Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

lethalLethal White is book four in the Cormoran Strike series and what a fat, engaging mystery it is. (I finished this a few weeks ago but it’s been insane here, I did not jot down notes, and so it isn’t fresh in my mind.) What I do remember is loving the dialogue between Comoran and Robin, the multiple investigations going on, the glimpse into upper class politicians’ lives and how it all dovetails in the end.

Barclay is a new addition to the team and I very much like the Scottish accents, his personality and the way he works with Strike and Robin. The author is expert at writing the speech inflections so when I read it I “heard” Jimmy speak in his working classing class London accent. Same with Jasper Chiswell and his family with their very upper crust diction.

This was a long book and doubtless it could have had some scenarios shortened. There was a bit too much of Robin’s internal dialogue about whether she had romantic feelings for Strike. In my opinion that could have been pared down. Do I think they will eventually get together? Yes, I do, but I hope it’s not until the end of the series. I like how they work together now.

The multiple cases and how they were juggled kept my interest, I don’t know how Galbraith/Rowling keeps all that straight and weaves it all together. Loved the exchanges between Lorelei and Cormoran, also the Matthew-Robin-Sarah story line. Quite pleased about some of that but I can’t hash it out because of big spoilers.

I think it’s good J.K. Rowling went with a pseudonym for this series as it makes a distinction between the Harry Potter series, which was more appropriate for a younger audience, and this adult themed series.

Aja, a sweet old Shiba Inu and prolific reader.

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Food and drink:
Rib-eye steak and chips, quinoa salads and soup. Burgers with blue cheese, chili, Singapore noodles, sweet and sour pork, Pad Thai, takeaway curry, treacle tart, “thick slices of cold roast beef and boiled potatoes. It was English nursery food, plain and unfussy, and none the worse for it.” A cornetto.

Let’s have some Pad Thai.

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Lovely carby rice noodles and shrimp. Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

pad1

Sharing with:

Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking Series 
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather’s October Foodie Reads

 

WeekendCooking  2018FoodieRead  BriFri

 

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Agatha Raisin – The Dead Ringer (book 29)

bellRinger

The Agatha Raisin series has been around for some time. The Dead Ringer is about the death/murder of a bell ringer and a few other characters (I don’t want to give a spoiler) in the quiet little town of Thirk Magnay England. This is book #29 in the series.

It’s been a while since I read an Agatha Raisin mystery and by getting this publication, I realized I missed a few things going on in her life. The first book in the series depicts her as a cranky, middle-aged publicist, supposedly 53 years of age. I’m guessing she doesn’t age in real time as years later, she’s still a middle-aged lady and described as attractive if not abrasive. My bookish friend Angry Grey Cat renewed my interest in the series.

Agatha has her own detective agency set up now, a change from books in the past where she was more like a Jessica Fletcher character in Murder, She Wrote. What I liked about this book was the familiarity of the little town in the Cotswolds. The picturesque setting and scenery are inviting. Thirk Magna has an ancient church called St. Ethelred and it’s the pride and joy of the community.

There are adult twin sisters who are part of the bell ringers group and very involved in the church. Apparently bell ringing is like no other type of music and isn’t written on a standard score. The six bell ringers change their order and each time they strike it’s done from memory. Quite an art of memory and dedication. It most certainly wouldn’t be for me.

The twins are swooning on about the visit of a bishop who is reputed to be very handsome and they are determined to take charge of the visit, arranging which “song” they will play on bells and generally being pains in the butt. This bishop has some scandal following him as his rich ex-fiancé has disappeared. That’s what interests Agatha very much. Now the bodies start piling up, as you would expect from one of her novels.

The mention of Detective Sargent Bill Wong was a familiar character as I remember him from all the previous books. I wondered why he hasn’t been promoted to a higher rank than D.S. in all the years (29 years!) of being on the police force. But I have to remind myself that this isn’t written in real time as DCI Alan Banks novels. Also, it has been well established that Bill is half Chinese and half British so when I read that again I thought – yeah, yeah…we all know Bill if half Chinese and Brit. That could have been left out.

Food:  There are mentions of Greek food, pub meals, gin and tonics, tea and cakes. I am on board with any of those things!

