‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts is an Inspector French mystery written in the 1930s. Set in the North Downs in Surrey, it is the story of a mysterious disappearance that becomes more intriguing as the case progresses. Dr James Earle lives quietly with his wife in the countryside. When he goes missing, the inspector is called in from Scotland Yard. But French cannot fathom what on earth has happened to him. When a visitor goes missing too, the police are baffled. Nothing makes any sense. But the author has concocted a brilliant puzzle. I was completely fooled and thoroughly satisfied by the end.
The setting is the last place one would expect such crimes to take place. It is rural and quiet and the inhabitants apparently genteel and respectable. The writing style perfectly matches this. But as any reader of English countryside mysteries knows, so much lurks under the surface.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery where the investigation is laid out so meticulously. We see into the mind of the Inspector and begin to understand the crimes as he explains his thinking. It was a brilliant piece of investigation, broken down in the most compelling way. I was hooked. I am so glad there as more in this series for me to discover.
‘Murder On An Irish Farm’ by Carlene O’Conner is the eighth in the series, but can most definitely be read as a standalone. It is the first I have read and had no problem understanding the background. The story starts on the day of the wedding of Siobhan and Macdara, a wedding the has to be put on hold when a skeleton is found in a disused slurry pit on a nearby farm. The pair put duty first and run off to investigate. When the case harks back fifty years, the elderly neighbours to the farm become involved, and long held secrets lead to more danger and peril for the detectives. Will they be able to solve the murder before anyone else gets hurt?
I loved the small Irish village setting. It was beautifully described, and the people and their use of language was spot on. I could imagine it so well and hear the dialogue spoken in the wonderful Irish accent. There is humour too, which points to a nation that does not take itself or anyone else too seriously. The author blends this humour with a steely determination to solve crime. It was a fantastic mystery, with lovable characters and the perfect setting.
It’s 1952 in gloomy post-war London, and a group of travellers head off for the ski slopes of Austria. The eight men and eight women can’t wait to escape and partake of everything a European ski resort has to offer. But back home Inspector Brook of Scotland Yard is faced with a terrible death to solve – and the only clue points to an expert skier. Do any of the group have a connection? Brook must sift through the evidence and find the killer before it is too late.
I loved the tandem elements of the story, with the police investigation in London, where clues point to a link to the ski trip, and the trip itself. It was very well written and immersive. It was made all the more interesting to someone in the early 21st century reading about post-war grimy and miserable London, and Europe recovering after the war and trying to get back to some sort of normality with tourism. Carol Carnac originally published this book in 1952, but it has not aged. It is as readable and impressive as it was then.
Carnac lets her characters talk, and through them we see the story unfold. She has a knack for seeing who people really are, and knows their faults and vices. After all, people are people, and a good detective can always count on that. I loved this story and now feel compelled to hunt out more by this author.
Rachel needs a job and due to potential difficulties with her work visa, she’s willing to take the first decent job offered to her. But what is the job? It’s all a bit of a mystery and she can’t help but do a bit of snooping. Is she getting in over her head?
This is a great mystery story with an unexpected twist. I have read just about everything Anne Hagan has written and have never been disappointed. She has the knack of writing the most ingenious mysteries and I alway look forward to reading her next story. This one hit the spot.
‘Murder In First Class’ by Helena Dixon is the 8th book in her Miss Underhay Mystery Series. I have grown fond of Kitty and Matt and the fascinating characters they find themselves with. I like that there are links to previous books in the series. But there is no need to have read any before as they are self contained.
This time Kitty hopes to spend some quiet time relaxing with her new fiancé, but when he is asked to meet an old comrade from the train and have him stay for a few days, that looks unlikely. When there is a murder on that train and the pair are called in to help, there is no way they will have any time to themselves. Trying to find a suspect from the unlikely collection of passengers proves difficult. And as secrets are revealed Kitty and Matt are in more danger than ever.
This was a good mystery that kept me interested throughout. The 1920s setting works perfectly for this type of cosy mystery and the descriptions of England of that time are so well crafted, that I feel as if I’m there. I can open this book and wallow in the beautiful clothes and fascinating characters. Helena Dixon has perfected the art of mystery and has found a way to bring her readers back for more. I look forward to more in this series.
‘Two For Sorrow’ by Nicola Upson is an immersive and beautifully written Josephine Tey mystery, set in 1930s London. Josephine is back in London researching her next book on the baby farmers of the early part of the century. Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters were executed for their crimes, but Miss Tey is more interested in the aftermath of their crimes. How others were also affected. While staying at her club in town, Josephine is drawn into a case investigated by her friend Detective Inspector Archie Penrose. Danger lurks all around and the pair must find the killer before it is too late.
