – Physical books

Touch by Claire North (published in 2015, signed by the author at a launch event – 426 pages)

Claire North is a delight and I have loved everything of hers that I have read. She was fun to meet and I’m sorry I still haven’t read this yet…

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni (a 2020 Christmas gift – 345 pages)

This is giving me serious The Historian vibes and I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not, but I am happy to give it a try.

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang (a Christmas gift – 352 pages)

The year is 1924, and Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, formerly of the Royal Fusiliers, is a new member of the Britannia―London’s most prestigious club. It’s a family tradition, but an honor he’s not sure he quite deserves. So, when a gentleman’s wager ends with one man dead in the vault under the club, Eric is only too ready to tackle the mystery head on.

Empire State by Adam Christopher (a Christmas gift – 439 pages)

Energy blasts. Holes in reality. Parallel New York. Unstable rifts. Fighting to survive. Awesome.

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird (bought on holiday back home in Scotland – 317 pages)

I cannot, I repeat, cannot, resist a Holmes pastiche/reinvention/homage. Also the covers for this series are great.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yakamoto (borrowed from my husband – 189 pages)

1937 Japan. Impending nuptials. Sinister masked men. Recommended by Mr B so obviously on the list!

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (bought in 2020 – 346 pages)

I’ve long wanted to read Siri Hustvedt but never been sure where to start; 1970s New York seems like a good place.

Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn (bought in 2020 – 280 pages)

I picked up this spy thriller set in 1941 London when I realised that I was going to read one of the later books in the series, and I am nothing ig not someone who likes to start at the beginning.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (bought in I know not when – 283 pages)

 It wouldn’t be summer without a decent haunted house novel, would it?

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago (bought in absolutely no idea – 196 pages)

What happens when on the first day of the year Death goes on strike and it looks like folks have achieved immortality? Nothing good I suspect. 


So that’s it – a long one but hopefully of interest. I am going to try really hard to review what I read as part of this challenge, so watch this space!

My Week – ending Sunday 9 May

Otherwise known as a better late than never post!

Last week we had so much rain but I have turned into a person who says that “at least it’s good for the garden” – what have I become 😀 ?

I also had my second Covid-19 vaccination and all is well. My arm was a bit sore and I was very, very tired but all of that passed within 36 hours and I’ve been raring to go ever since.

I’ve also been trying to get back into walking daily, and part of the fun of that for me (besides listening to podcasts or audiobooks) is interacting with local pets and wildlife. I’ve been noticing a greater variety of birds in our garden, but our neighbourhood black cat resolutely ignores me whenever I see him on his daily patrol. I was sleepily regarded by a small fox curled up in the warm sunshine. We don’t normally see them during broad daylight, but it was a gorgeous animal and I’m glad I spotted it, though I wish I’d taken a photo

Yesterday (Tuesday) after a visit to the dentist I walked part of the way home along the Thames. Lovely.

Kingston riverside, Tuesday 11 May

But onto the books

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and finished two novels, the first in the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton and yet another in the Robert Hunter series by Chris Carter.

I really enjoyed reading about Ava Lee, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who goes after missing money for private clients. It was fast paced and took the reader from Toronto to Hong Kong to Guyana to the British Virgin Islands and back again. I loved all the money stuff and the technicalities of finding out where it might be hidden, so much so that I managed to overcome two of my pet peeves which appeared right at the beginning of the story – irrelevant information about Ava’s breast size and the use of the word panties; I loathe that word. Anyway, I have already bought the next book and I expect to continue with the series.

I’m currently reading the very next Robert Hunter thriller and will round up the series when I have finished all 9, or is it 10. Still enjoying them but they are not for anyone who can’t handle graphic violence. 50+ years of reading horror has been good practice.

I’m also currently reading Greg Jenner’s Dead Famous, a book about celebrity over the ages and how as a concept it’s not as modern as we might think it is. Great fun and thought provoking, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his theories develop. A wee taste:

CELEBRITY (noun): A unique persona made widely known to the public via media coverage, and whose life is publicly consumed as dramatic entertainment, and whose commercial brand is profitable for those who exploit their popularity, and perhaps also for themselves.

