Monthly Archives: February 2020

The long Carnegie

Well, I have read four of the books on the Carnegie Medal longlist for 2020. They were all excellent. As I’m sure the others on there are as well. Just wish I’d had the opportunity to read a few more. (I know. I could have kept myself properly informed and gone out and got them.)

The list for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal is far worse, when it comes to me. Not a single book. But presumably twenty really good ones, nevertheless.

No granite for me

All I needed to do was keep that one day in February clear. Not too hard a task, you’d think. But as with the unavoidable snow two years ago, I had this lurgy, and I could see it’d last too long. I didn’t want my event with Sara Paretsky to have a The Mirror Crack’d kind of scenario. If the woman was willing to travel all this way from Chicago, I didn’t have to go to Aberdeen to infect her and her fans with anything.

But you’d think a cold could be satisfied with a week of me.

Anyway, what I’m doing instead of seeing Sara with Denise Mina in Aberdeen, is trying not to pass the cold on to a whole different host of people, travelling, when I perhaps shouldn’t. I hope they have fun without me.

I will think back on my snowy journey to Nottingham all those years ago, and my subsequent trip to Glasgow to see Sara talk to Denise, also ‘some’ years ago. One can learn to be satisfied with what one has already had.

Besides, Sara recently admitted to having killed Mr Contreras. I mean, she didn’t, because her heroic husband threw himself in front of the bullet, and Mr Contreras lives. But still…

Bury Them Deep

It’s time for the 10th Inspector McLean novel. Or Detective Chief Inspector as we now need to address James Oswald’s Tony McLean. There’s been a promotion or two along the way since we first met him. And in a way, this doesn’t suit our Tony. He’d rather be out doing than dealing with the overtime of others, or for that matter, the politics of getting on with his superiors.

I have missed the last two books due to the fact that James insists on writing new ones every year. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, but apart from everyone having been promoted since I met them, they are mostly the same. No MacBride, and some of the bosses are retired, but still rootling around in the basement.

It helped that we revisited an old bad guy I’d come across before, and that I remembered both him and one or two other old cases that got a mention. I’m guessing some of the bad guys were so deliciously bad that it was worth going a second round with them. Though my use of the word ‘delicious’ might not be in the best of taste…

Ahem. Well, this is another ghastly tale set somewhere in and near Edinburgh. We meet the victim early on, and when that happens, it usually means they will come to a sticky end, and that we’ll be right there when it comes. There is some supernatural stuff, again, which you just can’t explain.

Ordinary poor thieves might be bad, but they have nothing on the much better off bad guys. The ones who normally get away with it.

And it’s hot. Tony is still badly dressed for what he is doing, but this time it’s not the lack of gloves that gets to him. But it seems that the police mustn’t cavort around in shorts and t-shirts, while others wear nothing at all…

Granite Noir

You know you want to, so why not trek over to Aberdeen this weekend, for some dark granite?

“Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s International Crime Writing Festival, returns to the city this week. Now in its fourth year, events run from Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 February in interesting, quirky and unusual spaces across the city offering an arresting line-up for all crime fans.

Headlining Granite Noir 2020 are Sara Paretsky, Anne Holt, Ben Aaronovitch, and Scotland’s own Ian Rankin, in conversation with comedian Phill Jupitus. The connection with Scandinavia is reinforced with appearances from Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic writers and home-grown talent includes conversations with Denise Mina, Helen Fitzgerald and Ambrose Parry.

Non-fiction events include conversations with three of Britain’s most renowned forensic scientists, and Robert Jeffrey who explores the remarkable story of Peterhead Prison.

Using records from Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives, Outcasts: Women, Crime and Society, a free exhibition at the Music Hall and Lemon Tree, examines our morbid fascination with female criminals and witchcraft.

Criminally good music events include Phill Jupitus and Ian Rankin. The Locked Door: Murder at the Movies, where participants revisit the crime scene, collect clues and solve puzzles to crack the case. Film screenings, performances of Dial M For Murder, writing workshops, an evening of Gin and Sin, local history walks and talks, a Poison Cocktail Party and Poisoned High Tea complete the line-up of events for adults.

Little Detectives can enjoy Monstrously Funny Adventures with Justin Davies and learn how to howl like a werewolf (in English, French and maybe even Doric), or join the CSI: Crime Squirrel Investigators with author and CBeebies screenwriter Emily Dodd.”

