Read this week – The Death of Mrs Westaway

Do you ever get in a book-rut? I’ve been into one for a while now. I’ve recently read 4 or 5 books, by authors I’ve liked before. These have been books number 15 to 20 in their respective series. And I’ve been rather disappointed by each one of them. The latest disappointment was a mix of a travel brochure and romance except it was supposed to be a mystery. Granted a cozy one but when every other page describes how hunky the husband is, and how hunky the other guys who pop up are, it was wearing me out. And then getting recipes in a book where the main character barely knows how to boil an egg. I mean really! And unfortunately, the plot was very weak too and whodunnit was clear just about a mile away. 🙁
The other equally recent one was more like a travel book as well. While it’s nice to read about a place I haven’t visited for eons, it had just way too many detailed descriptions about the place, it’s history and clothing, and those got repeated multiple times. There was too little of the actual mystery. And even with this one, I figured it out halfway through. So no fun! And no, not naming these books as when it comes to reading and taste, we all have our own. 🙂  I only post reviews of books I like.
But I’m happy to note that I just got out of that rut by a good one. “The Death of Mrs Westaway” is a good mystery, not stellar, but a good one. I’ve read a couple of Ruth Ware’s books before and liked them. Solid mysteries for the most part.

The Death of Mrs Westaway” by Ruth Ware

This story is about a hard-down on her luck young woman who recently had lost her mother. An intriguing letter from a solicitor arrives, telling her that she’s been mentioned in a testament by her grandmother. It’s just that she thinks the letter was not meant for her. But she decides to go to the funeral anyway. The story is set in Brighton, Penzance and Cornwall in general.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐
The start is very good, plenty of suspense. The main character, Hal, is a likeable person, who after reading tarot cards decides to spend the money she doesn’t really have to go to the funeral, just to get away from Brighton. She hops on a train and travels to Penzance.
I liked the characters, most of them came across as real people. The plot was rather good, the flash backs blended in nicely and gave a good idea where the story was going.
The story is a slight take on “Rebecca”, not as gothic or scary.  I figured it out whodunit about halfway through, but it was interesting enough to keep reading to the end to see if I was right as well as find out the motive.
I didn’t like the ending much, it required suspending belief quite a bit, and motives of the title character were left pretty unclear. Not everything was tied together either, a few lose ends left hanging.
But all and all pretty good read which I can recommend.

Read this week – The Sleeping Dictionary

The Sleeping Dictionary” by Sujata Massey

This one is not really my typical read. It’s a history set in India starting in 1930ies and ending with the Independence 1947. A story about a girl who is the only survivor of a flooding which took her entire family in Bengali village. She survives through hardships and finds a new life in Calcutta.
My review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The start is good, describing how the girl survived the flood by climbing up on a tree and staying there until rescued. Her luck changes to the better, she gets to school for the Anglos, but of course not as a student but as a servant. She gets lucky again, meeting another Bengali girl, who she gets to help. By then the orphan girl has learned good English. But again, bad luck comes her way, and she has to flee to survive. More bad luck until she manages to get a steady position working in Calcutta and love finally comes her way.
The story is interesting as it’s set in a part of the world of which I have very limited knowledge. The historical aspect made it worth reading too. It slowed a bit in the middle, got a bit repetitive, but it managed to hold my interest to the end. I liked it.  The same author apparently writes mysteries as well. I think I’ll check those out.

Read this week – The Man Who Died

It’s not often I stay up anymore to finish a book. But this one I just had to get to the end.

“The Man Who Died” by Antti Tuomainen.

It’s a funny mystery about a mushroom entrepreneur who finds out that he’s being slowly poisoned. Obviously, that is rather disturbing. And since the doctor can’t tell how long time he has left, he sets about to find out who is doing it. And from there he gets on a journey which has totally unexpected twists and bizarre situations, deadpanned descriptions.
My review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The start is a bit low key, a visit to a doctor for stomach pain only to find out you’re being slowly poisoned to death, and that there’s no cure and oh by the way, you may have another week maybe a month to live. That could be shocking to anybody. Jaakko who founded the mushroom firm sets out to find out who is doing this to him and why. He makes lists, gets involved with a new competitor and old customers. People who work for him may be jumping like rats leaving the sinking ship, or not. Not easy thing to deal with keeping the company afloat, figuring out what to do about an upstart competitor ready to steal your business, all the while knowing you’re soon going to give up the ghost. The book is funny, a good mystery, and I didn’t figure out who did it. Liked it a lot.