So that’s more or less my week. Hope you are well and staying safe!

Catching up – February movies


Spider-Man: Far From Home [2109]

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

I am very much a fan of and adherent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which often pains me as before all of these movies hit the screen way back when I had been staunchly a DC girl. Of the Marvel heroes Spider-Man was probably the one I knew best, and I have watched most of the Toby Maguire, all of the Andrew Garfield and the first Tom Holland films. It’s taken me a while to get to this latest one but I’m pleased to say that it was great fun, especially for a London-based viewer who enjoys trying to work out how they think the city works. Elevated by the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and featuring the best Tower Bridge action since Northing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. Good Saturday night movie.

Directed by Jon Watts, SM: FFH is 2h 9 and rated 12A.


News of the World [2020]

A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.

I have a complicated relationship with Westerns because my late Dad was a huge fan and I was brought up on a diet of John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott et al and I was burned out at a relatively early age. But the Western has changed and I am back in the fold. Cue Tom Hanks as a veteran of the Civil War who has seen A Lot and travels the West bringing news to isolated communities. He comes across a young girl and agrees (well, is kind of forced) to reunite her with her family, but of course that isn’t easy and there are some nasty folks out there. Elegiac and more violent than I expected from a Tom Hanks movie, I thought this was very well done and the ending in particular worked well. I may have shouted “GO BACK” at one point, and he must have heard me because he did.

Directed by Paul Greengrass, News of the World is 1h 58 and rated 12A


Wind River [2017]

A veteran hunter helps an FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman on a Wyoming Native American reservation.

I have reservations about Jeremy Renner; I just do not warm to him at all though I have enjoyed several of the films in which he has appeared. Having said that I thought he was really good in Wind River, a film I missed first time out and came to now because of my girl crush on Elizabeth Olsen.

I really admire Taylor Sheridan having loved both Sicario and Hell or High Water so this is a hidden gem as far as I’m concerned. Will watch again.

Directed by Taylor SheridanWind River is 1h 47 long and rated 15

April in Review

Here we are with a quarter of the year already gone and it’s time for another monthly round-up.

April was a good month for bookish matters.

The Stats

  • Books read = 8
  • Pages read = 2846
  • Goodreads challenge = 5 books ahead of schedule and already at 40%

Pre-orders for May

  • Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon – “Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman.”
  • Phase Six by Jim Shepard – reading a book about a global pandemic while in the middle of a global pandemic seems counter-intuitive but I am unable to resist. This was written pre-Covid btw
  • The Album of Doctor Moreau by Daryl Gregory – HG Wells meets boy band culture with some murder thrown in. Sounds awesome.
  • Last Days in Cleaver Square by Patrick McGrath – I have always had a great fondness for McGrath but it’s a while since I’ve read anything by him. The premise of this – set in 1975 where an old man is haunted by visions of the dying General Franco – sounds fascinating.
  • The Beresford by Will Carver – two of my favourite books so far in 2021 were written by Will Carver and I fully expect to love this new standalone thriller also
  • Witch by Iain Rob Wright – all I know about this is it is horror, there’s a witch (duh) and there may or may not be cursed manuscripts…….
  • The Nine by Gwen Strauss – my interest in the experiences of women caught up in WWII continues; this is the story of nine women fleeing a German forced labour camp.

Coming up

I get my second Covid vaccination this week about which I am very glad. Mr B is already fully vaccinated and I’m looking forward to feeling more confident about heading into London again as the museums re-open.

A BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love by Emily Mortimer starts next weekend. It looks lush and enjoyable with a great cast and high production values and I for one am sold.

