Category Archives: Crime

Post kill

Please don’t send me more chocolate! It won’t make me love you or your book any more than not sending it will do, and I can’t eat it. In fact, I’m increasingly surrounded by people who will not be having any of the book chocolate I receive.

What to do with it?

It’s quite attractive when someone has had a bar of chocolate designed to match the book cover. I appreciate the idea. But I will still have to get rid of it.

And then there are the smaller, anonymous, pieces of – what looks like – chocolate. And other small sweets, which I won’t eat either. Recently there was a recipe and part of what was needed to make something, which I won’t identify here, as it was pretty specific.

Some of these books I will read and like. Some I will not. I will neither like nor dislike the book because of the freebie.

And then my mind goes off in another direction. If the blank chocolates appeared in a crime novel, alongside a book, addressed to a book reviewer… Well, there are certainly possibilities there! And, you know, if that book when sent out to reviewers were to be accompanied by chocolate… Well.

Sara Paretsky once had VI Warshawski in desperate need of something to write on, and furnished her heroine with the backs of press releases of books for review, which VI came across, for whatever reason. I quite liked that. I do all my Bookwitch planning on the backs of them.

But they are not going to kill anyone.

Closed Casket

I must admit I can’t work out what the four words are. Having finished reading Sophie Hannah’s second Poirot mystery, Closed Casket, I remembered her saying at the Edinburgh launch that four words describe the whole thing. You know, something like ‘the butler did it.’ Except he didn’t. I mean, maybe he did. I’m saying nothing.

There is an outlandish character in Closed Casket, but one I had no trouble believing in, as I’ve met someone like that myself. I wonder if there is one like that in most people’s lives?

Sophie Hannah, Closed Casket

In this second Poirot outing we meet an Enid Blyton kind of children’s mystery author. Very rich and famous, this woman changes her will, leaving everything to her dying secretary, which is a weird thing to do. And from that we have our mystery. Who will die, and who murdered them and why?

More so than in Sophie’s first Poirot novel, I felt this one gave more space to Poirot’s Scotland Yard friend Catchpool, letting Poirot work around him. They have been invited to the author’s home in Ireland, and while the house itself is fancy, the surroundings seem less attractive than we are used to in Agatha’s own books. Much less vicarage chintz for the blood to spill on, so to speak.

There is a whole cast of likeable – and less likeable – characters, and it really was difficult deciding who must have dunnit. In fact, I didn’t. I just let myself  float along, happy to let any of them be the bad guy.

Invisible

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ said Swiss Lady, sounding confused. So I tried again, describing the – occasional – advantages of invisibility. Not so much when you are trying to order at the bar, but the ability to walk down the street and not be noticed, is useful. Unless a car runs you over.

I tried spelling it out, saying that when you reach that old, grey, uninteresting and unimportant stage, this can be a blessing. Pushing a toddler in a pushchair was my last encounter with ‘not really being there’ and it was all right. If necessary you can always accidentally shove the pushchair into people’s shins.

But no, Swiss Lady had never come across this phenomenon. She is older than I am, but better looking and so vivacious that invisibility has obviously not set in.

It’s not just me, though. A well known crime writer described her recent wine buying experience, where the young shop assistant stopped halfway through checking her bottles out to chat to someone equally young, but not spending money. When our author inquired if he’d prefer for her to come back later, he managed to return to the task at hand. Before leaving she told him what happened in ‘the episode in Frankie and Grace where Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda get so annoyed at being invisible in the liquor store that they steal what they want — and even then the clerk doesn’t notice them.’

Ignore us at your peril.

Night Watch

Commander Vimes’s mushroom must be a little stronger than mine, which falls apart if I as much as look at it. That aside, I heartily approve of the use of such a normal tool for tasks it wasn’t exactly intended for. It proves how grounded Terry Pratchett was, and shows that Sam Vimes is adaptable, as well as polite. Not so much for bopping someone on the head with said mushroom, but more for how he came to own one in the first place.

Reading Terry’s Night Watch made me miss old-fashioned, decent behaviour. While there is much that isn’t in Night Watch, there is also a lot in there which is. Sam Vimes is a very decent man, as was his creator.

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

In Night Watch Vimes is subjected to a spot of time travel, and contrary to the rules of such things, he actually interacts with his younger self, without Discworld exploding any more than you’d expect it to.

Time travel is interesting. Do you in fact change the past by going back, so that when you return to your present your past is a new past, or the one you always had, because you did what you did? Because you were always meant to go back?

