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Archive for June, 2018

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This novel is the first in a series of detective mysteries set in the Peak District and featuring DCs Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. A 15 year old girl is murdered and as the police try to find out who did it and why, they are hampered by the secrets being kept by many of the villagers, as well as their own personal demons.

There was a lot to like about this novel; I enjoyed the setting, which is obviously somewhere well known to the author, and he shows his knowledge through the Cooper character – Ben is a native Peak District inhabitant and knows the area like the back of his hand. Fry has recently transferred to the area from the West Midlands Police Service – for reasons that become apparent late on in the story, although hints are dropped here and there beforehand – and is therefore not as knowledgeable about either the area or the local people. Both are quite spiky characters, although Ben is infinitely more likeable. There are also other characters, mainly their colleagues, who I imagine will also feature in future novels in the series.

The mystery itself was well drawn and I didn’t guess the ending, which was a pleasant surprise, especially as it wasn’t outlandish (I hate it when you read a mystery where the ending turns out to be something completely out of left-field which no reader would have been able to guess; happily that wasn’t the case here).

My only slight niggle with this novel was that I felt there was a fair bit of unnecessary overly descriptive pieces, and I did think that it could have done with a bit of editing. But it’s the first book in a series and also the author’s debut novel, so I will be interested to see how the characters and how the writing develops.

I will be reading more books in this series, and I would recommend this novel to fans of the mystery genre.

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Sophie Honeywell unexpectedly inherits a house from the late aunt of her ex-boyfriend and moves to Scribbly Gum Island, where the only inhabitants are the a large family, who (more or less) take Sophie into their fold.

Scribbly Gum Island is the scene of an old mystery – in the 1930s, local couple Alice and Jack Munro disappeared, leaving their very young baby. Sisters Connie and Ruth Doughty found the baby and took her in, naming her Enigma. Alice and Jack were never found and as a result, the Doughty family have made a huge business out of the mystery, with tours of the house, yearly anniversaries and lots of other merchandise for visitors to the island to spend their money on.

Although the 1930s storyline is told entirely from memories (we never ‘meet’ Alice and Jack), it intertwines neatly with the current day storyline, which revolves around Sophie’s lack of love life, and the individual problems of the rest of the family. Enigma’s granddaughter Grace and her husband Callum have recently had their first baby, and Grace feels trapped; she plans on a drastic solution to her problems. Veronika, Grace’s granddaughter and Grace’s cousin, is extremely resentful of the fact that Connie left her house to Sophie, and makes no bones about it! Veronika’s mother Margie is trapped in a stale marriage with the (frankly revolting) Ron, but maybe her Weight Watchers meetings will bring new meaning and fun to her life. And Sophie is just trying to navigate these new waters and get along in a new family. She is also worried about the fact that she is approaching 40 and still single.

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, narrated well by Caroline Lee, and overall I did enjoy it. I was initially intrigued by the Alice and Jack mystery, but I actually guessed the ending about halfway through, and ended up more interested in the current day family dynamic. I did feel that a lot of the characters were so exaggerated as to be almost caricatures, and were not actually that likeable, but I did feel for Grace (why oh why could nobody see what was staring them in the face?? Grace clearly had post-natal depression and anybody reading/listening to this book would probably be able to spot that straight away. I also liked her aunt Margie and rooted for her probably more than any other character. Sophie was one of those characters that you quite like, while simultaneously wanting to shake her and tell her to grow up. Veronika was hateful in the beginning, and as already mentioned, Margie’s husband Ron was a horrible man who didn’t deserve such a loyal wife. Also – I couldn’t warm to Enigma at all. She struck me as a self-absorbed and quite mean spirited lady.

I liked the ending – as I said earlier, I did guess the mystery behind the missing couple, but I thought Sophie’s story had a lovely and unexpected ending. I also loved Margie’s storyline which again was somewhat unexpected.

Overall, I would say that this is an enjoyable and undemanding read/listen. I thought it went on possibly a bit too long, and could have done with some editing in places, but basically not too much to complain about. I would certainly try more books by this author.

 

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In this British comedy, Rufus Hound plays Raif Moyle, who is returning home to Cheshire to be the best man at his brother Tim’s (Robert Webb) wedding to Saskia (Lucy Punch). He decides to film the wedding preparations and the few weeks before the big day as his wedding present to the happy couple, but instead ends up capturing events as they spiral out of control. From Saskia’s society-obsessed mother (Harriet Walter) taking over the arrangements and ignoring her daughter’s wishes, and Saskia and Tim’s constant disagreements, it starts to look like the wedding might not even go ahead at all….

After watching this film I read some reviews, and was surprised that they were so scathing. In truth, had I read the reviews beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered watching, but as it is I’m glad I did watch it, because I really liked the whole thing. All three of the leads were great, especially Lucy Punch. Harriet Walter was unsurprisingly brilliant, and Miriam Margolyes had a small but excellent part as Saskia’s grandmother.

If you like British comedies, I would suggest ignoring the reviews and giving this one a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Year of release: 2012

Director: Nigel Cole

Writer: Tim Firth

Main cast: Lucy Punch, Rufus Hound, Tim Webb, Harriet Walter

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This is the sixth book in the Phryne Fisher Mystery series, and probably my favourite one so far. In essence, our feminist, intrepid sleuth is bored, and goes undercover at the Farrell’s Circus, where she has friends, to try and find out who is trying to sabotage the circus, and who murdered Mr Christopher, one of the acts. Phryne, so usually able to hold her own in almost any situation, finds herself out of her depth and lacking in friendship. Not to mention that she is not able to easily call on her friends and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (although Jack does take a bigger role in this book than in previous adventures). Without her usual back-up she has to rely on her own wits, but anyone who is familiar with the series knows that she has plenty of those!

Interestingly, having read other reviews of this book, it seems that people who have enjoyed previous novels in the series have been somewhat disappointed in this one. For me it is the other way around; the last few novels have been underwhelming for me, but this one was much more enjoyable. The mystery itself was not as enjoyable as Phryne’s experience of circus life. Here we meet a different Phryne – going by the name Fern, she is vulnerable, unhappy and an outsider among the circus folk, and I did enjoy reading about that. The mystery itself was an intriguing one although I felt that the solving of it was rushed and somewhat unsatisfactory – interestingly I remember thinking the same about the television adaptation of this particular book. I liked the colour, flamboyance and excitement of the circus atmosphere though, and the story whipped by quickly enough I also loved the young policeman Tommy Harris – I wish he had been a character in the television series.

Overall, if you are a fan of this series, for my money this is one of the best so far.

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