The Deadly Dance (Agatha Raisin, #15) by M.C. Beaton

bookshelves: cotswolds, paris, published-2004, series, mystery-thriller, tbr-busting-2014, autumn-2014

Read from September 07 to 08, 2014


Read by Donada Peters

Description: Infuriated that her holiday was ruined by a mugging, Agatha Raisin decides to open up her own detective agency. The romance-minded sleuth is thrilled by visions of handsome fellow gumshoes and headline-making crimes—but soon finds the only cases she can get are a non-glamorous lot of lost cats and an errant teenager. But when a wealthy divorcée hires the agency to investigate a death threat against her daughter Cassandra, Agatha thwarts a vicious attack on the heiress bride. Now Agatha is in hot pursuit of the culprit. But when the groom’s father turns up dead, Agatha must untangle a growing list of suspects, from Carsely’s quiet village lanes to Paris’ most fashionable streets. Soon the willfully undaunted Agatha is in trouble with French and British police; on the outs (again) with old friends—and dead in the sights of a murderer.

Aggie is an annoying protagonist however one gets used to her to the point of addiction. This is the one where Ms Raisin cooks a Christmas dinner in the village hall for her neighbours.

3* – The Quiche of Death
3* – The Vicious Vet
3* – The Potted Gardener
3* – The Walkers of Dembley
3* – The Murderous Marriage
2* – The Terrible Tourist
3* – The Wellspring of Death
3* – The Wizard of Evesham
3* – The Witch of Wyckhadden
3* – The Fairies of Fryfam
3* – The Love from Hell
3* – The Day the Floods came
3* – The Case of the Curious Curate
3* – The Haunted House
3* – The Deadly Dance

Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris by Eric Jager

bookshelves: published-2014, true-grime, nonfiction, history, winter-20132014, france, e-book, net-galley, paris

Read from February 10 to 17, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Little, Brown and Company in exchange for an honest review.

Description: A riveting true story of murder and detection in 15th-century Paris, by one of the most brilliant medievalists of his generation.

On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans was murdered by a band of masked men. The crime stunned and paralyzed France since Louis had often ruled in place of his brother King Charles, who had gone mad. As panic seized Paris, an investigation began. In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, the city’s chief law enforcement officer–and one of history’s first detectives. As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his hunt for the truth was much more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

A rich portrait of a distant world, BLOOD ROYAL is a gripping story of conspiracy, crime and an increasingly desperate hunt for the truth. And in Guillaume de Tignonville, we have an unforgettable detective for the ages, a classic gumshoe for a cobblestoned era.

Dedication: For Peg, as always

Opening quote: The detective as knight-errant must nonetheless sally forth, though he knows that his native chivalry … is as hopeless as it is incongruous. David Lehman ‘The Perfect Murder’

Opening: In the 1660s, an unusual parchment scroll was discovered at an old château in the French Pyrenees. Thirty foot long and filled with small, neat script, the scroll had been lost for two and a half centuries. It was the original police report on a high-level assassination whose violent repurcussions has almost destroyed France

Louis I, Duke of Orléans

Guillaume de Tignonville

Page 18:

Guillaume had also befriended Christine de Pizan, a rare woman in a male-dominated world of letters, supporting her defence of women in a famous literary quarrel over ‘The Romance of the Rose’ and even helping her with legal advice.

The Gallows of Montfaucon

Place du Châtelet

Delacroix – Louis d’Orleans showing his mistress

Bal des Ardents


Hôtel Barbette

Rue Vieille du Temple

‘ Less than a year apart in age, the two cousins could not of been more unalike. Louis was slender and fair, with a round pleasant face, while John was short and ugly, with a great square head, heavy brows, and a beaklike nose.’ (Page 124)

Tour Jean Sans Peur, Paris. Tour Jean Sans Peur (John the Fearless) was the ironic name for the Duke of Burgundy


As Andrew points out: ‘So, I love long chancery-hand medieval manuscripts and you should too’, this is a wonderful read and just so prescient of modern detective and forensic procedures. The build up had me searching for images, as witnessed above, and from the crime onwards it was bums on seats in admiration, and terrified awe of, Guillaume de Tignonville.