For those who know me, it should be easy enough to work out what I want to do. (Should I be able to get out of bed, that is…)

Grace Dent’s shoe

It was Sherlock Holmes – the real one – who said something along the lines of making a few disjointed comments about unrelated things in order to make you sound genuinely ill and raving. Mention loose change.

I’ve enjoyed Grace Dent’s restaurant columns in the Guardian ever since she started. Almost, anyway. I didn’t take kindly to the change, but I love her now. And, well, with me feeling off colour, I’ve not really done an honest day’s work for over a week. Watering the pot plants takes it all out of me.

So I’ve spent too long hanging over the laptop, and what’s a Witch to do but read her own ancient wit from time to time? So by complete coincidence I discovered the post about my 2008 trip to Godalming to the Queen of Teen event! I believed I’d never see my home again.

I had thought of that day only recently. Something to do with The Book People going bankrupt, and me feeling that maybe they shouldn’t have arranged these pink limo events, however fun.

Where was I? Loose change. Yes. So the first thing I noticed was Grace Dent’s shoe. I remember it well. I recall thinking I needed to get a shot of shoe and leg, and it seems I succeeded. Didn’t remember whose shoe at first, but then it all came back to me; Grace, her teen books that I had not read and that she willingly dressed up in frills and pink for a day.

Long before eating all that food on our behalf. For which I am grateful. Obviously. Having got this far I had to look her up, and discovered she went to the University of Stirling…

Anyway, anyone – almost – can write teen novels. I’m really enjoying those restaurant columns. And my temperature is down.

A Sudden Death in Cyprus

I was already a fan of Death in Cyprus, so it’s just as well Michael Grant added two more words to make his thriller A Sudden Death in Cyprus. Just so I can tell him apart from M M Kaye..! That one was rather more clean-living, not to mention romantic, than Michael’s offering sixty years on.

Adult it may be, but it’s still pretty clean, and I’ve learned at least one new use for a toilet. His author [former] crook David Mitre shares a lot of traits with Michael himself, including ‘the girl in the window.’ So Mr ‘Mitre’ may be a mere 42 years old, boasting symmetrical looks (I understand this is good), but he’s an attractive enough reformed villain, with enough brains, and Mr ‘Grant’ has given him a worthy crime to deal with.

Yes, there is death. After all the title suggests it. But mostly it’s a thrilling mystery-solving exercise, and I particularly like it when heroes can cobble together a team on the hop, so to speak; one that works well and gets us all where we want to be. Except possibly for David himself, who’d like to get a bit further with some of the ladies. (I believe it’s good for him to have to wait.)

And he is funny, this David/Michael. Just the right amount of funny. What more can you want apart from the gorgeous actresses, sullen French neighbours, FBI Special Agents, priests, sex workers and refugees? And hamsters.

When he’d solved the problems in Cyprus, I waited all of one day before turning to the next David Mitre story.

When the dentist calls twice

Or the five-coat crofter.

Well, the dentist called, to say he had a cancellation in an hour, if I wanted to come. Wanted to? Is he not a dentist? I turned him down. I had another ten days before it was my turn. Besides, I was just on my way back to bed after half a breakfast. I mean, half a breakfast! I never have just half a breakfast.

When I woke up I had an email, which suggested the dentist had called again, so I checked with the Resident IT Consultant (who had been forced to honour my appointment with the hairdresser, rather than cancel. Good thing he had some spare hair), and yes, it seems there had been a second call.

This time they’d had a patient talking about her university course homework, jokingly asking if he knew any Swedish-speakers. Well, yes, he did. And the Swedish-speaker’s husband said it was fine to email her, despite the bed situation.

So I found myself staring at three pages from some parish records in Öster-götland in the 1880s. As you do. Basically, some poor man had died and this was an inventory of what he left behind. It’s quite interesting, actually.

He had five coats! Five! He only owned three shirts. And one pair of trousers. The coats were valued at three times the amount for the bed and the sofa, together. There might have been a metal chamberpot, too.

The handwriting’s a bit taxing, but luckily I’m so old I have been taught joined-up writing of that very kind at school. I could read most of it.

But, I mean, five coats!