Overall, this isn’t the edgy sort of mystery I love but a milder mystery, not quite a cozy. Clear as mud? It’s fun to follow a character through a long series so if you are looking for a light mystery series, you may want to give Agatha Raisin a chance.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review.    Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Heather for the October Foodies Read.

BriFri  NetGalley12018FoodieRead

Dear Mrs. Bird and My Twenty-Five Years in Provence

Library Loot

Dear Mrs. Bird: I abandoned Mrs. Bird.  The blurb that grabbed me states it’s for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  I liked that book very much so I was happy when my copy of Dear Mrs. Bird came in at the library.  It’s set in London during  World War II, a favorite era and topic for me, and the star of the book is a young lady named Emmeline Lake who wants to be a war correspondent.

Emmy sees a job advertisement for the London Evening Chronicle and sees that as a path to her dream.  Alas, the job available is a typist position for an old bat named Henrietta Bird.   Mrs. Bird is an advice columnist and she’s a tightly wound prude who tosses out letters she deems inappropriate.

The first part sounded promising to me but I couldn’t connect.  It was slow and boring for me. That’s against the grain to what others are saying about this book so I am in the minority.

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My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Now and Then.    It’s Peter Mayle’s last book.  This was in the works for publishing before he died in January.  If you have read any of this Englishman’s Ex-Pat literature about his life in Provence and enjoyed it, you will like this book as well.

He reflects on past excursions, how they came to live in France, language lessons, French culture and culinary wonders.  I have read most of his other books, the fiction and the memoirs, and enjoyed them.

While I will say this wasn’t the best of his Provence memoirs it was still lovely to read.  Lost and good photos in this book which will take the armchair traveler to rural parts of France.

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Linking up with  Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
BriFri

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

ravenblackI decided to “visit” the Shetland Islands through Anne Cleeves descriptive prose for my armchair traveling.

Raven Black is the first book in the Shetland series.  This book starts with the introduction of Inspector Jimmy Perez and the murder of a beautiful teen aged girl, Catherine Ross. Seems just about everyone in the small town believes eccentric Magnus Tait is responsible for the murder of Catherine. She was strangled and left in a snowy field near Magnus’ house.
Magnus is clearly a mentally deficient person although capable enough to live on his own. But is he capable of murder?

A young girl named Catriona had disappeared some 10 years earlier and Magnus was their prime suspect. No body was found and he couldn’t be charged. But did he do it? This girl’s disappearance is introduced early in the novel to establish the mistrust of old Magnus as well as give the reader one of many suspects to consider for Catherine’s murder.

In addition to Jimmy Perez we have multiple perspectives. Each chapter gives us a different point of view. Fran Hunter and her ex-husband Duncan who have a young daughter named Cassie. Fran is the one to discover Catherine’s body.
Sally Henry is a teenager, Catherine’s friend and the daughter of a school teacher. It’s very difficult to attend school when your parent is a teacher. Hard to fit in and be trusted. There is Robert, a tall handsome student who Sally is interested in. Robert’s father is a big figure with the upcoming festival Up Helly Aa. We don’t meet Robert’s father but you can tell how important and prestigious it is that Robert is involved in his father’s business and the festival.

There are preparations for Up Helly Aa, something I had to look up because I had no idea what it is. To read about the festival, make travel arrangements to visit and get involved, click HERE.  I added an interesting video at the end of the post explaining Up Helly Aa.

When I grabbed the book at the library and read the flap I wondered how a name such as Jimmy Perez came up on a remote Scottish island. It is explained early on about his ancestor, probably from Spain, shipwrecked near Shetland. I pictured Antonio Banderas so was shocked to see a reddish-brown haired man playing this part on the TV series. I haven’t picked up the series yet, just watched a preview in IMDB.

Anyway, he settled on Fair Isle and generations of Perez families prospered. Jimmy is a good detective and an empathic man and longs for a family life. I like this guy.

The weather is almost a character in its own right. It comes up so much and it’s so very descriptive about the wind, the ice, the snowdrifts, the cold. If you like mysteries and police procedurals this may be a book for you. This one has potential for sure and I already like a few of the characters so I will continue with book 2 next.

