The last in my MATCHES MADE IN SCANDAL series, A SCANDALOUS WINTER WEDDING is set in London and Scotland which didn’t require me to do any research reading. So it’s been on to pastures new, history-wise for me, with some lovely gory books on body snatchers and resurrection men (of which more another time) and lots and lots of fiction.
I love a good old-fashioned detective story, and I’m a sucker for good partnerships where there’s the possibility of romance (does anyone else feel, like me, that Havers was a real missed opportunity for DI Lynley?). I’m loving Deanna Raybourn’s new series, the combination of the redoubtable Veronica Speedwell and sexy, repressed Stoker gets better with every book. A Treacherous Curse is the third in the series, and in this story we find out a lot more of Stoker’s shady past. There’s an Egyptian curse, a rogue female reporter, a millionaire American and a whole host of other colourful characters. An excellent mix of comedy, history, murder mystery and romance, this was a real page-turner with a very satisfying ending that has left me desperate for more. Fortunately, there is another book! One thing I would say though, is that I doubt it would work nearly so well as a stand-alone read, so do start this series from the beginning.
I’ve read Katherine McMahon’s The Crimson Room before, but decided to read it again after enjoying The Alchemist’s Daughter so much. McMahon writes really strong women, and she does a brilliant job with Evelyn, who has a burning desire to follow her father into the law, but who has no chance of doing so before the First World War, because that’s her beloved brother’s destiny. After the war though, with her brother dead, Evelyn gets her chance – though the price she pays is almost unbearable. Trying her best to live in two very different worlds, that of the stuffy house of women in mourning, and that of the London courts who think women are an outrage, she feels her life is one of constant compromise. And then…go read the book!!! I’m delighted to discover there’s a follow up too, it’s already on my (huge) TBR pile.
Another detective I come back to every now and then is Donna Leon’s Venetian, Commissario Brunetti. When a whole load of the books popped up on offer I bought two, A Noble Radiance, and Death in a Strange Country. Maybe I shouldn’t have read them one after the other, but I found the murder element in both quite unsatisfying, too political, a bit dated and with insufficient ‘mystery’ for me to unravel. But Brunetti and his family and the other characters at the police station carry the day. (I named the butler in my own Venetian book, HIS RAGS TO RICHES CONTESSA, in Brunetti’s honour.) They, and Venice, are why I keep going back for more, and why I’ll probably go back again – though not for a while.
I am always wary when a book has been hyped up, and I’d heard a LOT about Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. (Oliphant – such an unusual surname. I’ve only come across it once, a set of twins in my class in primary school who were the sports high achievers, and who were famed amongst us wee girls for being able to jump shoulder, head and over-head height at Chinese ropes – you know, those ones made from rubber bands?) I’ve never come across a character like Eleanor Oliphant in a novel. She was difficult to like, difficult to get to know, and the nearest I can think of is Saga Noren from the awesome Nordic Noir TV series The Bridge. Eleanor deals in facts, not emotions, and her literal-mindedness leaves her isolated, often mocked – people are a little scared of her. That’s all fine by Eleanor, she’s learnt to do without people. And there it is, right at the start of the book, the big smack across the mouth for you – loneliness of a kind that truly is heart-wrenching. My heart really was wrenched. I read with a sense of anticipation tinged with fear as Eleanor starts to make progress, because you know all along that she’s heading for a huge fall. Yet when it happens, it is still a shock. The description of her state of mind and body in the ‘bad days’ section of the book was almost too difficult to read. But…
Eleanor is a survivor. And luckily for Eleanor, she’s got Raymond on her side. As her back story unravels and Eleanor picks herself up and discovers a whole new normal (with a cat called Glen to replace the vodka of the same name) you practically cheer her on from the wings. There’s a happy ending. Thank goodness, there is a happy ending – though it is a bit schmucky, in a tiny way, it’s entirely appropriate to the book. My only gripe was the way that the back story was resolved. This seemed to me entirely unnecessary and a bit of a cheat. It didn’t spoil the book for me, but it left me thinking, why did you feel you had to do that.
Finally this month, I returned (again!) to Georgette Heyer after a discussion on Twitter about favourites. I chose my own favourite, Faro’s Daughter. Oh how I adore the relationship between Deborah and Max, it’s so very adult. This is Heyer at her sparkly, witty best, with some classic set pieces – the scene with Deb, poor Adrian, Lucius and his merry widow at Vauxhall Gardens is hysterical. I enjoyed this so much that I dug out my big box of Georgette Heyer books. The difficult question is, which one next. What do you suggest?
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? You can follow what I’m reading and all my reviews over on my Goodreads page. And I’m always looking for other recommendations, so please do feel free to suggest some of your own favourite reads.