This week’s read – For Batter or Worse

Past the few weeks or rather months, I’ve been stuck in a total plot hole with my book 3, trying to figure out if the body count needs to be increased or something else needs to happen. So, I needed something somewhat lighter fare to read. Still a mystery but, a cozy type.

For Batter or Worse by Jenn McKinley

in a way it’s rather funny that I’d read about cupcakes as they’re not one of my favorite edibles. Frankly, not fan of them at all, too sweet for my taste.
However, I’ve read all the previous one’s this series. They’re cozy mysteries, but they’ve been pretty solid reads, so I decided to give this one a go. The books are about three friends who run a cupcake bakery in Arizona. And all the books come with recipes too. I’ve never tried them, as I mentioned, cupcakes are not my thing.
My review: ⭐️⭐️️ It was ok.
In this latest one, #13 in Cupcake Bakery Mystery series, the owner and main baker, Melanie, is finally getting married to Joe who is one of the brothers of her best friend. A nasty chef in a resort hotel where Mel and Joe’s wedding is going to take place is found dead, and one of the cupcake bakery’s former employees is now under suspicion for it. I’ve liked the series, but this one was not the author’s best effort. The characters in the hotel were rather one-dimensional. I also figured it out pretty quickly who did it. The murder method though, was very inventive to say the least.

This week’s read – Down Among the Dead Men

Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey

What’s it about?  – A teacher in a posh girls’ school goes missing but nobody seems to care. Peter Diamond gets dragged to Sussex by his boss, Dallymore, to investigate a fellow police officer for misconduct.
My review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The premise of Diamond and Dalllymore tag teaming is interesting due to their personalities. And the story is pretty good too, although it starts rather slow but picks up speed and has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. BUT the ending is a bit weak, as the real culprits are not followed up. It could have used another chapter to close all the loose ends.
This is the book # 15 in Peter Diamond series. I’ve read all the previous ones and I can recommend them. Mostly solid police procedurals, set in Bath, England. The stories and plots are usually pretty good, some better than others but usually good reads. DCI Diamond and most the males in his team come across as real. Although women play a role in the books, their characters, especially Dallymore, are not well drawn.

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This week’s read – A Will to Kill

As mentioned, I read a lot. Sometimes, I read a book instead of doing what I should, as in doing laundry or dishes or other housework 😁

Today I finished reading RV Raman “Will to Kill”

The New Your Times: “… a modern-day take on the classic locked-room murder mystery, transported to a remote mansion high in the hills of southern India.”
What’s it about:
An old widowed rich man, Bashkar Fernandez, lives in a remote valley in a big house. He has invited a large family to his house for a reunion of sorts. Most of them are looking to get some of his money before, or even more after he’s dead. An attempt had been made on his life, but the culprit escaped. Fernandez also invited an investigator and his lawyer to the party as he’s written two different wills. A road closure locks the access to the house, and a deep fog descends.
My take: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ recommended, if you like Agatha Christie style mysteries
This is a good story. The characters are not entirely three-dimensional but from a story point of view they have enough meat on their bones to be believable. It’s also interesting to read a story set in a different part of the world. The locked-room mystery was well done, I was able to figure out one culprit, but the motives were well hidden until the end.
Scroll down to see more of the books I’ve recently read and can recommend.

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Recently read books and book series

Writing books also means reading a lot, and I do read a lot. And I read just about everything too, from cozy mysteries to Agatha Christie’s classic mysteries to thrillers, suspense, and other kinds of fiction, from John Fowles to Kate Atkinson, to Mikhail Bulgakov and all sorts of other books in between. I’m not much for blood and gore though, or romance for that matter.

Most of the time I have at least two books going on at the same time, often more. Browsing in bookshops and libraries are my favourite past times. You never know what kind of books you can find. Thanks to the smartphones, it’s now wonderfully easy to search for books and also read a book wherever you are, especially when you are waiting for something else to happen, like at the dentist office. I have a Kindle app on my phone. In the USA and many other countries, Overdrive or Libby apps are used by libraries and both work on smartphones too, all you need is a library card. Below a list of a small selection of books and book series I’ve recently read and liked.

