Catch up time again. So many books to write about so here we go:
A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Dame Agatha has used poison as a means of murder in fourteen of her novels and here we are taken through the methodology and uses which were deployed to off the victim. Christie worked as a dispenser during both World Wars and so knew what she was talking about and this book is really interesting as each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used. The author is a chemist and a freelance science communicator and has an engaging style. I found parts of this book most enjoyable but not having a scientific turn of mind at all, found the lengthy explanations of how and why the poison worked way over my head and I skimmed those bits. A fun book though.
George and Martha Washington - Flora Fraser. This author has a very good pedigree being the daughter of the historian Antonia Fraser and the granddaughter of Lord and Lady Longford and already has several successful biographies to her name. I am one third through this and already can see that this is a fine work and very well written. What I know about American History and, in particular, their Presidents has mostly been gleaned from TV and movies (not the most reliable sources let's face it) and my actual knowledge could be written on the back of a ten cent stamp, so am hoping that by the end of this particular book, I will know a little more.
OK and now crime novels of which of course I am a lover. I recently finished The Crossing by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch is no longer with the LAPD and, despite his reservations, he takes on a job as investigator for his half brother Micky Haller (he of the Lincoln Detective) thus crossing over from chasing the bad guys to defending them. This does not go down well with his ex-colleagues or his daughter, but as Harry is convinced that the accused is innocent he carries on. As with all Connelly's books, the writing is sharp and excellent, witty and pointed and the whole story rattles along and I loved it.
I am a fan of the tv series Castle featuring the unlikely pairing of a crime writer and a female NYPD detective. It is great fun and daft and funny and Richard Castle, the crime writer of the title, is friends with James Patterson and Michael Connelly who appear as themselves in the series. I have never read any James Patterson and I am running out of crime writers who have a long backlist and who write regularly and frequently and so, when I saw a Patterson book in the library, thought I would give it a go. Astonished at the amount he churns out I then realised that they are all co-written. He is quite open about this saying that he comes up with the plots, the ideas and the settings and characterizations but somebody else does the actual writing. He admits that he is not a stylist and his writing is not brilliant but he has the most fertile imagination if the books I have already read are anything to go by.
I have now read several of the Alex Cross series and find out of those that I have read so far that they are a bit violent and gory and sentimental all at the same time if that is possible. Not madly keen on the co-author on these. There appear to be about 18 or so of them. Then I read another series NYPD Red of which there are four, two still to go, and these are much better and tighter as the co-author is obviously a better writer than those of the Cross books. Then there are the stand alone books and books about a private detective and it all gets a bit much. I read four in one day the other day and found, though I enjoyed them, that I felt as if I had binged on too much chocolate with the resultant nausea following. Giving them a rest for a week as I have now already read about 15 assorted Pattersons. They are proper pulp fiction in its worst sense but very addictive. I have to say that I cannot remember the plots of half of them already. Some of them are extremely ingenious with a twist at the end though in the last Alex Cross I finished I said That's the murderer in chapter three and I was right.
What are your thoughts, O Gentle Readers, on all this co-authoring? I am in two minds about it I must admit.
Dungeon House - Martin Edwards. The latest in the Lake District Mystery series by this author who as well as writing these detective novels, recently had a highly successful book The Golden Age of Murder, reviewed by Yours Truly here, and is the editor of the Classic Crime series published by the British Library.
Twenty years ago, a local and wealthy businessman shot his unfaithful wife, his teenage daughter and then committed suicide. Ah but did he? Obviously he didn't else this book would not have a plot. Back to the present day, and Hannah Scarlett's cold case team are looking into the three-year-old mystery of the disappearance of Lily Elstone, whose father was Malcolm Whiteley's accountant. Their investigation coincides with the disappearance of another teenage girl, Shona Whiteley, daughter of Malcolm's nephew Nigel. Nigel now lives in the Dungeon House, despite its tragic history and it is clear that their fates are all intertwined and all is not as it seems.
Daniel Kind, Hannah's boyfriend, seems a figure very much on the periphery of this story which is a shame as I rather like him. We are more involved with Hannah's emotions in this particular title than those of Daniel which were more to the fore in previous novels. However, despite this I sat and read the Dungeon House in one sitting on a wet rainy afternoon and looking forward to the next one.
Charlotte Bronte - Clare Harman. Do we need another book on this subject? That was what I thought when I received it but I have now changed my mind as I am over half way through and have already learned more about the family (and I thought I knew it all....) and find the author's opinions on the character of the three sisters chimes with mine which makes me feel a bit smug. Loving every minute of it and will be reviewing in full at a later date.
Phew. That is all for the moment folks. Back with more in a day or two, in other words after the Test Match has finished.....