Murder on the Levels by Frances Evesham is the second book I have reviewed as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. I choose this book from a long list as it sounded so much fun from the book description. I wasn’t disappointed as you can see from my review below.
Murder on the Levels is a delightfully quirky cosy mystery by Frances Evesham set in the West Country.
The central character, Libby Forest, is warmly portrayed; a baker of cakes and chocolate-maker by profession, she is unwittingly drawn into a murder mystery and detective work, not for the first time.
I loved all the musical references, my favourite being Libby’s recollection of her recorder playing at school being,
“a regular series of high-pitched squeals, like a dawn chorus of cats…”
There are poisoned cyclists, cars driven badly and much too fast, pets with definite opinions, an enigmatic love-interest called Max, and various characters we suspect are not as respectable as they seem, all contributing to an enormous web of mystery and humour. Like Mandy’s tattoos, all is not as it seems, and when the resolution comes, it is as welcome as it is unexpected.
Link to Frances’ author page on Amazon
I have recently become a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team (#RBRT) and the first book I have reviewed as part of the team is
The Code for Killing: a mystery set in Georgian England by William Savage.
I picked this book because of its intriguing title and the bits of code shown on the cover. I thought it looked both unusual and entertaining – and this certainly turned out to be true. Here is my review:
The Code for Killing is a fascinating historical mystery set in Georgian England. It is the second novel in a series and there are fairly frequent references to the previous mystery, but the novel can be read and enjoyed without any previous knowledge of the first book.
The main character is Dr Adam Bascom – a man who, for all his intellect and skills, has very little understanding of women, much to his mother’s despair and also amusement. Adam relies on quite a few women to help him solve the mystery, including the delightful and spirited Miss Sophia LaSalle. I do hope there will be a sequel as I would love to hear more from this character in particular.
The mystery is set in the turbulent times of the late 1700s and there are many details about the political situations of the period, such as the riots in Norfolk, that add greatly to the vividness of the storytelling. The characters come from all walks of life – we meet the wise Sir Daniel Fouchard, Miss Phoebe Farnsworth the actress and the wonderfully named pair of sailors, Peg and Dobbin, to mention a few among many gems. The details of medical conditions and treatments at that time are described in interesting detail and I was very amused when London was described as ‘noisy and crowded’ by Adam on his welcome return to Aylsham – some things don’t change!
All in all, a really good, well-written story, with great richness of detail. Thoroughly recommended!
Link to The Code for Killing on Amazon UK
‘Jam for Tea’ is a touching, funny and affectionate look at the author’s childhood in the 1950s and ’60s. It follows on from ‘Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood’ and takes us right up to the point where Cathy Murray is a qualified primary school teacher and is, in her own words, ‘on the cusp of some of the best experiences of my life’.
We learn where Cathy was when JFK was assassinated, how she tried to subdue her naturally curly hair with sellotape in an effort to copy Twiggy’s hairstyle and of the fun she had on her trip to Wales with the Girl Guides even though conditions were fairly basic. Cathy tells us about her holiday jobs, why we might want to follow her example of never sending food back to the kitchen in a restaurant and reveals why the book is called ‘Jam for Tea’ (hint: there is a canine influence).
One of my favourite reminiscences has to be the story of Cathy’s mother attending a wedding reception wearing a dress made out of the new one hundred per cent man-made fabric, Crimplene. In the crowd, her mother was pushed against a heater then spent the rest of the evening with her back turned away from the other guests so that no one would see the large brown scorch mark on her bottom!
There are charming glimpses of the future too, for example the vignette of Cathy and her father dressed up in their wedding outfits, playing piano duets at home while waiting for the ancient Bentley to arrive and take them to Cathy’s wedding. These hints of what is to come whet our appetite for the next installment of Cathy’s life story. More please, Cathy!
Why not take a look on amazon? UK USA
A link to my review of ‘Cabbage and Semolina’ by Cathy Murray.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Mr Spearman is a cosy crime novella set in the fictional sleepy market town of Burcliffe. A young teacher, Rosie Rainbow, has a broken heart, Mr Spearman the school catering manager has disappeared, six year old Susie Sullivan makes an unusual discovery in the school playground at school and the famous Italian violinist Leonardo Pizzicato is robbed of one of his most precious possessions. As the mysteries deepen and entwine, we travel from Burcliffe to Naples, Legoland and to Dagenham, meeting a mysterious signorina, a suspicious photographer, a jealous cat named Marlow and a gang of ruthless criminals along the way. All is solved by the time we reach the sparkling musical finale, thanks to the incredibly quick thinking of Rob Dobbs and his police colleagues, not forgetting vital help from Rosie Rainbow and the slightly dotty Miss Palmer.
This novella can best be enjoyed with a large pot of tea and a mind eager to spot the cheesy clues.
UK amazon link
USA amazon link
THE FUNNY BUSINESS OF LIFE (Mozart, Murder and Messiah)
Book 2 in the ‘Sing with the Choir’ series.
REDUCED TO 99p until 31st March 2015 – grab it while you can!
About the book:
Miriam has a secret, a secret she cannot bring herself to share, a secret that leads to a brutal stabbing on Bonfire Night at St Cecilia’s School.
We travel back in time to investigate the mystery, meeting a host of colourful personalities along the way, including the bumbling Director of Music Lancelot Prokofiev, the predatory french teacher Celeste Dubonnet, Brunhilda the chocolate-loving music secretary, Dorian the sixth former who can understand complicated mathematics but forgets the day of the week and the egotistical conductor, Tristan Proudfoot.
Demons are wrestled and surprises abound before we return to Bonfire Night for the final revelation of a dramatically altered future.
For readers in the UK:
For readers in the USA:
ENJOY SINGING WITH THE CHOIR!
Cathy Murray’s easy conversational prose tells of her happy childhood in the fascinating fifties – shadowed by the war and the heavy cost paid by the nation, but looking forward to a modern age. We get glimpses of an earlier long-vanished world too as she remembers her grandfather telling her how he went to work in the mines at the tender age of twelve and showing her the field where the pit ponies had their two weeks annual ‘holiday’ above ground.
The author looks with the eyes of a child, quite rightly starting with school dinners, for food is children’s main preoccupation, as anyone will tell you, and she also has periods of reflection when she observes through her adult eyes.
I particularly enjoyed reading about Miss Heaps, the rather formidable piano teacher, and how she managed to get a hundred per cent pass rate by ridding herself of the weaker pupils – a practice not generally encouraged today!
How times have changed we think as we read about liberty bodices, pens being dipped into ink bottles at school, ‘Listen with Mother’ on the wireless, pre-decimal money and the early days of the NHS, but we also realise that some things never change when we read the delightful descriptions of children playing with whatever comes to hand (the Geiger counter!) and having fun whatever the circumstances.
Cathy has described an ordinary childhood in ‘Cabbage and Semolina’, and in doing so, has made it extra-ordinary.