A tale of the unexpected

THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES

BY ALAN BRADLEY

My friend Jane insisted that I promote this to the top of my reading pile after she devoured it on a trip to Cornwall this summer. And so I did. It didn’t take a lot of persuading as we are both such ardent fans of Flavia de luce and the Buckshaw clan.

The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth book (and please not the last!) of this tremendously entertaining series. We pick up where Speaking From Among The Bones left off, waiting for Flavia’s mother to return after being presumed dead in Tibet for the last decade.

A specially commisioned train brings Harriett back to Buckshaw setting off a number of gruesome events and incredible revelations that unlock the sercrets of her past and unravels the details of young Flavia’s destiny. Continue reading

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Hope floats

THE BOOKSHOP THAT FLOATED AWAY

BY SARAH HENSHAW

Five years ago Sarah Henshaw asked her bank manager for a £30,000 loan to open an extraordinary bookshop on a barge. The strange business plan the suits were presented with promptly sunk. But thanks to support from her nearest and dearest The Book Barge opened six months later and had soon grown a loyal customer base of happy readers.

However, the cash register didn’t keep ringing for long so she took to the waterways, cruising the length and breadth of the country in search of the great book-buying public. Some books were bought and others were bartered for Victoria Sponge, a bed for the night or a much-needed use of the facilities! This is the tale of the many characters and hurdles (well, locks) she encountered along the way. Continue reading

Wilde about these mysteries!

OSCAR WILDE AND THE NEST OF VIPERS

BY GYLES BRANDRETH

I have previously written on this blog about my love of the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries Series. Nest of Vipers is the fourth book in the run. Not quite my favourite but neither did it disappoint. We join the story in 1890 as the game is afoot after The Duchess of Albemarle is found dead with two small puncture marks in her neck following a glamorous reception.

The Prince of Wales, sensing foul play, asks Oscar Wilde and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to quietly investigate the crime for fear of a public scandal.

A thrilling pursuit unfurls that includes royalty, hysteria, vampires and dancers from the Moulin Rouge. The story is brilliantly told through the letters, journal extracts and diary entries by the central characters adding pace and excitement to the slow reveal.

As with all his books, Brandreth’s Wilde is convincing and dazzlingly entertaining as a detective.The dialogue is richly enjoyable and there is no denying that our author certainly knows his stuff. Full of twists and turns and glorious Wildean wit, there is nothing not to love here.

Highly recommended.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 8.5/10

Notes on the author – Gyles Brandreth

  •  He is a writer, broadcaster, former MP and government whip
  • Currently a reporter on BBC1’s The One Show and a regular on Radio 4’s Just a Minute
  • These acclaimed Victorian detective stories are now being published in 21 countries around the world.
  • Many my age will known him as the man in the crazy woolly jumpers on breakfast television in the 1980s

Perfectly English but lacking intrigue

THE GRANTCHESTER MYSTERIES: SIDNEY CHAMBERS & THE PERIL OF THE NIGHT

BY JAMES RUNCIE
Grantchester starts as a new series on ITV soon. I kept hearing about these detective stories and decided to investigate further. The results were disappointing and twee-er than Midsomer Murders and Doc Martin put together.

Canon Sidney Chambers is a young loveable priest and part time amateur sleuth. In this book, the second in the series, he is called upon to investigate the death of a Cambridge don who falls from the chapel roof, an arson, a poisoning at a cricket match and a web of spies. He also has to make up his mind on a trip to Berlin whether he is actually ready to marry the charming German widow.

Set in post-war Cambridge, this is light, fluffy and nice enough. The setting is all cricket on the green, meat paste sandwiches, lardy cake and trusty Labradors. Perfectly English and pitched well, it is a welcome step back in time but could do with a lot more guts, pace and intrigue for me.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 5.5/10

Notes on the author – James Runcie

  • Head of Literature at the Southbank Centre
  • Award winning film maker and author of 6 novels
  • Lives in London and Edinburgh