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

The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11) by Bernard Knight

 

Paul Matthews narrates

Description: When Matthew Morcok, a former master saddler, is found mummified above a renovated school, the authorities call on Sir John de Wolfe and coroner’s clerk Thomas de Peyne to stop what is fast becoming a campaign of terror. Later victims include a master glazier, who’s strangled, and a candle maker impaled through the eye. John’s work is complicated by the conflict between his shady brother-in-law, Richard de Revelle, and Nick of the Moor, an outlaw who returned from the Crusades to find his estates expropriated by de Revelle and de Revelle’s cronies. John makes an arduous wintertime journey into Dartmoor to meet Nick, who’s actually a knight, Nicholas de Arundell. Nick’s plight so moves John that he takes the outlaw’s case to England’s Chief Justiciar for resolution.

A good, solid series so long as the episodes are not encountered back-to-back. Knight’s style is rather old-fashioned and brutish, however he does give us an interesting over-arching personal story with Nesta and Matilda.

3* The Tinner’s Corpse (Crowner John Mystery #5)
3* The Grim Reaper (Crowner John Mystery #6)
3* Fear in the Forest (Crowner John Mystery #7)
3* The Witch Hunter (Crowner John Mystery #8)
3* Figure of Hate (Crowner John Mystery #9)
3* The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11)
TR Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mystery, #13)
3* A Plague of Heretics (Crowner John Mystery #14)

This Gun for Hire by Graham Greene

 

Read by Patrick Tull

Description: Raven is a man dedicated to ugly deeds. When Raven is paid for killing the Minister of War with stolen notes, he becomes a man on the run. Tracking down the agent who double-crossed him, and eluding the police simultaneously, he becomes both the hunter and the hunted.

The novel ties into Greene’s later, more famous work, Brighton Rock. Pinkie Brown’s assassination of Kite, the Colleoni’s rival mob boss, sets the events of Brighton Rock in motion in much the same way that Raven’s assassination of the Minister of War sows the seeds for global conflict in A Gun For Sale.

Thoroughly enjoyed this ride. Three and a half smoking hand guns

Raven: the cold-hearted assassin for hire with hidden decency and a personal sense of justice. Extremely sensitive about his harelip.

Mather: stalwart police detective trailing Raven, with many of the same characteristics. Joined police for stability of the routine.

Anne: a chorus girl who is engaged to Mather, is used by Raven as a shield. The two develop a fragile friendship that may or may not be real.

Cholmondeley a.k.a. Davis: a grossly sensual man who acts as the agent of a masonic corrupt steel tycoon, Sir Marcus, and betrays Raven. Anne tries to help Raven get revenge upon him.

Saunders: a decent police detective with a heavy stammer. He is Mather’s loyal protégé who plays a vital role in the novel’s climax.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
3.5* This Gun for Hire

The Captain and the Enemy by Graham Greene

 

Description: Victor Baxter is a young boy when a secretive stranger known simply as “the Captain” takes him from his boarding school to live in London. Victor becomes the surrogate son and companion of a woman named Liza, who renames him “Jim” and depends on him for any news about the world outside their door. Raised in these odd yet touching circumstances, Jim is never quite sure of Liza’s relationship to the Captain, who is often away on mysterious errands. It is not until Jim reaches manhood that he confronts the Captain and learns the shocking truth about the man, his allegiances, and the nature of love.

Read by Kenneth Branagh

I see there are many luke-warm reviews and ratings on this, yet I thought the writing exquisite, as always, and the story suspenseful. Not much longer than novella length, ‘The Captain and the Enemy’ is easily done and dusted in a day; be warned though, it does become rather absurd in the final part.

Who, or what, is King Kong.

3 strong wins at backgammon.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
CR This Gun for Hire

Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4) by Dick Francis

 

Read by Martin Jarvis and I like him!

Cheltenham is a lovely racecourse.

Description: It’s the third death on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day that really troubles super-sleuth Sid Halley. Last seen in 1995’s Come to Grief, former champion jockey Halley knows the perils of racing all too well-but in his day, jockeys didn’t usually reach the finishing line with three .38 rounds in the chest. But this is precisely how he finds jockey Huw Walker-who, only a few hours earlier, had won the coveted Triumph Hurdle.

