Two Erskines and a Cleeves

Inspector Septimus Finch of Scotland Yard: He has an instinct for impending crime, a sixh sense for murder. His deceptively bland face and lazy walk hide an uncanny acumen for investigation. And from the busy pub on Fleet Street below his London flat to lonely country inns in the nooks and crannies of England, they raise a tankard of good Guinnes stout to salute him as the Yard’s top specialist in cases of sudden death.

The Family at Tammerton 1966 Book 14 in the Inspector Septimus Finch series

Murder by the Sea – Tammerton Hall stood in dark magnificence in an isolated spot near the seaside town of Lockbridge. Its mullioned windows had reflected the long thin faces of the Maule family since Tudor times. London nurse Louise Morton had taken an assignment there because she felt a sudden longing for the country – and because the patient was a dear friend of Matron’s. That was what made the arrival of the telegram so odd. “MRS. CRANE IS DEAD. DO NOT SEND NURSE.” Mrs. Crane was very much alive and expecting her. But someone didn’t want Nurse Morton at Tammerton. Some one desperate enough to murder.

I enjoy these Septimus Finch novels. Ms. Erskine does characters so well! I get invested in them right off the get go. Even after I finished this little gothic mystery I found myself thinking about Louise Morton and wondering about her. Crazy, I know! Louise Morton took this job to get out of the city and enjoy some time in the country. She met Inspector Finch on the train out to Lockbridge. In conversation she told him about the telegram and he warned her…

Finch nodded. “There’s the possibility that you may find yourself in considerable danger.”

Louise shook her head. “I don’t think that’s likely,” she said decidedly. “With the possible exception of Roger Crane, the Maules are all madly respectable.”

“My dear girl, it’s the respectable ones who are most to be feared because they have the most to lose. Consider, for instance,” Finch begged her earnestly, “the high ratio of murders committed simply to avoid the scandal of a divorce.”

Louise suppressed a giggle with difficulty. “You’re not suggesting that anyone’s likely to try and murder me?”

“I’m suggesting that someone at Tammerton has a very good reason for not wanting you there. And, that being so, they may try to remove you.”

Louise thought it silly and didn’t see any danger – until she met Kathie Kelvin! They had a past together. Could she be in danger? Would Kathie hurt her to keep the secret secret? Then Miss Chumleigh is found murdered. She knew of the secret. So many suspects! Good suspects, interesting suspects. I loved eccentric Aunt Agnes. More murders followed, would Finch find the killer in time to protect Louise? Would Louise find love with one of the supects?

Case with Three Husbands   1967   Book 15 Inspector Finch series

Murder at the Towers – Grey and gloomy, the Towers, a vast Victorian Mansion, was a most appropriate home for the eccentric Bonner family – and the perfect setting for murder. The mystery actually began when the beautiful and much-married Rose Bonner became suspicious that one of her late husbands was not as dead as she thought. But was it this ghost of a marriage past that gave old Aunt Agatha such a terrible shock on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday – and then murdered her in her bed? The Bonner family felt that only Inspector Finch could catch the flesh and blood killer, and he quite agreed, for he had already dug up the crucial clue: a buried pair of size ten men’s shoes.

Inspector Finch is recuperating from a gun shot wound in this one. He goes to the shore with his surgeon and friend Adam Braithwaite to recuperate. Adam is taking over his dad’s local office and patients while he is on vacation and thought it would be the perfect place for Finch to recover and rest. Before he even gets to White Cottage outside of Tynan he overhears a frantic woman speaking to Adam’s father in the next exam room and his interest is peaked and he thinks he has a juicy mystery to keep him busy as he convalesces…

“…always known us,” it said. “My family and yours have been neighbours for years. We’re eccentric but, not neurotic…”   “…you may not approve but under the circumstances it did give a certain amount of…”   “…those three late husbands had become friends. That’s not as unlikely as it might seem. All of them were…”   “…there was this light I tell you. Yet when I got down there was no one. No one at all. He’d gone. Like a ghost…”   “…someone spoke my name. The way one might if onesmet unexpectedly – after a long time. I called out, but no one answered… It was dark. I couldn’t see…”

There followed only silence. The overheard conversation suggested several things to Finch. Illegal entry for one. bigamy perhaps. Even blackmail. Was the doctor now persuading her to see a psychaitrist? What she really wantd was a policeman. An astute and experienced officer such as himself.  

Another excellent plot with engaging characters and lots of wonderful suspects, dead and alive! This one has Cherie the poodle who finds the shoes buried on the beach and digs them up and presents them to Finch as he stands watching a young man swim in the ocean. Cherie is a lovely character in this story. Will Finch and Cherie find the owners of shoes? And more importantly why he doesn’t need them anymore and who put them there? 

I went straight into the third Erskine I had on my shelf since I enjoyed these two so much. I’m reading The Woman at Belguardo now. Previously I read No. 9 Belmont Square. You can read my thoughts on it here.

