Category Archives: Humour

Emily Lime Librarian Detective – The Book Case

St Rita’s School isn’t your average girls’ boarding school. Not even if you factor in that it’s in a book. It’s falling apart and the food will poison you, if you’ve made it that far. Most of the girls seem to be delinquents, so Daphne, the new girl who’s been expelled from her old school, should fit right in.

Dave Shelton, Emily Lime Librarian Detective

As the new Assistant Assistant Librarian, she is roped in to help Assistant Librarian Emily Lime solve the mystery of the break-in in the rather bookless library. It might have something to do with the bank robbery in town. Or not.

In Dave Shelton’s humorous crime novel, set at St Rita’s soon after WWII, there is never a dull moment.

It’s not clear if this is the first of several school library mysteries, but I’d welcome more. After all, there has been no explanation of George, the lone male student at St Rita’s.

And the train journey there would be worth revisiting. Those were the days!

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What’s a novel?

What counts as a novel? I asked the Resident IT Consultant this over dinner, when I’d read an astounding – to me – headline in the Bookseller’s emailed newsletter.

It seems Quercus has bought the rights to Eoin Colfer’s first adult novel. I thought, ‘hang on, what first adult novel?’ I looked in my bookcase and found two, Screwed and Plugged. Signed, even, so one can assume Eoin has taken responsibility for them.

We discussed how you might remove the novel-ness from a crime, erm, novel. I didn’t think it was possible. I know some people look down on crime, as they do children’s books, but if it’s full length written fiction, it seems to me we are talking about a novel. And surely Quercus who have published so much excellent crime, would not sneer at it.

Eoin Colfer

But no, it appears we are talking about Eoin’s first adult fantasy novel. I was able to click on the article to read it (I have only limited access) and found that they might have lost the fantasy word in the newsletter.

From the description it could be a Carl Hiaasen type adventure, and I can think of no better author to do this than Eoin. ‘Highfire is described as the “violent, gripping tale of Vern who’s been hiding out in the Louisiana bayou, until Squib Moreau explodes into his life, hotly pursued by a corrupt policeman, and his peaceful existence disappears in a hail of high-velocity projectiles.” ‘

Promising, yeah? ‘Publisher Jo Fletcher said: ”I was doubly hooked the moment I met Vern, the vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon whose isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana is about to be interrupted by Squib Moreau, a swamp-wild, street-smart, dark-eyed, Cajun-blood tearaway looking to save his momma from the romantic attentions of a crooked constable.”’

So I forgive them their missing fantasy word. I might quite like this book – I mean novel – when it is published. January next year, so some patience will have to be found somewhere.

Mortimer and the Sword Excalibur

Joan Aiken and Quentin Blake, Mortimer and the Sword Excalibur

I’ve come to the end of Joan Aiken’s short books about Mortimer, the slightly naughty raven, and his Arabel Jones. As I have probably said before, these books are a lovely piece of time travel, back to that underestimated period that was the 1970s. It shows that anything you write about ‘now’ will one day mean travelling back in history, if you are only truthful enough about what it’s like now.

I suppose the title gives it away somewhat, but this is a story with an Arthurian flavour. Mortimer shows an unsuitable amount of enthusiasm for the neighbour’s lawnmower, and that is pretty much it. I can see where Arabel’s mother, Mrs Jones, gets annoyed with the family’s pet raven.

Arabel herself is being ‘threatened’ with a new dress. Pink. What’s so fascinating about that is that this is how it was; the making your own clothes, and how you made them, showing Joan Aiken knew a bit about dressmaking, which is now rather a lost art.

As for that sword, well…

(Mortimer-ish illustrations by Quentin Blake)

Thyme Running Out

Far too many years after I read Justin Thyme, the first book about the Thyme family, I returned to these rich and slightly odd people in Thyme Running Out. It is just as much fun. And I might know who Panama Oxridge is.

Panama Oxridge, Thyme Running Out

There is time travel. Whether this is the cause or the cure of what happens remains a mystery. My brain has serious trouble getting itself round quite so many twists and turns. It almost gives me a haddock, as the cook, Mrs Kof, would say.

There are dodos. Obvious, when you can go far back in time. And you can never be certain if any grandfathers are their own nephews, or whatever. I don’t think I’m giving anything away. I didn’t entirely grasp who the bad guy really was. My mind boggled. A. Lot.

It’s the kind of time travelling whodunnit where you suspect everyone, including dead people and ones not yet born. At least I think so.

Billionnaire Justin is still only 13 and is still having to be the man of the castle. His older sister Robyn helps a bit, but dad Willoughby continues to be feeble, even if he means well. There is an evil new nanny. Every story should have one. And Eliza, the gorilla, is behaving oddly.

Who is Agent X? Well, there is no shortage of suspects. And you could feel that with time travel, maybe they are all X. Drumnadrochit is not as quiet a place as you might think. Also, I’m a firm believer in Nessie.