Modern day take on the King’s illness: Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks, and sees the world. People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality, often a significant loss of contact with reality. They may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re being constantly watched. With such a blurred line between the real and the imaginary, schizophrenia makes it difficult—even frightening—to negotiate the activities of daily life. In response, people with schizophrenia may withdraw from the outside world or act out in confusion and fear. Source HELPGUIDE.ORG

On the back of this great read I have ordered The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France


The Kill (Les Rougon-Macquart, #2)

bookshelves: published-1872, winter-20132014, e-book, france, incest-agameforallthefamily, filthy-lucre, paris, series, architecture, families, lit-richer, classic, cover-love

Read from February 09 to 13, 2014

Recommended by Lisa Hill, Brazilliant, Wandaful etc etc

Description: The Kill (La Curée) is the second volume in Zola’s great cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart, and the first to establish Paris – the capital of modernity – as the centre of Zola’s narrative world. Conceived as a representation of the uncontrollable ‘appetites’ unleashed by the Second Empire (1852-70) and the transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann, the novel combines into a single, powerful vision the twin themes of lust for money and lust for pleasure. The all-pervading promiscuity of the new Paris is reflected in the dissolute and frenetic lives of an unscrupulous property speculator, Saccard, his neurotic wife Renée, and her dandified lover, Saccard’s son Maxime.

Is there a free download to be had? Sorted by the sleuthing skills of Wandaful:

Opening: On the way back, in the crush of carriages returning via the lakeshore, the calèche was obliged to slow to a walk. At one point the congestion became so bad that it was even forced to a stop.

As much as I like descriptive prose Zola’s version of that in this first chapter seems forced, self-conscious, even experimental, I hadn’t noticed this aspect before. However it turns out there was a very specific reason why these gardens were described at such length: (view spoiler)

When the revolting Aristide Saccard is looking down on Paris from a restaurant on the Heights of Montmatre and describes with a cutting motion the new layout, I envisage that this is just how Zola fore-planned his novels.

Looking forward to ‘The Masterpiece’ very much: The Masterpiece is the tragic story of Claude Lantier, an ambitious and talented young artist who has come from the provinces to conquer Paris but is conquered instead by the flaws of his own genius. Set in the 1860s and 1870s, it is the most autobiographical of the twenty novels in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. It provides a unique insight into Zola’s career as a writer and his relationship with Cezanne, a friend since their schooldays in Aix-en-Provence. It also presents a well-documented account of the turbulent Bohemian world in which the Impressionists came to prominence despite the conservatism of the Academy and the ridicule of the general public.


As always, introductions and forewords I leave to the end because they always kill off enjoyment of the personal research.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Baron Haussmann was the Prefect of the Seine Department in France, who was chosen by the Emperor Napoleon III to carry out a massive program of new boulevards, parks and public works in Paris, commonly called Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. Critics forced his resignation for extravagance, but his vision of the city still dominates Central Paris.

From page 14 of Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era

‘ In a Figaro column, Zola claimed to find adultery rampant among all bourgeois women: “Among the bourgeoisie, a young girl is kept pure until her marriage; only after the marriage does the effect of her spoiled surroundings and poor education throw her into the arms of a love: it is not prostitution, it is adultery, the difference is only in the words.” ‘

Engrossing from start to finish but that last line was on a page by itself and the abruptness, the dismissal was very harsh. Seems that Zola doesn’t care for his characters, just uses them as examples and if the author doesn’t buy in, then how can the reader be expected to. For this reason my rating is somewhere in the realms of 3.75*

As a silly – have you seen James Joyce in this cover art:

The actual painting is by Gustave Caillebotte

4* Thérèse Raquin (1867)
TR The Fortune of the Rougons (1871)
3.75* La Curée (1872)
OH The Belly of Paris (1873)
WL Nana (1880)
4* The Ladies’ Paradise (1883)
5* Germinal (1885)

The plan is that I read all again in my rocking-chair days.


Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era

bookshelves: winter-20132014, art-forms, published-2003, e-book, france, paris, nonfiction, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Eleni
Recommended for: 3Ms and friends
Read from February 10 to 11, 2014

Free download here

Dedication: FOR JAMES
and to the memory of

Opening: The existence of prostitution on a scale so widespread and obvious that it alarmed contemporaries was a distinctive and distinguishing feature of nineteenth-century Parisian culture.

Of course the temptation will be to fill up this thought-box with nowt but the scrumptious images and I promise not to spoil your future enjoyment, however there will be some that I can’t resist showing.

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ by Picasso. And we know where those two heads come from, don’t we children. HAH, life is fun.

Extract from page 14:

In a Figaro column, Zola claimed to find adultery rampant among all bourgeois women: “Among the bourgeoisie, a young girl is kept pure until her marriage; only after the marriage does the effect of her spoiled surroundings and poor education throw her into the arms of a love: it is not prostitution, it is adultery, the difference is only in the words.

I find that quite poignant as I am also reading The Kill at the moment and the adultery is manifold, and where no physical outcome is apparent there is still the tension involved with wild flirtations and teasing more than some can mentally cope with.


What is this sleep thing people mention? I curled up with this book and immersed myself in Zola, Belle Epoque, suspicious professions, and the extraordinary tale of RollaAlfred de Musset, the picture, Henri Gervex and the censorious Beaux-Arts administration. I give you a taste of Henri Gervex:

Rolla 1878

A portrait of Marie Clotilde de Faret Legrand

La visite imprévue

La Toilette

Cafe Scene (1877)

Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War

bookshelves: published-2014, winter-20132014, net-galley, art-forms, e-book, history, nonfiction, paris, france, newtome-author

Read from February 03 to 09, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Rowman & Littlefield in exchange for an honest review.

From the description: In Twilight of the Belle Epoque, McAuliffe portrays Paris in full flower at the turn of the twentieth century, where creative dynamos such as Picasso, Matisse, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan set their respective circles on fire with a barrage of revolutionary visions and discoveries. Such dramatic breakthroughs were not limited to the arts or sciences, as innovators and entrepreneurs such as Louis Renault, André Citroën, Paul Poiret, François Coty, and so many others—including those magnificent men and women in their flying machines—emphatically demonstrated. But all was not well in this world, remembered in hindsight as a golden age, and wrenching struggles between Church and state as well as between haves and have-nots shadowed these years, underscored by the ever-more-ominous drumbeat of the approaching Great War—a cataclysm that would test the mettle of the City of Light, even as it brutally brought the Belle Epoque to its close. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, McAuliffe brings this remarkable era from 1900 through World War I to vibrant life.

Dedication: In memory of my parents
Betty F Sperling and Godfrey Sperling Jnr.

Opening: Enter the King (1900): It was mid-October 1900 in the City of Light when Pablo Picasso arrived from Barcelona at Paris’s bustling new railroad station, the Gare D’Orsay. He was almost nineteen years old and filled with bravado. After all, the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition had included one of his paintings in its exibit. What a coup!

Moving sidewalk Paris Expo 1900 Edison

Thomas Edison’s L’ Exposition Universelle de 1900 à Paris

Alphonse Mucha was prescribed to take a bottle of champagne a day to cure his nicotine poisoning.

Castel Béranger by Hector Gruimard

A German cartoon from 1914 showing the lay of the political land as seen from the German perspective at the outbreak of World War One. As the text below the picture states, Germany and the Austro-Hungary Empire defend “blows from all sides”, particularly from the east in the form of a huge snarling Russian face. To the right of the image a banner declares that 10% of the proceeds of the map’s sale will go toward the Red Cross. The map is accompanied by a contemporary version of a French woodcut depicting a very different looking Europe of 1870.

The images are from the Berlin State Library and are featured as part of the wonderful new project from Europeana, “Europeana, 1914-18” , which is marking 100 years since the outbreak of WW1 with a remarkable pan-European pooling of material, from both individuals and institutions, relating to the “Great War”

Isadora Duncan the instigator of modern dance.

