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review 2017-04-03 17:13
In This Grave Hour
In This Grave Hour: A Maisie Dobbs Novel - Jacqueline Winspear

In This Grave Hour is the most recent "Maisie Dobbs" historical mystery, and about the dozenth or so in the series.  This series began when it was 1929, and Miss Dobbs was first opening her detective agency in a quiet London square.  It is now September 1939, Britain is at war with Germany, and Maisie has a new case - is someone murdering men who were refugees from Belgium when they were boys, 25 years ago?


Matters are complicated by her father having 3 child evacuees living with him down in the country - two boys whom he can handle, and a five-year-old girl who won't talk.  An additional problem is that no one seems to know her name, who her parents are, or where she's from.


Maisie will investigate both cases, and come to suspect that her client is either lying to her, or not telling the entire truth.


This was a distinct improvement from the last one, Journey to Munich, which featured spies and Americans ex machina.

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review 2017-03-28 21:19
Racing the Devil
Racing the Devil - Charles Todd

Racing the Devil is the most recent (I think) Charles Todd "Ian Rutledge" mystery.  And it's a good novel, despite being #19 in a series.  (I always get a bit dubious as a series goes very long.  I'm looking at you, "... in Death.")


In 1916, on the eve of the Somme offensive, 7 British officers meet at an ad hoc cantina in a barn, and while getting drunk, find that they are all from the southeast of England, and are all auto racing fans.  They agree that if any of them survive the war, a year after the war ends they will meet in Paris and race their cars down to Nice.


Five of them survive to make the race, held in November 1919.  But one of them ends his race in a terrible accident, and they go home not in triumph but a bit saddened.


Now, it is the autumn of 1920, and the police down in Surrey are concerned, because they have had an auto accident that makes no sense to them.  The local rector died in a crash, but it wasn't his car; it was the local squire's.  Also, there are traces of green paint on the rear of the car.  Was the rector forced off the road?  Why was he driving the car, in the first place?  Was the "accident" not so accidental?


So they call in Scotland Yard, and the Yard sends down Inspector Rutledge.  He must unravel a truly twisty tale, full of murder, attempted murder, blackmail, and kidnapping.


Partway through, I figured three or 3 1/2 stars for this one, but Todd managed to pull all the strings together very nicely and made a very solid finish.  At least one evening I stayed up until "gulp" o'clock reading it.  

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review 2017-02-25 17:36
Murder Offstage
Murder Offstage: A Posie Parker Mystery (The Posie Parker Mystery Series) (Volume 1) - L.B. Hathaway

Murder Offstage is a first book in a series ("Posie Parker Mysteries"), and, indeed, is a first novel.


It rather reads as a first novel - the plot is too complicated and frenetic, and only barely avoided having the kitchen sink involved.  Murder!  Diamond thieves!  Kidnapping!  Smuggling!  Counterfeiting!  And to top it all off, a Criminal Mastermind with a cat in his lap.


Alas, not this one.


Did I mention the tired "soused aristocrat with a secret" trope and a plot that just doesn't make terribly much sense?


I got it because the setting, 1921 London, and the supposed focus (the theater scene), but I doubt I'll read another one, frankly.

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review 2016-11-09 18:47
Hunting Shadows
Hunting Shadows - Charles Todd

Hunting Shadows is one of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries - Rutledge returned from the Western Front to his pre-war job at Scotland Yard in 1919 with a secret - he suffers not only from shell shock and claustrophobia (from being buried alive), but also has a dead Scot named "Hamish" living in his head.


By this point in the series it is the summer of 1920, and there have been two murders in the fen country of Cambridgeshire which mystify the local authorities, and they have called in Scotland Yard.  First a guest at a society wedding in the medieval cathedral town of Ely was killed by a rifle shot, and then a solicitor standing for office was murdered, in the same fashion, while making a campaign speech in his rural constituency.  There was a witness to the second crime, but after the local constable and her neighbors mocked her account of seeing a "monster," she has clammed up completely.


Scotland Yard sends in Inspector Rutledge, who finds he must discover the facts of past events to find the truth of those in the present.  And it's like finding a needle in a haystack, or "hunting shadows" in a fen country fog.