Foodie stuff: Stopping at the coffee shop for a mug of milky coffee and a pastry with apricots and vanilla or a slice of chocolate cake. Tea and coffee, lots of it. Drams of whiskey, bottles of wine, toast and jam.

And now for a treat, click below for Learning with Rowan to see what Up Helly Aa is all about. Looks like a fun festival but oh so cold!

Learning with Rowan about Up Helly Aa

Linking up with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads

Lies by T. M. Logan

liesI received a sample of this book Lies by T. M. Logan.  The  very beginning had me hooked.  Joe Lynch is driving with his son Will and the little boy spots his mother’s car, asks if they can surprise her.  Joe follows her into a hotel parking garage, heads upstairs to the lobby, and then sees his wife Melissa talking heatedly with Ben, the husband of her best friend.

Joe doesn’t want their young son to witness any unpleasantness so he heads them back to the car.  He tries to catch Melissa as she drives off but then runs into Ben and gets into an altercation.  Ben is knocked to the parking garage floor and isn’t responsive.

To make matters worse Will has gotten out of the car and sees Ben knocked out on the ground, blood seeping from his ear.  This upset causes an asthma attack and Joe has get his son medicine.  So he leaves Ben, gets the boy help, returns to the garage and Ben is gone.  So is Ben’s car.  When his wife returns home he asks her about meeting Ben but she lies and says she’s been playing tennis.  More conversation between them makes it clear she’s hiding something.

Based on that, and it was edgier than I wrote this out, I requested the book from NetGalley.  The first part of this book was great and highlighted the dangers of social media.  Joe had lost his cell phone in the struggle in the parking garage – suddenly his Facebook page has updates that he isn’t making.  Photos posted from that hotel parking garage clearly showing blood in the background.   People “liking” and commenting on the posts.

They knew where I’d been.  It was like suddenly realizing you lived in a goldfish bowl.  Both updates had been posted this evening.  I had driven out of the Premier Inn around 5:10 p.m. and both Facebook posts had followed inside the next ninety minutes.

Can’t imagine someone hacking my social media account and posting as me.

Towards the middle I felt the plot dragged a bit and wasn’t believable.  We have to suspend disbelief with some story lines but after a while, I just couldn’t do it with this story.  Joe’s reactions to the “implied evidence” his wife was cheating was very unrealistic.  I know my husband wouldn’t be as understanding and rightfully so!

Obviously you have to have a weak character, the fall-guy so to speak, but this just didn’t fly.  Melissa Lynch is a completely unlikable person in the way she is manipulating her husband.  Why didn’t he toss her out?  Should of done so.  Is Ben a dangerous man or another victim?  You will see at the end.  Overall I felt disconnected from the characters and repelled by Joe (even though he is the victim) by his weak behavior.

The ending had a twist I certainly didn’t see coming and I will say well done there.

Would I read more by this author?  Probably so.  I’d try one more book.  It kept my interest until the end with the twists and turns and I wanted to know whodunit.

Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as the author is British and the setting is London and Sunderland.

Much thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions nice and otherwise are my own.

 

 

Day of the Dead by Nicci French {Book 8, the end of the Frieda Klein series}

dayofdead

I’m certainly a fan of a series. The more books in a series the better in my opinion. Some folks don’t like the feeling of commitment with five or more books, following the same characters on a mystery or whichever genre it may be – I figure I am going to be reading anyway and I like familiar characters, watching them grow as characters and in their personal and professional lives.

So, this is the end of the Frieda Klein series. Eight books total starting with Blue Monday and winding our way through the days of the week. As I’ve mentioned before, I read the Sunday book first so I read many spoilers. Still, I went to the beginning and read through. Sunday was the best book. Thursday was not my favorite and had a seriously slow start.

This last book, Day of the Dead, wrapped up the series and so I will no longer have Frieda, Reuben, Josef, Chloe, Jack and Karlsson in my life. Josef was my favorite of the sub-characters.

Frieda needed to disappear in the previous book and spent most of her time in this last book under the wire. A killer was on the loose and she was the target, a string of violent incidences and a conclusion that I could accept.