This is a lovely overview of the period and what a busy time it was with huge advancements in every sphere imaginable and I love some of the tongue-in-cheek comments about bizarre behaviours from Mary McAuliffe. The part I am loving best is the motor industry and the racing, all goggles, scarves strung out and dusterjackets swirling around the hairpin bends of the alps – it’s like ‘Top Gear, 1900 Style’.

There are moments where you know that a fact has been given before, and then there are carrots, however this is a very readable text and in no way a dry or scholarly in nature, rather this is warm, informative and wide in scope. A minor point: because of the differing industries and culture in question, not every segueway is a smooth one.

There will be many of us going day by day through the events and carnage of the Great War and this book is a part of that process.


The Stockholm Octavo

bookshelves: paper-read, historical-fiction, sweden, gambling, bedside, autumn-2013, stockholm, paris, spies, published-2012, amusing, france, summer-2013

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Jeanette (jema)
Read from August 13 to September 07, 2013

Dedication: For Erik

French/Swedish timelines 1770-1792


Arte et Marte(Art and War); Inscription over the entrance to Riddarhuset – The House of Nobles – in Stockholm

Chapter One: Stockholm 1789

Stockholm is called the Venice of the North, and with good reason. Travellers claim that it is just as complex, just as grand, and just as mysterious as its sister in the south.

A light-hearted and novel way to retell a significant piece of Swedish history. It is not essential to know this history before reading because it is all laid out rather well, however if the history is known there well be more ‘aaah’ moments in the reading.

Needless to say, this had all the right ingredients and I loved it; dare say that Engelmann may be contemplating a sequel, the historical backdrop for what happened next is just as scintillating a subject.


Gifted from Jeanette, and a lovely pack of tarot cards to go with it.

Thanks You J, A super gift. And of the postcards, Karin Boye is my favourite. There is such a lovely statue of her near the top of Avenyn, to the left as you climb up towards Poseidon.

Also, the photo; is that of sand dunes in Skellefteå? I see you have a swimming pool up there.

Thérèse Raquin

bookshelves: e-book, gutenberg-project, fradio, france, paris, revenge, families, betrayal, play-dramatisation, plague-disease, winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, casual-violence, classic, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, love, ouch, published-1867, radio-4x, noir, psychology

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from January 27 to 29, 2014


Two-part dramatisation by Diana Griffiths of the novel by Emile Zola, set in mid-19th century Paris.

Description: Therese is forced by her aunt to marry her sickly son, Camille. However, upon moving to Paris, she and her lover Laurent conspire to murder Camille so that they may love freely.

Therese …… Charlotte Riley
Laurent …… Andrew Buchan
Camille …… Toby Hadoke
Mme Raquin …… Pauline Jefferson
Michaud …… Rob Pickavance
Suzanne …… Deborah McAndrew

Manager/Assistant …… Carl Cieka
Directed by Pauline Harris.

Whoa – this was dark, almost Dostyoevskian, with all characters just seeing to their needs and calling it love. Shortish too, ~240 pages of eye scorching, murderous pragmatism delivered with panache.

The French Orphan

bookshelves: published-2012, net-galley, e-book, historical-fiction, winter-20132014, under-50-ratings, france, adventure, young-adult, spies, paris, newtome-author, bdsm, glbt, filthy-lucre

Read from January 27 to 29, 2014


Netgalley/Cameron Publicity & Marketing Ltd. First published 2012

Description: The year is 1640, and Louis XIII is on the French throne. However, as far as you’re concerned, this is all pretty meaningless. After all, as a teenage orphan living in a monastery school in Reims, all you have to worry about is dodging the unpleasant advances of a few unsavoury monks and looking forward to a life of penniless and celibate servitude in a religious order.

After a childhood and adolescence plagued by a constant longing to know who he really is, orphan Pierre has not the slightest idea that his questions are about to be answered. But you know what they say – be careful what you wish for…

Suddenly finding out who you are can bring with it not only happiness and fortune, but danger, friendship and the sort of swift education that the monastery could never have provided! The discovery of who Pierre really is affects not only Pierre and his friends, but has ramifications for the French nobility, the English crown, and most dangerous of all, the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu and his fierce ambition for the Church and for himself.

