Here is the low down on the books I have read and enjoyed in the last month:
The Herring in the Library by L.C. Tyler
‘When literary agent Elsie Thirkettle is invited to accompany tall but obscure crime-writer Ethelred Tressider to dinner at Muntham Court, she is looking forward to sneering at his posh friends. What she is not expecting is that, half way through the evening, her host will be found strangled in his locked study.
Since there is no way that a murderer could have escaped, the police conclude that Sir Robert Muntham has killed himself. A distraught Lady Muntham, however, asks Ethelred to conduct his own investigation. Ethelred (ably hindered by Elsie) sets out to resolve a classic ‘locked room’ mystery; but is any one of the assorted guests and witnesses actually telling the truth? And can Ethelred’s account be trusted?’
This is the first of two murder mystery books I read in the last month. This book was an absolute scream – it had me laughing out loud at several points and the ongoing battles between Elsie and Ethelred soon overshadowed the murder itself. This was a quick and lighthearted read, the book equivalent to a Sunday afternoon with Miss Marple.
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.’
With all the talk about ‘Go Set a Watchmen’ I felt a strong pull to read Mockingbird again. I first read it in High School for my GCSEs and I’ve loved it ever since. I think this is one of those books that I will read every other year for the rest of my life, it never fails to suck me in. Atticus remains inspiring, Boo Radley remains tragic and Mrs Dubose is still terrifying!
The Great Night by Chris Adrian
‘On Midsummer’s Eve three heartsick lovers are trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park. Ill met by moonlight, they are stalked by a psychopathic Puck, in thrall to a beautiful Titania, and ambushed by a homeless musical theatre troupe. Together they must survive a night that might just repair their hearts, if it doesn’t destroy them first. Selected by the New Yorker as one of the best young writers in America, Adrian has created a singularly playful, moving and humorous novel – a story that effortlessly crosses the borders between reality and dreams, suffering and magic, and mortality and immortality.’
The Great Night was my unexpected book of delight this summer. It is magical, strange and utterly bewitching. It is like a modern twisted, R-rated version of a Mid-Summer’s Night Dream set in San Francisco. This is a book that could be easily spoiled by too much description so I don’t want to say too much. There are several stories at play here and it is great fun to see how they weave together. I really loved how Adrian both utilized and skewered a lot of traditional fairy folklore and legend to create his own magical kingdom.
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley
‘I was lying dead in the churchyard…’ So says eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce – but soon a murder provides a gruesome distraction from her own death…
A travelling puppet show arrives in the sleepy English village of Bishop’s Lacey, and everyone gathers to watch a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in the village hall. But a shadow is cast over proceedings when a shocking murder takes place during the performance – a murder which strangely echoes a tragedy that occurred many years before.
For Flavia, undoing the complex knot that ties these strands together will test her precocious powers of deduction to the limit – and throw a revealing light into some of the darker corners of the adult world…’
I only finished The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag a couple of days ago, and I am very tempted to go off in search of the first novel of this series. It wasn’t until I had read about half a dozen chapters that I realised that there was a first installment that I had missed out on. However, it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of this book. The story was stand alone enough to invest in. Flavia is a great central character; brave, clever but not too grown up for her own good. Even though she is mad on poisons and detective work she approaches things in her own childlike way which keeps her relatable.
With a host of brilliant side characters, a setting that feels very real and a fast moving plot this story was a joy to read and a pain to finish. I hate that deflated feeling you get when you have finished a good book….especially when you don’t have the next one on standby!