There was a character named Lola Hayes who is introduced early in this book. She needs a subject for her criminology classes and plans to explain how psychoanalyst Frieda Klein thinks, planning on interviewing those close to Frieda and working out a profile. By trying to discover more about Frieda she puts herself in danger and is forced, literally, to go on the run with our main character. It’s a cat and mouse game and a bloody one at that.

The beginning was slow for me and I’ll say I wanted a different ending to this eighth book saga. I wasn’t especially disappointed as all things were resolved, I would just like to have seen some characters end up differently. It’s hard to review this without giving out a very important factor that is a huge spoiler.

Lots of food mentioned throughout the book.

Butternut squash soup, burgers and beers, bowls of bean sprouts and Greek salad, a simple salad of tomato and avocado and a bread roll.

Spaghetti and red wine, a Ukrainian lamb dish and a bottle of vodka. A flat white and piece of carrot cake. Chicken sandwiches with lots of mayo and tomatoes.

“Frieda bought a cauliflower, some cheddar cheese, butter, milk and a half-baked baguette. She added a small jar of mustard to the basket, two chocolate bars, apples, a jar of marmalade and oatmeal. Later she cooked a mustardy cauliflower cheese which they ate with hunks of baguette.”

I bought a cauliflower and planned to make that cheese dish but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

 

Goodbye Frieda Klein – it was a good ride.  Lots of mystery and I would certainly watch a television series if one was developed base don her character.

Linking up with:
Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday
Heather for her August Foodie Reads

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

keyhole

This is a physiological drama told from the point of view of a nine-year old boy. It’s a unique perspective to see young Samuel Clay’s view of his world, one where his mother Margot has been away for more than 100 days.

He receives no phone calls, no telegrams or packages. The only thing he waits for are the few postcards his mother sends from her travels across the United States and of course, his hope of her return. Samuel lives alone in a large estate in Surrey England with only the housekeeper, Ruth, to attend to his needs.

Samuel tracks his mother’s travels using an atlas and pins when he receives a postcard. Being a person who loves maps, it’s particularly enjoyable to read about the atlas and Samuel putting colored pins in Boston, San Francisco, London, Bath and Penzance.

Samuel’s father died a few years ago and the dire financial state of affairs prompted Margot Clay to go “fund raising” across the country and the USA to raise money. She left in the middle of the night without saying goodbye to her son. Ruth takes care of Samuel by cooking and cleaning. You suspect Ruth in the beginning of withholding information from the boy.

As you read the story from a nine-year old’s point of view, the adult reader can see and understand some of the reality of the situation. An example of that is when Samuel sneaks into his mother’s room and steals letters his mother had written to her husband.

You get the idea that Margo Clay had been in an institution or some home. Samuel remembered that from a remark by his father about Margot being away in bath where there would be peace and quiet. She evidently wasn’t suited to domestic life. In a letter from Margot to Samuel’s father she implores him not to bring he boy next time he visits as his arms around her make her feel as if she is sinking in the water. Not everyone is suited to be parent. When Ruth catches the boy in his mother’s room she berates him and tells him he should be ashamed snooping around.

Ruth didn’t understand that he was only trying to be near his mother, she was a creature in orbit and the one way he could feel close to her was to linger in the traces she left behind.

Ruth is really a piece of work – alternately making his favorite meals, asking about homework then berating him and being mentally abusive. The ending wasn’t what I thought might happen, quite a surprise actually. Can’t say I didn’t have questions about that and since they will be spoilers, I won’t talk about it here.  Goodreads has a spoiler feature so I will add my thoughts about that there.

I always notice the foodie parts in a book. Here are the offerings:

Shortbread, cake, freshly baked bread, roast beef and potatoes with peas, mince pie, eggs and sausages, roasted chicken and potatoes, roasted lamb, roast rabbit and chestnut stuffing, tea cakes and lemon tarts.

As I love making bread, the baguettes seemed a good option.

bread

Baguettes

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

brush over tops of loaves.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheaPlace 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start.

When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8×12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; Brush the dough, bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Much Thanks to Netgalley for this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the review.

Sharing with:

Joy for British Isles Friday as the setting is England.
Heather at Based on a True Story for August Foodies Read
Booklover’s Aussie Author Challenge