Dedication: To Polly – thanks for your support
To Katharine – thanks for making it happen

Palais-Cardinal c1642

Cardinal Richelieu was born in 1585 and died in 1642. Richelieu dominated the history of France from 1624 to his death as Louis XIII?s chief minister

Opening to the prologue: The log burning in the imposing marble fireplace disintegrated and sent a shower of dancing red-gold sparks into the air. The sound of the small explosion echoed in the library of the new palatial building known to everyone in Paris simply as le palais du cardinal, the home of His Eminence, Cardinal Richeleu, the revered – as much as reviled – the prime minister of France.


The story itself opens up in the monastery school in Reims, where the sadistic, paedophile overseer, Brother Heironymous, shows favour towards a comely youth, Armand, who is a friend of our protagonist Pierre, the orphan of the title. The hunt is on to find out just who was Pierre’s parents, and they must have had class because Reims never takes on just anyone to nurture.

That’s as far as I can take you without spoilers galore.

The writing is somewhat pedestrian and as such this is not an engrossing novel for hard-core historical fiction readers, however if it’s a light read you are after, albeit with male rape, as a palate cleanser, this may be the one for you.

The next in the series:

The Secrets of Montrésor (The French Orphan, #2)
Under the Spell of The Serenissima (The French Orphan, #3)


Any Human Heart

bookshelves: impac-longlist, booker-longlist, fraudio, published-2002, winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, spies, historical-fiction, lit-richer, lifestyles-deathstyles, art-forms, epistolatory-diary-blog, south-americas, uruguay, britain-england, cults-societies-brotherhoods, sport, gr-library, france, paris, oxford, glbt, spain, books-about-books-and-book-shops, norfolk, teh-brillianz, greece, adventure, cover-love, epic-proportions, eye-scorcher, london, madrid, war, wwii, lisbon, portugal, filthy-lucre, nassau, bahamas, switzerland, britain-scotland, iceland, suicide, teh-demon-booze, new-york, germany, picaresque, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, travel, edinburgh, those-autumn-years, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, washyourmouthout-language, north-americas, music, midlife-crisis, african-continent, afr-nigeria, skoolzy-stuff, dodgy-narrator, afr-somalia

Read from November 28, 2013 to January 16, 2014

Read by Mike Grady

From the description: The journals begin with Mountstuart’s boyhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, then move to Oxford in the 1920s and the publication of his first book, then on to Paris where he meets Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, et al., and to Spain, where he covers the civil war. During World War II, we see him as an agent for naval intelligence, becoming embroiled in a murder scandal that involves the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The postwar years bring him to New York as an art dealer in the world of 1950s abstract expressionism, then on to West Africa, to London where he has a run-in with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and, finally, to France where, in his old age, he acquires a measure of hard-won serenity. This is a moving, ambitious, and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

In the fashion of Zelig, Forrest Gump and the 100 year old man, Mountstuart is in all the right places meeting all the important people, however Any Human Heart is an absolute joy as Boyd’s writing leaves those also-rans in the starting gates.

Purringly enjoyed Logan’s slamming of the Bloomsbury set, that circle of spite who lived in squares and loved in triangles. Not sure about the portrayal of Duke and Duchess and for this reason I support a flawed, dodgy narrator scenario.

And that goodreads product description box – WTF! It is just a review filched over from Amazon book sales, with its inherent bias. Bad News! Check the product description elsewhere.

Born on April 20, 1893 in Barcelona, Joan Miró Ferra was a Spanish painter.

From wiki: Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet (December 23, 1874 – July 7, 1943) was an American-born British Canadian gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in Canada and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances. The cause of death and the details surrounding it have never been entirely determined, and have been the subject of several books and four films.

Have the TV miniseries to watch at some stage, however, for now, I will mull over the full life of Logan MS – I am in my weeds for you.

4* Restless
5* Any Human Heart – recommended
4* Brazzaville Beach
WL Waiting for Sunrise
3* Armadillo
AB Solo