A Lesson in Dying    1990  Book 1  Inspector Ramsay series

Headmaster Harold Medburn was dead, and nobody in the village regretted it. Appropriately, it was on the evening of the village Halloween party that Medburn’s body, dressed in academic cap and gown, was found swinging from the school’s rusty netball hoop. And although his death brought fear to some hearts, relief was the dominant response, for Medburn had been a bully, taking pleasure in tormenting whoever came within his reach.

The police accuse Medburn’s wife, Kitty, of killing her husband because he was about to leave her for another woman; but Jack Robson, the school caretaker, who had loved Kitty when they were classmates years ago, disagrees. Helped by his clever daughter Patty, he does his homework among Medburn’s friends and neighbors and finds half a dozen of them had powerful motives for murdering the hated headmaster.

But it is in the ugly secrets of Medburn’s life and in the dark passions that sometimes ensnare good people that Robson finally discovers the tragic and desperately dangerous truth…

This was actually the last book I read in 2020. Ann Cleeves always gives us a good puzzler and characters. Some of the reviews I read on Goodreads said they didn’t like this because Robson and his daughter seemed to do more of the sleuthing than Inspector Ramsay, but I liked it. It was a good vehicle for us to see into the inhabitants of the village and to discover who Inspector Ramsay is in this first in the series. I wouldn’t mind reading more with Jack Robson and Patty as amateur sleuths! Cleeves early books are wonderful, but she only gets better with time! Her Shetland books are among my favorite reads!

It’s a dreary February day here in East TN. We are due to get 1-3 inches of snow and things are canceled. We stocked up some on groceries and are looking forward to a couple days just staying in and being lazy and reading and watching old movies. All our birthdays are this week so we will pig out on lemon cake for Donald yesterday, cherry cheese cake for the boyo, who is turning 44 tomorrow! My baby! And cherry pie for me on Thursday. Looking forward to this week! Hope your week is terrific!

No More Meadows

by: Monica Dickens   first published in 1953

No More MeadowsTimes are changed with him who marries; there are no more bypath meadows where you may innocently linger, but the road lies long and straight and dusty to the grave.’ So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Christine feels bound to agree. ‘My wife can do anything,’ Vinson says. Struggling to comply with this statement, Christine has to adjust to life in America, whilst catering to Vinson’s idea of a good spouse. She must force a sycophantic smile for the wife of Admiral Hamer (who wears patent-leather shoes like bananas) in an effort to ease his promotion. There must be a cold Turkey and a cold ham at every party and she must suffer her ridiculous mother-in-law. Bitter arguments are relieved by bleak silences. As the realities of married life wash away her rosy dream of it, Christine begins to wonder if Vinson is really what she wants.

No More Meadows unravels the threads of a very real marriage. Full of her inimitable warmth and sense of idiosyncratic character, Monica Dickens explores Christine’s heart-warming – and at times heart-breaking – search for happiness.

My copy is a Mermaid Book, published by Michael Joseph/Purnell & Sons. I have three of these lovely little books, all Monica Dickens books. I’ve read Thursday Afternoons already and still have My Turn to Make the Tea to read. You can read about Mermaid Books here. They are small, laminated cardboard books, sometimes referred to as limpbacks.

I always enjoy Monica Dickens books. She writes characters very well, I’m always immediately invested in them. This story about an English girl who marries an American Navy Officer and moves to America shortly after the war, England still had rationing going on, was a nice look at some of our differences. Christine and Vinson were as different people as the US and England are as countries. She came from a gregarious, loving, argumentative family and a house full of animals. He came from a divorced family that wasn’t close at all, in fact went years without seeing each other. I’ve never read a book that had both such a sad and happy ending at the same time. I was taken by surprise at the ending of this one.

A Summer Place

IMG_7595The summer place from which Sloan Wilson‘s novel takes its title is an island off the coast of Maine. It is beautiful in summer. It is terrifying in winter – as though, when the summer people are away, their icy snobberies, their fears of committing social errors remain to haunt the empty beaches.

On this island, one summer, Ken Jorgenson and Sylvia Raymond meet. They are very young, and passionately attracted to each other. But both are outsiders, confused by the island’s rigid caste life. And in their confusion they part in anger.

The Story of what happens to them and to the people they marry and to their children, who years later meet on the island, is the central thread of a novel about how marriages are made on earth – some out of desperation. And some, when there is strength and self-knowledge, out of love.

In The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson held up a mirror in which a whole generation saw the subtle interplay of its family and career problems. In his new book Mr. Wilson looks deep into the human heart and considers how love and happiness may be won or earned and how even the most terrible of mistakes – love unrecognized – can, with sufficient courage, be at last surmounted.

You know Maine is one of my favorite places to be and settings for novels. This one takes place in Maine, Buffalo NY and Florida. I saw the 1959 movie adaption with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue years ago and remember liking it a lot. I was thrilled to finally read the book. It was Published in 1958, the year I was born. Now I’d like to see the movie again! The theme song to it is so beautiful. And it is so well acted.