Just moments before the gruesome discovery, Halley had been called upon by Lord Enstone to make discreet inquiries into why his horses appeared to be on a permanent losing streak. Are races being fixed? Are bookies taking a cut? And if so, are trainers and jockeys playing a dangerous game with stakes far higher than they are realistic?

Halley’s quest for answers draws him even deeper into the darker side of the race game, in a life-or-death power play that will push him to his very limits-both professionally and personally.

Opening: “Sadly, death at the races is not uncommon. However, three in a single afternoon was sufficiently unusual to raise more than an eyebrow. That only one of the deaths was of a horse was more than enough to bring the local constabulary hotfoot to the track.”

How lovely to find this dustying up in the storage boxes and I dive in with relish as it has been ages since an encounter with the wonderful Dick Francis.

4* Odds Against (Sid Halley, #1)
3* Whip Hand (Sid Halley, #2)
3* Come to Grief (Sid Halley, #3)
3.5* Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4)

4* Bolt (Kit Fielding, #2)

3* Proof
4* Dead Cert
4* Blood Sport
2* Shattered
3* Nerve
4* Decider
3* Straight
3* For Kicks
4* Bonecrack
3* Enquiry
3* Field of Thirteen

The Spinning Heart

 

Description: In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

Dedication:

to the memory of Dan Murphy

Opening: MY FATHER STILL lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down. He smiles at me; that terrible smile. He knows I’m coming to check is he dead. He knows I know he knows. He laughs his crooked laugh. I ask is he okay for everything and he only laughs. We look at each other for a while and when I can no longer stand the stench off of him, I go away. Good luck, I say, I’ll see you tomorrow. You will, he says back. I know I will.

Rashomon effect at play in a small town after the Celtic Tiger died, the local employer went to the wall, and rotting canker was all that was left of where hearts used to be.

‘There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind, though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.’

Bobby, the main-stay of these linked stories: ‘I had that King Lear’s number from the start, well before the teacher started to break things down slowly for the thick lads: he was a stupid prick.’

Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

 

Description: New York, 1922. Five-year-old Gavin Daly and his seven-year-old sister, Aileen, are boarding the SS Mauretania to Dublin—and safety. Their mother has been shot and their Irish mobster father abducted. Suddenly, a messenger hands Gavin a piece of paper on which are written four names and eleven numbers, a cryptic message that will haunt him all his life, and his father’s pocket watch. As the ship sails, Gavin watches Manhattan fade into the dusk and makes a promise, that one day he will return and find his father.

Brighton, 2012. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace investigates a savage burglary in Brighton, in which an old lady is murdered and £10m of antiques have been taken, including a rare vintage watch. To Grace’s surprise, the antiques are unimportant to her family—it is the watch they want back. As his investigation probes deeper, he realizes he has kicked over a hornets nest of new and ancient hatreds. At its heart is one man, Gavin Daly, the dead woman’s ninety-five-year-old brother. He has a score to settle and a promise to keep—both of which lead to a murderous trail linking the antiques world of Brighton, the crime fraternity of Spain’s Marbella, and New York.

Dedication: FOR PAT LANIGAN
This book would never have happened without your generosity in sharing your family history with me

Opening: Brooklyn, February 1922
The boy’s father kissed him goodnight for the last time – although neither of them knew that.
The boy never went to sleep until he had had that kiss. Every night, late, long after he had gone to bed, he would lie waiting in the darkness, until he heard the door of his room open, and saw the light flood in from the landing. Then the shadowy figure and the sound of his father’s heavy footsteps across the bare boards. ‘Hey, little guy, you still awake?’ he would say in his low, booming voice.

I so love the casting here, especially Glenn, and the over-arching storyline of their personal lives. We are still waiting for a resolution over Sandi, and each book I wonder: ‘will this be the one where we get to know her fate?’

Because I love these characters, so much so that I like to point out things that seem slightly out of step with how I perceive the set-up:

Okay, here’s the thing: Cleo, in the view I have had built up for me by Peter James would not be reading Fifty Shades of Grey, now would she.