I have a couple of challenges coming up:

  • Cathy at 746Books is hosting Twenty Books of Summer from 1 June to 1 September and I’m already compiling my list. This will be my year to finish, I can feel it 🙂
  • I’m challenging myself to read David Copperfield, prompted by having watched Armando Ianucci’s recent film version. These days I do tend to struggle with classic Victorian authors so I’m giving myself a chance and planning to read in line with the original publication schedule, which means I should finish around November. November 2022, that is.

Apart from that all is quiet (despite the howling wind outside at the moment). Hope you are all staying safe and have a great reading week!

Looking back on my week, ending 25 April

Part of me is thinking “How is it nearly May?”, but the other part of me, the one who was out in our tiny back garden today (Sunday) planting in the warm sunshine, was convinced that we are well into late spring!

This is a good thing.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

And, despite being a little unwell and the (luckily) unsuccessful attempt to cut off my thumb with a craft knife – don’t ask me to explain the REALLY stupid thing I did that resulted in said injury – it has been a really good reading week. I’ve been on a bit of a roll, but of course now that I’ve said that I’ll hit a slump, but I don’t care.

Anyway, I read three books this week and I fully intend to review them over the next wee while. My track record on that has been appalling, so just in case…..

  • The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie – cult survivors going back to Red Peak work out what actually happened on that fateful last night
  • An Evil Mind by Chris Carter (Robert Hunter #6) – the best of the Hunter novels so far IMHO, bit Silence of the Lambs, bit Israel Keyes, all good
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots – what happens to the people who are collateral damage when the supes fight the villains?

Of these I would say that the greatest is Hench which I read in a single sitting on Friday, only stopping for comfort breaks and lunch.

This week’s impulse purchases were:

  • The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray – because the end of the world is always fascinating even in a pandemic
  • I Am Death (Robert Hunter 7) by Chris Carter – because this is one of my favourite series and I’m going to read them all
  • Shimmerdark by Sarah Mensinga – because I loved Sarah’s previous fantasy novel and the premise of this one sounds so good
  • Silenced by Solveig Palsdottir – because I have purchased (but not read) the first in this new series and the recommendations are many and uniformly favourable
  • Agatha Christie’s Marple by Anne Hart – because it sounds fun and I can’t resist anything that’s Agatha adjacent
  • Civilisations by Laurence Binet – because it sounds so cool

Currently reading The Deadly Touch of the Tigress by Ian Hamilton, the first in his Ava Lee series. I wish I could remember who recommended this (I think it might have been Musings from the Sofa) but whoever they were I’m enjoying it so far.

Other stuff

For the second year in a row I am not pulling an all-nighter to watch the Oscars. I just haven’t been paying attention to the eligible movies and performances so would have been solely focusing on outfits and the red carpet will be a bit weird this year.

Sadly we have come to the end of the very last episode of Elementary. We’ve been watching these steadily over the past few months having come to it late due to misplaced snobbery. It’s now my favourite incarnation of the Great Detective (other than Basil Rathbone of course) and I may at some point go back to the beginning and start again just because I can. We shall see. Now looking for something else to fill the gap – may go back to The Blacklist as I’ve only watched the first two seasons.

Spent Sunday night focussed on the penultimate episode of Line of Duty S6 – as Ted Hastings would say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey”; if you know, you know 😀

Anyway, enough rambling from me. Hope you are all staying safe, and have a great reading week.

Catching up – January movies

The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]

A lawyer defending a wealthy man begins to believe his client is guilty of more than just one crime.

Giving away the fact that the defendant is guilty in the first place I guess, so not really a spoiler? Also Ryan Philippe is agreeably arrogant and superior not to mention smug so just by looking at his face you would guess that he was guilty in any case. I watched this largely because it’s based on the first in a series of novels by Michael Connelly and this household has been deeply addicted to Bosch, but the same author. The Book God, who has read many of the books in both series advises, me that the two lead characters are half-brothers (I think) and so there is a shared universe vibe in the background.

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would; not sure why I had not seen it before to be honest, though I suspect it may have had something to do with not really rating Matthew McConaughey – well. until I watched True Detective season one. But he is very charming in this, justice is served and can we really ask for anything more?