There is only one thing… This was meant to be a trilogy, and that being the case, the second book ends in such a way that you want more. Need more. Panama..!

Witches Abroad

I seem to have chosen the way of the witches in the Discworld books as I work through them. Although that sounds like more of a hardship than this could ever be. I just feel I want to learn more about these esteemed ladies, Granny and Nanny.

Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

The first time I met Nanny Ogg – and I do not remember in which book – I had a different view of her; thinner, sharper, wiser. Not that she isn’t wise, or a little sharp, while being soft. Thin, not so much. That’s for Granny Weatherwax to be.

Going abroad is never easy, but I’m glad I don’t sit for that long on my broom, and I reckon their idea of some sort of broomline with food served is bound to catch on, especially if the seats aren’t too narrow.

In Witches Abroad Terry Pratchett manages to cover a large number of well known stories, all the way to Emberella herself in Genua, where servant girls have to marry the prince.

In fact, I believe what I liked here was that there were so many female characters, and they were strong, even if they used their abilities to do ‘wrong’ and the more I think about it, there weren’t many men at all, other than weak ones or drunk ones. Even dead ones.

As for the wrongly spelled Magrat and her wrong spell pumpkins, she will be all right. She even stood up to Granny. And who on earth knows when to stop when spelling banananana?

But if you want some of Terry’s clever observations as quotes, then you can read the book yourselves.

Getting the giggles

I had no idea what it was about, but coming across this YouTube clip a few days ago, my spirits lifted. Considerably.

Having watched it again, I still don’t really know, which is understandable as I don’t watch This Morning. But I’m sure most of us recognise the situation; where something that is often very minor, suddenly makes you laugh until you cry and you can’t stop. When eventually you do stop, it’s the work of a split second to get going again. As Phillip and Holly do here.

I don’t often refer to such laughter and abandonment on Bookwitch, but I seem to recall the tulips. The memory of them still make me feel very jolly. What was so good that time was sharing the merriment with someone. I’d like to think I departed from that job, being remembered for being fun.

(Yeah, I know. You’re surprised, because these days I look quite thundery most of the time. But that’s only on the outside.)

I have a collection of cuttings, collected from all over the place. They are very funny. At least, I think so. They are the kind that would make me laugh all by myself, needing to wipe away tears of laughter. There isn’t usually any need to actually look at them, as the memory of first finding them can be enough to set me off. (The pineapple juice?)

I suppose I assumed we were all a bit like that. Not necessarily collecting cuttings, but enjoying a good explosion of laughter when it hits you.

Many years ago, I decided to be proactive at finding some social life after we’d moved to a new town. I had seen an article in the Guardian about the National Women’s Register, and it sounded like just my kind of thing.

The first meeting was OK, if nothing special. The next meeting really tickled me, as the topic was going to be funny things that make us laugh. I brought my whole collection.

It didn’t take me long to discover that what these women found funny was, well, not very funny. There were no laughs and my cuttings stayed in my bag.

Now, tulips, on the other hand…

And Golden Wonder potatoes!

A Step So Grave

‘Ach bash mash buch.’ I really have not paid enough attention, even to what I myself have listened to, written about or read. This quote, which might even resemble Gaelic for all I know, is from the 13th – the 13th!!! – Dandy Gilver mystery by Catriona McPherson.

I have seen Catriona in events and found her really interesting. But did I hear what she was saying? Clearly not. When A Step So Grave arrived and looked so very enticing, I read the press release. Or did I? I seem to have noticed what it was about, but not that it was the 13th Dandy Gilver book.

Catriona McPherson, A Step So Grave

Admittedly, it didn’t take me long to discover that the good Mrs Gilver had detected crimes before, now that she has stumbled on a murder at her son’s fiancée’s home. But 13?

Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that this book was just as good as I’d thought it would be. Better, even. And it would seem there are another twelve before it, should I find myself at a loss for what to read.

Set in the 1930s, which is very much a favourite period of mine for murders and detecting, this takes us in the direction of Plockton, which I’ve still to visit. It lets us move among the rich and entitled, and whatever you think of them, it’s fascinating. These ones, I mean the ones who are ‘hosting’ the murder, speak Gaelic, which goes a bit like ‘bee yellow oak banana,’ although it means something quite different. The English Dandy almost finds herself in a foreign country, despite residing in Perthshire, with her wealthy husband Hugh, and their two sons, the elder of whom is marrying the daughter of an old friend of Hugh’s.

This is newly written classic crime, where the detective has a maid who doesn’t mind helping with the detecting, along with Alec, Dandy’s partner in crime-solving. Before they are done, the reader goes from suspecting one character to another, doing the full rounds, before possibly getting there.

I think I might like a maid, as well as the piles of money. The flip side of this, however, is that you are reminded of what comes after the mid-1930s. They talk about the last war, but we know what is coming.