I found this mystery well constructed, and the setting, reminiscent of Dorothy Sellers' Nine Taylors, well done.  However, the cover, though getting the suggestion of fog right, suggests a "pea-souper" in London, rather than the actual rural and small-town setting that makes up the majority of the book.

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review 2016-08-13 15:14
#CBR8 Book 82: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day - Winifred Watson

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a desperate, middle-aged governess, pretty sure that she's unlikely to find many more jobs, who by accident is sent to to the wrong address by the employment agency. Instead of a mother looking for a new child minder, she meets the glamorous and vivacious singer/actress Miss Delysia DeFosse (NOT her real name) and before she knows it, Miss Pettigrew's rather colourless and boring life is full of high drama and romance. 


Delysia has not one, not two, but three suitors that she appears to be juggling and she's absolutely terrible at confrontations and making up her mind about what she really wants. Miss Pettigrew can't stand to see her being upset or bullied, and steps in to help whenever she can. While she may have been sent to the wrong address, she can't stand by and see a beautiful young woman in distress. Delysia is delighted, and insists on Miss Pettigrew coming along on new adventures throughout the most exciting and eventful day the lonely spinster has ever experienced.


One of the last few times I was in the US (not this summer), I watched the movie adaptation of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with my best friend. Such a wonderful cast, with Frances McDormand absolutely perfect as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams absolutely radiant as the bubbly Delysia, Ciaran Hinds (the only Captain Wentworth worth mentioning) as the man Miss Pettigrew finally experiences romance with, and the stunning Lee Pace as Michael, the suitor it's clear Delysia must end up with, as they are perfect together. I was so charmed by the movie and in preparation for this year's US trip, I decided to read the book to remember the fun time I had watching the movie.


The book (and film) very much has the elements of a screwball comedy or a farce. There's a lot of people being pushed out doors just as others are entering and tons of drama and complications, before everything sorts itself out in the end. Poor Miss Pettigrew has lived a life of drudgery, mostly overlooked and unappreciated. She clearly doesn't particularly enjoy taking care of other people's children and in the late 1930s (when the book is set), with war looming, she's quite aware that she may be out of employment permanently soon. She keeps getting swept along in Delysia's drama, postponing her confession that she's there for a job interview (and the scatter-brained young actress never seems to question why Miss Pettigrew shows up on her doorstep in the first place), because she doesn't want her exciting interlude from real life to end too soon.


Anyone expecting deep and profound revelations or in-depth explorations of the various characters in this book are going to be disappointed, as they are really more generally sketched. The whole book does (as the title promises) take place over the course of a day and we get a snapshot into these people's lives. There is not a lot of time spent dwelling on the inner life of Miss Pettigrew or her previous life as a governess, but we are given enough to understand that she is a good and decent woman, who is deeply alone and desperate for a change. 


One of the things I really liked is that despite Miss Pettigrew being from a conservative family and strict upbringing, occasionally briefly shocked by a few things, she firmly refuses to judge any of the people she meets and there is absolutely no slut-shaming, despite Delysia clearly struggling to get rid of a one night stand in the morning, before the (somewhat scary and very wrong for her) man who basically keeps her housed and in expensive clothes and jewelry returns to discover he's been cuckolded, plus has a dashing third man wanting to marry her. I also liked the mental image Miss Pettigrew builds of Michael, until the man actually appears in the latter half of the book and it's obvious to everyone that he's perfect for Delysia (who really isn't great at standing up for herself).


After a lifetime of being ignored, Miss Pettigrew is seen, acknowledged and appreciated, not just by Delysia, but as the day progresses, several of her friends. She drinks quite a bit of alcohol, she smokes a cheroot, she receives a make-over, she goes to a night-club, she dances with a handsome man and she gets to witness a punch-up. How can she ever go back to a life of raising other people's children? I don't want to spoil the ending, but I am happy to reveal that Miss Pettigrew gets just as happy an ending as Delysia eventually does, with the promise of more days truly worth living in her future. 


If you haven't read this book, do yourself a favour. Read the book, then see the film - they are both so worth it. You'll have a delightful time.


Judging a book by its cover: Not really much to say here. It's grey. With a little with square letting you know the title and the author of the book. This may be the most depressing packaging of classic books I've ever seen. How in the world is this going to inspire people to pick up and read these books?

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/08/cbr8-book-82-miss-pettigrew-lives-for.html
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