There’s a depth to the story that you don’t see coming, and I must admit it took my breath away. The author weaves a story of personal tragedy, with a wider stain on society. And the years have not wiped away that stain.
London of that era was so perfectly described, as Josephine meets with her London theatre friends and mixes with high society. There’s plenty of name dropping- which is an absolute delight. We saw the lives of women of different classes and the choices they had to make. And we also saw the consequences of those decisions.
Nicola Upson cleverly ties in the tiny threads of her story and brings it all together with such skill.
I was left profoundly moved by the stories within ‘Two For Sorrow’. It’s a stunningly well written and researched story and would make a wonderful film/tv adaptation.
Sometimes a book takes you by surprise. You don’t realise just how enjoyable and satisfying it’s going to be. That’s what happened when I started reading ‘Death in Disguise’ by Emma Davies. Francesca Eve is a caterer and is intrigued by a murder mystery dinner party she caters for a group of female friends. It’s all good fun, even when one of the group has to ‘die’ as part of the game. When one of the women dies later the fun ends. Fran discovers that the victim may not have been all she seemed. In fact none of the guests were. What secrets did they hold – and did those secrets have anything to do with the murder? Fran and Adam join forces to find out the truth before the killer strikes again.
This was an engrossing mystery that kept me guessing to the end. There were plenty of twists and turns and it was an original and enjoyable story. It got more and more exciting as the story progressed. I loved the dynamic between Fran and Adam. It was an unusual pairing, but one that worked really well. I’m looking forward to more in this new series.
Irene Ingram is now editor in chief of the Progress Herald. Her father has left to report on the war in the pacific, and her fiancé is in training somewhere, preparing to join the battles in Europe. She may be a great reporter and ready to take on the role, but it’s the early 1940s. Many of the residents in her small town don’t agree. A woman in a position of power is extremely unusual and not always welcomed. Irene is determined to prove them wrong and gets the chance to show her skills, when a sudden and unexplained death hits close to her. With anti-Semitic attacks springing up in the previously quiet and welcoming town, Irene and her friend Peggy begin to investigate.
I liked the historical World War 2 time-frame. It was very well described and it felt so contemporary even though it was set in the 1940s. These characters felt real. She managed to make the reader feel a part of the time too. It was a fantastic story and so believable. I really liked Irene . She was strong, daring and clever, and I want to read more of her stories.
This book gave a very different perspective. We found out about the women who stepped up and took on responsibilities outside the home. Through Irene’s eyes we saw the barriers they came up against.
The mystery was well told and kept me gripped throughout. I loved it.
I approached ‘The Twyford Code’ with high expectations. Janice Hallett’s ‘The Appeal’ was my favourite book of 2021, and I was desperate to see if she could equal its brilliance. I was not disappointed.
‘The Twyford Code’ is a stunningly clever mystery; a mixture of crime and old world charm. Steven Smith is an ex-con trying to piece together events from his troubled childhood. Finding a strange book , full of markings and handwritten notes changed his life back then. Showing it to an inspirational teacher led to an investigation into clues apparently hidden within the book. The author of that book, now sidelined for old-fashioned and offensive views, was a firm favourite with children for decades. Could she have left clues within the pages of her books? As we become privy to the investigation, the readers join in this mind-bending and exciting mystery.
The story is teased out bit by bit and there are some ‘oh my god!’ moments. The author mixes Smithy’s past life tales of crime with the present. It is clever, with a myriad of twists and turns. At times it is shocking, mysterious and thrilling, and went places I didn’t see coming. It is beyond me how someone can craft such an astounding story. Highly recommended.
When Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St Just and his fiancée Portia, a Cambridge academic, take a break in Cornwall, they hope for nothing more than relaxation and good food. What awaits them is a village at war. Those making a living need to see changes, but the incomers want to keep its picturesque charm. When one of their number dies in violent circumstances St Just is dragged in to help. Is the death linked to the fight between the fisherman and the new villagers? Or is there more to the story? Portia and Arthur must find out quickly before it’s too late.
‘Death In Cornwall’ has the feeling of a classic mystery but with a modern day twist. Set as it is in a small village, it also has the closed set feel of a country house mystery. I found the two main characters, St Just and Portia, engaging, intelligent and relatable. The writing was wonderfully descriptive, and I was transported to the Cornish coast for a delightful few hours.