Directed by Brad Furman, The Lincoln Lawyer is 1h 58 long and rated 15 for themes of sexual violence.

Wonder Woman 1984 [2021]

Diana must contend with a work colleague and businessman, whose desire for extreme wealth sends the world down a path of destruction, after an ancient artifact that grants wishes goes missing.

So, ancient artefact (check), greedy businessman who really only wants to make his son proud of him so is he really that bad (check), overlooked female academic who becomes glamorous and powerful and doesn’t want to give it up (check) and by the way she taps into her inner Big Cat, a heroine grieving for her lost love (check) who has somehow come back from the dead in an unfortunate manner (don’t see that every day) and a showdown involving lots of smashing of people and things (check).

I was really looking forward to the new Wonder Woman movie and while its a solid entry into the DC Universe (which lets face it needs all the help it can get) I felt that it didn’t really hit the eights of the first film. Well, it did once at the very beginning when we had tiny wee Diana being awesome. I think it suffered from too many villains, neither of whom was really sufficiently nasty, plus the whole love interest thing which was mildly creepy when you stopped to think about it. Still enjoyable but a little Too Much.

Also, the 1980s; who really wants to revisit that?

Directed by Patty Jenkins, WW84 is 2h 31 long and rated 12A for moderate threat, violence and a scene of domestic abuse. Not to mention the psychological impact of the means used to bring Steve Trevor back from the dead (not a spoiler, Chris Pine is on the cast list)

Tenet [2020]

Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

I recently rewatched Inception so felt that I was sufficiently prepared for high-class wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey shenanigans but readers I WAS NOT.

This is a classy film benefitting from excellent performances, especially Sir Ken as a very, very nasty Russian person, properly villainous and deserving of everything that might happen to him, and Elizabeth Debicki who continues to be luminous in all that she does. Shout out to Robert Pattinson being dashing, some fabulous set pieces and young Mr Washington as the Protagonist.

But do not ask me (a) what this is about or (b) what happens because I was Confused. Enjoyably so, but Confused nevertheless.

I feel I may need to watch this again but that it might not help.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Tenet is 2h 30 long and rated 12 for moderate violence, threat, domestic abuse and infrequent strong language

Updating my week (ending 18 April)

We’ve been graced with beautiful sunny weather over the past few days which is guaranteed to lighten my mood, but last week didn’t start that way. On Monday 12th we woke up to sleet, of all things.

Anyway, despite that the signs of spring are increasingly evident, and the photo here shows the view as I walk out onto my front step 😀


Currently reading

I’ve got a few books that have been on my currently reading list for some time, but I have been absorbed in The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie because of a long-held and continuing fascination with cults, whether real or fictional. Hoping to finish this soon.

Just finished

One by One, my next read in the Robert Hunter detective series by Chris Carter; I think it’s #5 but I’m far too lazy to check. Oh wait, yes it is. Deeply gruesome, I sat up until 02:30 to finish it, and have already added #6 to my TBR

New books (excluding pre-orders):

  • An Evil Mind by Chris Carter – as mentioned above
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – planning to read this following the original publication schedule
  • Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick – In 1949, Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie has returned as a Trustee to live in the long-defunct boarding school that he had attended as a child. There he is preparing a memoir.
  • Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer – A speculative thriller about the end of all things, set in the Pacific Northwest. A harrowing descent into a secret world.
  • Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, edited by Jonathan Strahan – This collection of stories is where robots stand in for us, where both we and they are disadvantaged, and where hope and optimism shines through.
  • Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman – Francine is a luminary in her field of evolutionary science. She joins the Foundation to study a colony of bonobo apes: remarkable animals, and the perfect creatures to certify her revolutionary feminist theory of reproduction. 
  • The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow – volume 12 of this long-running series, a good source of new authors in the horror field

Currently watching:

We’ve been trying to finish off a number of series we had recorded, and have succeeded with ZeroZeroZero (awesome) and Briarpatch (very enjoyable), and we will soon come to the end of the very last series of Elementary, which will make me very, very sad.