Oh! look at this: R.M.S Mauretania

Best line: ‘exuded all the personality of an unplugged fridge’

Disputing the ease of location 100/433: If you want a telegram from the Queen on your 100th birthday, be prepared for a frightful slog”

The music:
BEETHOVEN.ODE TO JOY
Dr. Hook – The Millionaire
Marla Glen – The Cost Of Freedom

4* Dead Simple (Roy Grace, #1)
4* Looking Good Dead (Roy Grace, #2)
4* Not Dead Enough (Roy Grace, #3)
4* Dead Man’s Footsteps (Roy Grace, #4)
4* Dead Tomorrow (Roy Grace, #5)
3* Dead Like You (Roy Grace, #6)
3* Dead Man’s Grip (Roy Grace, #7)
3* Not Dead Yet (Roy Grace, #8)
4* Dead Man’s Time (Roy Grace, #9)

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

bookshelves: victorian, summer-2014, tbr-busting-2014, published-1899, women, lit-richer, classic, fradio, play-dramatisation, shortstory-shortstories-novellas

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 16 to 21, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dk864

Description: Holidaying on Grand Isle in 1899, Edna Pontellier feels she is living in a dream, so the attentions of the dashing young Robert Lebrun serve merely to amuse her.

When it was published in 1899, Kate Chopin’s novel shocked society and divided critics. Respectable, married Edna Pontellier, 28, is away from her home in New Orleans, holidaying on Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico with her husband and children. Teaching her to swim is the debonair young Robert Lebrun, known for forming an attachment with a different woman every summer. Despite warnings from her more conventional friend, Adele, Edna falls incontrovertibly for Robert. When he leaves Louisiana for Mexico, Edna realises she’s been “awakened” and questions everything: her marriage, her position, the society she lives in. But what is left for her? The novel is regarded by many as the first in a new wave of modern American literature.
Produced and directed by Marion Nancarrow
Dramatised by Janice Okoh

1/5 Holidaying on Grand Isle in 1899, Edna Pontellier feels she is living in a dream.

2/5 After a disagreement with her husband, Edna plans a trip alone with Robert.

3/5 Edna continues to be enraptured by Robert’s company, but there is a shock in store for her

4/5 Leonce hopes a visit from her father will stop Edna’s unconventional behaviour.

5/5 Edna thinks Robert’s return will make her happy, but events are to overtake them both.

How kind of BBC to help me shift a long-term TBR item. I’m sure this was a pearl-clasping tale back then and opened many a young lady’s eyes.

The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potter

 

Narrated by J P Gemont

Description: “The Life of William Shakespeare” is a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of Shakespeare’s life and works focusing on oftern neglected literary and historical contexts: what Shakespeare read, who he worked with as an author and an actor, and how these various collaborations may have affected his writing. Written by an eminent Shakespearean scholar and experienced theatre reviewerPays particular attention to Shakespeare’s theatrical contemporaries and the ways in which they influenced his writingOffers an intriguing account of the life and work of the great poet-dramatist structured around the idea of memoryExplores often neglected literary and historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s life and works.

With the FutureLearn course ‘Shakespeare and his World’ from The University of Warwick due to start at the end of next month, I thought this is a great opportunity to get this under the belt beforehand.

Just as astronomers can tell where a hidden celestial body is by the gravity it exerts on visible bodies in the vicinity, so Potter gives us a fantastic view of Shakespeare and his world. Daddy John was a bit of a rogue wasn’t he!

This book is only for those truly interested in the Bard as this is a scholarly, dense text, yet aficianados need not worry that this is dry, I didn’t find it so at all. A magisterial keeper for reference purposes.

01 Born into the World 1564-1571
02 Nemo sibi nascitur 1571-1578
03 Hic et obique 1578-1588
04 This man’s art and that man’s scope 1588-1592
05 Tiger’s hearts 1592-1593
06 The Dangerous Year 1593-1594
07 Our usual manager of mirth 1594-1595
08 The strong’st and surest way to get 1595-1596
09 When love speaks 1596-1597
10 You had a father, let the son say so 1596-1598
11 Unworthy scaffold 1598-1599
12 These words are not mine 1599-1801
13 Looking before and after 1601-1603
14 This most balmy time 1603-1605
15 Past the size of dreaming 1606-1609
16 Like an old tale 1609-1611
17 The second burden 1612-1616
18 In the mouths of men 1616-after

Highlights from Folger Shakespeare Library’s Release of almost 80,000 Images