Sunday, 30 November 2014

Books: November Fifty Two in Fifty Two

"Why can't people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?" 
David Baldacci, The Camel Club.

A slightly paltry selection this month, somewhat hampered by my having started reading a 850+ page tome (can I count that as 3 books?), and a 19+ hour audiobook after finishing these four. Unsurprisingly, I've not finished them yet. Roll on December, month of candles, blankets, port, cheese - and more books.

12. Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana. 4/5 
Graham Greene has popped up a few times as a suggestion in my Goodreads list, as I have quite a few classics on there. I wasn't completely sure what to expect, having (if I'm completely honest) not really heard much about his books before, but I really enjoyed it. The tale of how an English vacuum cleaner salesman living in Cuba accidentally becomes a spy somehow managed to be funny, despite a definite dark undertone. Even though it's a fairly short character based tale, the atmosphere of 1950s Cuba, pre-missile crisis, is very evocative and although being deliberately farcical, Greene's own experiences of working for MI5 make it strangely believable. I really enjoyed it, although I did crave daiquiris for several days afterwards. 

13. M. C. Beaton, Death of a Nag. 2/5
Aside from Our Man in Havana, most of the books this month have been decidedly un-taxing and comforting. However, after a couple of duds in a row, I think it might be time to extract myself form the Hamish Macbeth series, and move onto something else as my fluffy bedtime reading. Our lead character was still pining over a broken heart - and tragedy comes in threes, as another loss knocks him for six, and someone staying in his holiday B&B is murdered. 
As with some of the others I've read where the setting is Macbeth's hometown, the characters just felt flat and one dimensional. I was surprised at the murderer, but to be honest I wasn't overly bothered, having got bored of the unpleasant stereotypes about handsome men and spinster women along the way. Disappointing. 

14. Carola Dunn, Fall of a Philanderer. 4/5.
Ah, this is more like it. I do like the Daisy Dalrymple series - it's as cheesy and fluffy as Hamish Macbeth, but with a cracking female lead (think a young Miss Marple) and a brilliant supporting cast. The characters have grown with the series, so reading them in order has been a good choice, but they'd be fun as standalones as well.
This one - set while Daisy is on holiday - was an entertaining romp, with characters that veered on the right side of believable for a very camp novel. The prejudices and realities of life in 1920s Britain were nicely explored - the poverty of farming families, the emotional impact that war had - without being forced. It's also one of very few "crime" novels I've read where I didn't guess the twist, which is always quite satisfying.

15. Hester Browne, The Vintage Girl. 3/5.
I started off quite liking this one. Evie is a massive antiques geek - obsessed with buying "treasures" that noone else wants. She has a bit of a thing about country houses, and so she is in her element when she finds herself invited to value the contents of a castle in the Scottish Borders. So far, so predictable, I thought. Except - unlike the Katie Fforde I hated last month, it wasn't. There wasn't a massive neon plot device sign, things were a bit more complicated than that, which is always a good thing. 
However... It still irritated me. Clearly written for the American market, the details of Scottish dancing and stereotypes that accompanied it were excruciating. The leading lady began to grate after a while, and the ending all felt rather rushed and sudden. Not bad for a bedtime read when you can't concentrate on anything else - but not exactly good either.


  1. How I wish I had more time to read! A. Christie is my "go-to" holiday read so I'm sure I would enjoy Daisy Dalrymple series.

    1. I've started listening to a lot of audiobooks - great for commuting. Edinburgh library lets you download them for free!

  2. I'd never heard of the Daisy Dalrymple series but they sound right up my street, will have to check the local library.

    1. They're fab, quite Agatha Christie esque, but considerably lighter. Probably worth reading in order, some of the characters pop in and out of them.

  3. I've been really struggling with reading lately so am still very impressed by all your reading!

  4. You quite clearly love a mystery! I'm going to put both of those on my too reads. I've read a decedecent amount in November considering I had 3 assignment deadlines. Almost all fluff though!