Hope you are all doing well and staying safe. Some short movie reviews will be coming up soon, so watch this space.

March in review & April so far

I struggled a bit during March so didn’t feel very much like writing (or reading for that matter) but have no fear, I didn’t abandon books altogether. April promised to be marginally better, though as I write this a simple repair to our central heating system has led to a complete failure, and I’m having difficulty adjusting to new medication, so we’ll see how all of that goes…..

Enough of the moaning I hear you cry, what about the books?

March

Books read = 5

Pages read = 1299

Progress against Goodreads challenge = 2 books ahead, 28% of my target

April

I was going to list all of my pre-orders for the next month but that was starting to make me feel overwhelmed, sp let’s not and say we did 🙂

If you are interested there are 13 books on pre-order, 6 of which have already been delivered onto my Kindle app. All of them look really interesting as of course they would be otherwise why would I be ordering them (I can imagine you asking this question), and if I had to pick one then the only physical book I’m buying this month is the Illustrated HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy anniversary edition – with art by Chris Riddell. I still have the original LP of the radio show somewhere in a cupboard from back in the day, and as a long-time fan I’m inordinately excited about this new edition!

I’m currently reading quite a few books as you will see from the sidebar but finding it difficult to settle on anything so I’m dipping in and out as the mood takes me, which can be quite fun.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Keep your fingers crossed that the banging I can hear above my head is denoting progress on my heating issue, and that the sun might come out later today.

Hope you are well and staying safe – see you next time 😀

The Man Who Didn’t Fly by Margo Bennett

What’s it all about?

A plane crashes into the Irish Sea triggering an investigation, because although four men had arranged to fly on this charter it appears that only three actually boarded the flight.

It isn’t clear who didn’t fly, and the only information that the police have are snatches of overheard conversation and the Wade family’s recollections of what happened in the few days before the trip; the Wades knew all of the men involved, you see.

The blurb poses some questions for us to consider:

  • who was the man who didn’t fly? (obviously)
  • what did he have to gain? (presumably by not flying)
  • would he commit such an explosive murder to get it? (presuming there actually is/was an it)

What did I think?

I kept on referring to this as the Man Who Wouldn’t Fly, picturing some traditional 1950s bloke stamping his foot and refusing to embark.

This is not that story.

What it is, is an odd little book. The structure is unusual, starting with the investigation then heading into the recollections of Hester and Prudence Wade and their father as if we were watching them living through it, and flipping back into the investigation and its conclusion.

It’s not entirely clear why the police are involved in this mystery at all because, despite the question raised about the crash, the suggestion that it was as the result of a deliberate act is a red herring.

It is all about identification, apparently:

After the accident comes the casualty list; deaths must be documented, and no man is allowed a death certificate without first dying for it

The puzzle is very interesting and (without giving away the end) is solved almost entirely through the application of logic rather than actual physical evidence. Reassuringly, there is actually a crime

The puzzle is very interesting and (without giving away the end) is solved almost entirely through the application of logic rather than actual physical evidence. Reassuringly, there is actually a crime – well, more than one – but the nature of that crime isn’t apparent until very late on, along with the identity of the criminal. So from that point of view the book worked well for me.

I was less enamoured with the characters (police officers aside; I particularly enjoyed the detective sergeant explaining various cultural references to his superior). The men are all unpleasant and/or deeply irritating to varying degrees and both the girls are hugely frustrating, especially Hester who made me roll my eyes on more than one occasion.

I made an allowance for Prudence as she’s a teenager and presumably doesn’t know any better.

To be fair this novel was published in 1955 so the stereotypes are current for the time, I suppose. What does stand out is the clever structure, which is very different to the classic mystery, but the fact that it is so unusual is what probably makes it a Marmite book.

Have you read this, and if so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments.