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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

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Book 6 in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series does not disappoint. Readers (or listeners in my case) will be familiar with the format by now – something suspect happens in the village of Cherringham – which seems to have an awful lot of nefarious activity for such a beautiful picturesque place! – and amateur sleuth Sarah Edwards and retired NYC detective Jack Brennan set out to get to the bottom of things.

In this ‘episode’ Charlie and Caitlin Fox, who run Mabbs Farm, are having a run of spectacularly bad luck with livestock going missing, mysterious fires and all sorts of misfortunes. Caitlin, along with several villagers, believe that the reason is due to an ancient curse which was put on the farm, but Sarah and Jack believe the reason is a lot closer to home and decide to find out who is behind it.

As always, this was a light hearted mystery, and much to my pleasant surprise, just when I thought I had got it all worked out, the ending was a complete surprise. I really do recommend this series to all who enjoy cosy mysteries and TV programmes such as Midsomer Murders or Agatha Raisin. Excellent narration as always by Neil Dudgeon.

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In Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel, published in 2000, she tells the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase.

The book opens with a report of Laura’s death by possible suicide, shortly after the ending of World War II. An older Iris, writing from the tail end of the 20th century, tells the story of her current life, and also the story of her and Laura’s lives. There is a second narrative – that of Laura’s posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin, which is about two unnamed lovers and their clandestine meetings, during which the man entertains the woman with a rather macabre and violent sci-fi story set on the planet of Zycron.

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors who I love, even when I don’t love her. The Handmaid’s Tale was a solid 5/5 for me, whereas Oryx and Crake was something of a disappointment. But generally speaking I always get something from her books and rarely forget them.

The Blind Assassin was not at all what I expected and for the first part, I was not sure I was going to like it. But it kind of crept up on me and I realised that I was enjoying it. In all honesty I never really felt as though I got a handle on Iris despite her narrating much of the book. In fact, Laura was more of a rounded character – sure she was an enigma, but she was meant to be, even to those closest to her – despite being dead before the story started.

As always with Atwood, the language is intelligent and luscious, and often at times quite cutting. Nobody quite comes out of her books without some sort of mark by their name! I didn’t like the direction that Iris’ life took, but neither did she, so I imagine that was deliberate.

I would recommend this book to any fans of Margaret Atwood – although I probably don’t need to because they will have already read it. I felt always slightly detached from it; it was always a story with me on the outside looking in, instead of one of those books that you find yourself completely immersed in, but I liked it a lot for the writing and for never quite knowing where and how it was going to end.

 

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This collection consists of 55 short stories by Agatha Christie – it should be noted that less than half feature Miss Marple despite the title of the compilation, and also that all stories have also been published elsewhere. However, it’s great to have so many of Christie’s short stories gathered together in one volume. (There is also a collection of all the Poirot short stories – 51 in all – and a further one of more than 50 short stories featuring other detectives who Christie wrote about, such as Tommy and Tuppence, Harley Quin, and more.)

Essentially if you have read and enjoyed any Agatha Christie books or watched any film or stage adaptations and liked them, then you will probably enjoy reading this collection. I personally dipped in and out of it in between reading other novels, but you could just read it straight through.

As with all short story collections, some are better than others, and it comes down to people’s opinions. My favourite were probably Witness for the Prosecution, and Greenshaw’s Folly, despite the fact that the latter was a Miss Marple story and I am not overly keen on Marple (LOVE Poirot though!) There weren’t any that I really disliked, so overall I would call this book a successful read!

 

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The Pale Horse is a BBC production, based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name. It was scripted by Sarah Phelps, whose previous Christie adaptations have been the subject of some controversy, due to her changing of plot details. I have read a fair few Christie novels, but not this one. And judging by some of the reviews I have seen of this mini-series, that is all to my favour!

The story – in this adaptation – revolves around antique dealer Mark Easterbrook, who is informed by the police that his name was found on a list of several names, which was inside the shoe of a dead woman. The rest of the people on the list are dying in mysterious circumstances and Mark grows very concerned for his own safety. Three women, who people believe to be witches, are clearly mixed up in it all somehow; can Mark figure out what is happening in time to save himself?

I actually really enjoyed most of this mini-series. It was spread over two one-hour long episodes, and for the first hour and 50 minutes, I was entertained and eager to find out the truth. The last 10 minutes however went somewhat awry and at the very end I was pretty confused. I quickly jumped online to see what other people had thought, and was gratified to see that I was not the only one who felt flummoxed! But while a bad ending can ruin a previously good show, in this case I still felt satisfied overall. This is no small part due to Rufus Sewell as Mark Easterbrook. He brings all facets of the character’s personality together – in the beginning Mark seems quite a sympathetic and relatable character, but as we get to know him, he is actually revealed to be deeply unpleasant. His mounting fear was very believable, as was the resentment of his young wife Hermia (Kaya Scodelario), and the scepticism of the police officer investigating (Sean Pertwee). Bertie Cavel was also excellent as Mr Osborne, another man who has his name on the list.

Production values were very high – this was a beautiful looking, glossy and colourful drama. I also thought that the tension was well maintained throughout and I didn’t guess the truth behind the mystery.

If like me, you have not read the book, then I would suggest giving this a go. The last ten minutes notwithstanding, it was an enjoyable watch with great acting.

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The fourth instalment of the Cherringham series, was I’m happy to say, equally as good as the three that went before it. I love listening to these stories – they are ideal to keep me engaged during a long run or two, and I really like the central characters of Jack Brennan and Sarah Edwards.

In this ‘episode’, two men find a rare Roman artefact on a farm – it will be sold to the British Museum and the money will be divided between the two men, the farmer and  Lady Repton, who owns the farmland, making them all rich. However, the artefact is stolen and while the police blame a notorious gang of thieves, Jack and Sarah are not convinced. They set out to solve the mystery themselves, but with several possible suspects, it’s not an easy job.

As always, this was an enjoyable and undemanding listen. The mystery itself was well constructed and I did not guess the culprit. It’s not giving anything away to say that there is a part of the story where Jack has to pretend to be a Texan tycoon, which I enjoyed immensely.

Another great story from the Cherringham series.

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I am reviewing these two TV movies (made for the Hallmark Channel) together, as they are the first two films in a new mystery series and feature the same main characters.

Jeff Jackson (Jesse Metcalfe is a former Boston PD detective who has retired early and moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he grew up and now hopes to live a quiet life. Zee Madeiras is a Doctor on the Vineyard and former childhood friend of Jeff. Her father is the Vineyard Chief of Police, who asks for Jeff’s help in solving crimes. In A Beautiful Place to Die, a young man is found floating in the harbour and it becomes apparent that he was murdered…the night before he was seen arguing with the children of a wealthy businessman, but they are not the only people with a reason to want him dead. As the suspects mount up, Jeff and Zee find themselves uncovering secrets and facing danger…

In Riddled With Deceit, a rare and expensive emerald brooch, which was stolen years before from the family of Zee’s best friend, is returned, only to be promptly stolen again. Jeff and Zee assist the police with looking for the thief, but before long it has also turned into a murder enquiry…

If you are a fan of murder mysteries set in beautiful places – for me, I love shows like Midsomer Murders, set in the Cotswolds; Death in Paradise (Caribbean), Shakespeare and Hathaway (Stratford-upon-Avon) – then this is the series for you. Admittedly all of the above examples are English shows, but if those are your kind of thing then I think you would enjoy these two movies. Although set on Martha’s Vineyard, they were not filmed there – but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless and the mysteries are engaging enough to keep you interested, while still being a fairly undemanding and fun watch.

If you want a really gritty realistic crime drama, then maybe give these a miss, but otherwise, see what you think – you might enjoy them!

(NB: These films are based on books from Phillip R Craig, who wrote a series of Martha’s Vineyard Mystery books. I’ve not read any of them, but might be tempted to give one a whirl).

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This is the third ‘episode’ in the Cherringham series and another enjoyable story.

Cherringham is preparing for it’s annual Christmas choir performance, when one of the women in the choir, Kirsty, dies of anaphylactic shock from eating a biscuit containing peanuts. It is originally thought of as a tragic accident, but Kirsty’s friend Beth has her suspicions and asks the unofficial detectives Jack and Sarah to investigate.

As always, secrets are unearthed and of course the truth is finally revealed.

Expertly narrated again by Neil Dudgeon, this series has continued to delight me, being undemanding enough to listen to while out running, but also keeping me guessing. Bring on episode 4!

 

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I previously reviewed Murder on Thames, which is the first book in the Cherringham Cozy Crime series, and over the past two days I have listened to book 2, Mystery at the Manor. In this book, Victor Hamblyn, the elderly owner of Mogdon Manor, dies in a fire at his house. But when he is found, it appears that rather than trying to get out of the manor downstairs, he went up to the attic for reasons that nobody can fathom.

Meantime his three avaricious children, Dominic, Susan and Terry, are all only interested in one thing – their inheritance. None of them trust each other, and each of them thinks that they will be the only heir. But is that enough reason for them to murder their father? Sarah Edwards and retired NYC detective Jack Brennan are soon on the case…

As with the first book, and indeed the rest of the series, this novella is narrated by Neil Dudgeon, who has a perfect voice for audiobooks. I found this episode in the Cherringham series to be just as enjoyable as the first one, if not more so, especially as at the beginning of this one, we are already acquainted with Sarah and Jack.

I didn’t guess the ending either, and that’s always a bonus, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers for anyone who is thinking of checking out this series (and if you are a fan of cozy crime, then you really should).

All in all, another great read and I look forward to book 3.

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Three stories combine…

Present Day: In Ridinghouse Bay in Northern England, Alice Lake, single mother of three young children and three dogs, finds a man on the beach. He has no idea of who he is, why he is there, or how he got there, but Alice takes pity on him and lets him stop at her holiday house. While he is there, she tries to help him recover his memories.

Meanwhile in London, young newlywed Lily who has come from her home in Ukraine to live with her husband Carl Monrose, is desperate for answers when her husband fails to come home from work. The police are dismissive of her at first, so she sets out to find him on her own.

1993: The Ross family are holidaying in Ridinghouse Bay. Son Graeme and daughter Kirsty are with their parents on the beach when a handsome and enigmatic stranger strikes up a conversation. None of them realise that this is an encounter which lead to disaster.

These three stories start out separately but soon start to intertwine, and while some parts  were sort of guessable, there were plenty of surprises too. It did take me a while to get into and I was somewhat sceptical about it at first as I did not really enjoy the last book I listened to by Lisa Jewell. However, this one won me over in the end. I listened to the audiobook which held my attention during some long and hilly runs! Narration by Antonia Beamish, who did an excellent job.

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I recorded this film months and months ago, because something about it intrigued me. I’m not sure what and it took ages for me to get around to watching it – somehow whenever I was trying to pick a film I fancied, I passed this one by. But finally I settled down to watch it, and wow! It FAR exceeded my expectations (and if you will allow me to be shallow for a moment, it also awakened me to the fact that Viggo Mortensen is a beautiful man!)

The story revolves around Chester McFarland and his wife Colette (Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), who are holidaying in Athens. They meet up with Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide, and hire him to show them around. Rydal is something of a con artist, but as the audience quickly learns, so is Chester. This fact catches up with Chester when some disgruntled victims of his hire a private detective to track him down and Chester accidentally kills him. Rydal stumbles upon Chester trying to hide the body (don’t worry, this all happens very early on, so there are no spoilers here) and not realising the other man is actually dead, helps Chester.

The two men are then inextricably bound to one another – both has the means to get the other into trouble, and also the motive – Rydal is clearly attracted to Colette, and the feeling seems mutual.

An uneasy alliance forms as the three of them are forced to stay together – I won’t say more as there are lots of twists and turns and the storyline deserves not to be spoiled for first time viewers.

I really liked this film – it’s basically an old fashioned thriller, done extremely well, with great actors. The main three are all excellent, with Mortensen and Isaac competing for who steals each scene (Dunst is also fantastic, but I think she was given less to work with). Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will like this; I feel sure that if Hitchcock were making movies today, this is the kind of thing he would come up with. It also looks stunning, the locations and the lighting were beautiful, and the music was reminiscent of thrillers from the 50s and 60s.

I was entirely unsurprised to discover after I had finished the film that it is based on a  book by Patricia Highsmith. It is undershot with just the right amount of tension, and you are never quite sure who if anyone will come out on top.

I highly recommend this film, and will also add the book to my reading list.

 

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