There’s a revolution happening in Ankh-Morpork, with grannies on barricades and the lot. They are ruled by a bad man, and then they get, well, a different bad man. The way you do. The young Vetinari is there, and I liked getting more of an understanding of who he was, before he became what he is now.

Seamstresses and younger versions of Vimes’s current City Watch, including a clueless Sam Vimes, provide much background to the Ankh-Morpork of today. And I loved the young Nobby Nobbs!

You can’t easily summarise a Pratchett novel, and most of you have probably read it already. Let’s just say it was exactly what I needed in today’s climate of madness.

Light reading

They’re not bad, those little e-readers. Especially if you are required to use up your suitcase weight allowance with cables. And cheese fondue pods.

Daughter touched down at Bookwitch Towers briefly, en route for the other side of the world. She’d brought her half-read copy of her brother’s translation of Into a Raging Blaze, but as we began weighing every item to go (yes, really), even that had to stay here. Instead we filled up her newly acquired Kindle with books.

Sally Gardner, The Door That Led To Where

I have got Daughter so well trained that she accepted most of my suggestions of Really Good Books. All was going well until she said she’d also quite like something cheerful. Gulp. And something girly, a bit like Cathy Hopkins’s Mates Dates series.

That’s easier said than done. I ransacked my brain for anything a bit like that. I searched my shelves for girlier books than the ones I’d listed. And I’m sorry to say but we didn’t get anywhere much.

We’d be grateful for genuinely good – and cheerful – stories featuring female characters. One is easy. Both together is less common than it ought to be. When I went through my mental list of favourite female authors, I came to the conclusion that many of their books are about male characters. And I’m fine with that, since a good book is a good book.

But Mates Dates they are not.

And to my mind, Cathy’s books are friendlier than most. The catty friends and horrible boyfriends are far too common in many book plots. I suppose that’s one way of providing action; see how many characters your characters can fall out with before all is well at the end. Or not.

From the launch pad

There are only so many simultaneous launches a witch can attend. Last night offered two; both of which I dearly wanted to go to.

Marnie Riches, Born Bad

Marnie Riches brought her new baby, crime-thriller novel Born Bad, into the world at Waterstones Deansgate (that’s Manchester, folks), and it felt like such a special event that for weeks I believed it would be the one to take me back there at long last. After all, what else would I be doing on a dark February night?

The answer to that is three things, and being exhausted and having the builders [still] in were two of them. I sensibly declined in the end, and no sooner had I done that than James Oswald declared he was also launching his new novel at exactly the same time, at Waterstones West End (that’s Edinburgh), and this did feel a lot more feasible. But in the end the same three things conspired against me and I didn’t go.

Sigh.

I trust books were launched successfully anyway, and that Written in Bones is now sailing somewhere well past Princes Street Gardens, possibly as far as the Meadows, where it might encounter the dead body I told you about yesterday. If James continues to write and continues to launch, it is my ambition in life to go along to one of these events. Perhaps the trains will even run all evening at some distant point in time.

James Oswald, Wriiten in Bones

Back to Marnie and Manchester. Born Bad is about bad people doing bad things in Manchester. It has a great cover, and I’m so happy for Marnie, whose first paper book crime novel it is. The George McKenzie books are ebooks (they ought to be in paper as well!). There was mention of booze with the invite, but as I wasn’t going to drink any, I reckon my absense won’t make a difference.

I’ll get to Manchester one day. And Edinburgh. Well, the latter could be next week.

Meanwhile I’ll polish up the broom.

Written in Bones

Someone please get Tony McLean a winter coat! With a hood. And gloves. The man’s useless and he’s forever going out on murder hunts freezing, slipping from unsuitable footwear. It’s not good for him.

James Oswald, Written in Bones

It is already time for the seventh McLean mystery, and this one is surprisingly normal, apart from the issue with the dragon. But you don’t need the supernatural when you can have one cold, and only recently unsuspended, Detective Inspector out on the streets of Edinburgh.

As is customary with James Oswald’s crime novels, you first meet the murder victim and can hear their thoughts as the end comes closer. This one is spectacular. Think ‘tree in the Meadows taking the place of your kebab skewer’ and there you have it.

McLean has the same unpleasant boss as before, plus some new and promising looking constables to help solve the latest of the many puzzling crimes he always seems to find. Emma is back, but will it last?

Between many turns in and out of hospital for almost everyone, Tony looks for the reason the corpse was skewered, and if there really was a dragon.