Agatha Christie If you haven’t read “And then there was none” you really should. It’s arguably the best mystery ever written!

Kate AtkinsonLife after Life” is very different, but it’s brilliant. Her Jackson Brodie mysteries are set in Edinburgh and those are good too.

Elly Griffiths writes about Dr. Ruth Galloway, archaeologist in Norfolk who digs up murders. “Crossing Places” is the first one in the series. She also has written a new series, with “Postscript Murders” being a second book in that series. It’s set in a small coastal town where a suspicious death of a little old lady gets her caretaker and her neighbour investigating her murder.

 

Mark Dawson has written two mystery books about a former cop, Atticus Priest, turned private eye. “House in the Woods” is the first in the series. The book is set in a remote farmhouse in England, and it has plenty of plot twists to keep you reading! I liked it a lot. I’m waiting to read the second one in the series. His John Milton series about a guy the British government calls when they want to get someone off the books. I’ve only read the first one so far, “The Cleaner” and I just had to finish it! A bit like Lee Child whose first couple of books I liked too.

Anthony Horowitz also has a quirky series about a book editor trying to resolve an old murder case hidden in a manuscript she received from an author of murder mysteries. A plot in a plot! “Magpie Murders” is the first in the series. Very intriguing!

Jana Deleon Her cozy mysteries about Miss Fortune, an assassin hiding in a small town posing as a librarian are just so funny! “Louisiana Longshot is the first one in the series.

Jenn McKinlay writes cozy mysteries about a cupcake shop in Phoenix, Arizona as well as Library Lovers mystery series set in the coast of New England. “Books can be deceiving” is the first in the Library Lover series. Restoring books and baking cupcakes can be lethal.

Jennie Bentley is another cozy mystery writer. She writes what happens when you try to repair old houses on the coast of New England. Very murderous occupation! “Fatal Fixer-upper” upper is first in the series.

   

Louise Penny writes about a small village of Three Pines and Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Her description of Quebec in the winter makes me want to move there, and in case you didn’t know, Quebec gets a lot of snow! Her first book in the series is “Still Life“.

Andrea Camilleri, who died in 2019, was one of my favourite Italian writers. His Montalbano series about a cop is wonderful mixture of solving murders and other crimes, and about people in a small town in Sicily. The first in the series is “The Shape of Water“. Montalbano books have also been made for TV.

Boris Akunin is a Russian author who writes about a self-proclaimed sleuth, Erast Fandorin set in 1876 Moscow. The first book is “Winter Queen“. It’s set in a different world, the names are a bit foreign but Fandorin like Sherlock Holmes is a great believer in method and logic.

   

Another book series set in a faraway place is Ovidia Yu’s series about Aunty Lee. It’s set in Singapore, where a little old lady who owns a restaurant is thrown into solving murders. “Aunty Lee’s Delights” is the first in the series.

Seishi Yokimizu mysteries set in late 1930ies Japan, are newly translated to English. A very different time, but a very interesting read. “The Honjin Murders is the first book in the series. A classic lock room mystery with a twist.

Set in France, Antoine Lauraine‘s book “The Readers’ Room”, is set in the world of publishing. A manuscript arrives but the author is nowhere to be found. A good whodunnit.

Jasper Fforde writes funny and quirky sci-fi time travelling literary mysteries in his Thursday Next series. Sounds odd, but they’re a delight to read. The first one in the series is “The Eyre Affair“.

Sarah Caudwell’s Hilary Tamar books are set in the world of barristers in London. They’re a bit different mysteries with the Scholar guiding the young barristers who somehow end up in trouble while reading the tax code! “Thus was Adonis Murdered” is the first in the series.

John Fowles – “The Magus” is one of my absolute favorite books. I re-read it every few years.


Oh, and about that Mikhail Bulgakov – He’s the author of “Master and Margarita”. That is the one book I’d probably take with me on the desert island. It’s a totally madcap satire about how the Devil arrived with his entourage in Moscow and caused havoc.  And every time I read it; I discover something new.


 

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