I didn’t like any of the characters at first and almost gave up on it. Everyone was so snobby and worried about fitting in and what everyone else thought. The island was private owned and they had an association set up. You had to be approved by the association to build on the island. If you didn’t come up to their standards you were denied. But as Sylvia’s son John and Ken’s daughter Molly got older and became more of the focal point of the story I really did enjoy it. They were lovely young people caught in the web of lies and bad choices their parents made. Will they be able to find happiness with each other or will their parents pasts destroy them too? I really ended up liking Ken Jorgenson too. 


Theme from A Summer Place

Mysteries X2 and a Brother

Read a couple of good mysteries the last couple of weeks…

With a Bare Bodkin by Cyril Hare – 1946

bodkinEngland at War. The blitz has forced the evacuation of many government offices from London and Francis Pettigrew dutifully follows his Ministry to the distant seaside resort of Marsett Bay in the north of England. Accommodations are crowded and uncomfortable while office relations leave much to be desired. The disgruntled community of civil servants must provide their own entertainment in their provincial exile, and when one of their members turns out to be a mystery writer in civilian life an amusing parlor game of “plan the perfect murder” is soon influx swing. Pettigrew remains aloof from this silliness but is promptly engaged when a victim, a real one, is discovered – slain by a common office utensil…

I enjoyed this one. The story revolves around the crew at the Pin Control Ministry. It was never explained what the ministry did really but what I can gather it is a satire on WWII British bureaucracy. Pettigrew’s old friend Inspector Mallett shows up to investigate a ‘leakage of information’ in the pin control and ends up ‘pinned’ to a murder case 🙂 There were several sub plots going on to keep you engaged and interesting characters. I have read one other Cyril Hare book and enjoyed it too, so I am looking forward to the couple others I have on the shelf.

Entry Island by Peter May – 2013

When Detective Sime (sheem) Mackenzie is sent from Montreal to islandinvestigate a murder on the remote Entry Island, 850 miles from the Canadian mainland, he leaves behind him a life of sleeplessness and regret.

But what had initially seemed an open and shut case takes on a disturbing dimension when he meets the prime suspect, the victim’s wife, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

And when Sime’s insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant Scottish past in another century, this murder in the Gulf of St. Lawrence leads him down a path he could never have foreseen, forcing him to face a conflict between his professional duty and his personal destiny.

Peter May is probably one of my favorite writers. His books are hard to put down. This one is special because you have two storylines going on. One in current day Canada and one during the Scottish Highland Clearances and potato famine. It brought to my attention Grosse Île, a quarantine station on a small island in the St. Lawrence River where immigrants were quarantined before being allowed into Canada. A sad place. It is a historical site now and on my bucket list, if we ever get to travel freely again ;( A top notch mystery and a sweet family story. 

It’s been a couple of busy weeks around here. We moved my handicapped brother, Donald, down from Pennsylvania. He lived in a personal care home there, and with us down here in TN and only my in-laws up there now he was lonely. We didn’t get up there much anymore and the owners, that we loved, decided to retire and sold. The new owners weren’t in it for the love of the residences and then Covid and all this craziness started so I decided he needed to be with me. It’s hard to be an advocate from 8 hours away.

So Donald is living with us for now. It’s been a time of adjustment for all concerned. New routines for all of us. He is pretty dependent on someone for his daily care so it’s a lot of change for me especially. We’ve settled into a comfortable routine though and I think we’ve all adjusted pretty well to each other. I enjoy seeing us all work together. My son is still living here too so we have a full house. Him being here does give me some freedom to get out a little because he ‘babysits’ for me. Lots of red tape to wade through getting his Social Security changed and his medical set up etc. Donald seems happier and calmer so that’s what’s important. The plan is to find a suitable assisted living home for him, but I don’t want to do that until Covid is over. I don’t want to not be able to go visit him and bring him home for dinner or out for a ride or check on his clothes etc. So we will play it by ear. 

Donald is blind and has a fine motor skill impairment so he can’t do things like shave or tie shoes or pour a glass of tea. He was born three months premature so its pretty amazing he is alive and healthy! He can shower himself but you have to check on him and sometimes help him find the soap! I hand shave him every couple of days and he uses an electric razor himself a couple of days. He misses spots so I have to go over those with the electric razor. He has artificial eyes so we have to be careful to keep them clean and lubricated. And of course he can’t fix any meals for himself. He loves game shows and the old TV shows especially the westerns. He gets books on discs from the Library for the Blind and we have that all transferred to Nashville now from Pittsburgh. He listens to books each afternoon. He likes mysteries and westerns. He listens to CD’s and loves the oldies like Karen Carpenter and Neil Diamond. It’s getting harder to find CD’s and he can’t do touch screens so I will have to buy MP3’s and burn discs for him. He’s been heard singing along with Karen Carpenter a lot the last few days! 

An earlier picture of Donald and my mom. He still had some hair on top of his head! And me helping him keep the food on his plate, I feel like I’m becoming our mom!

Vera Lynn, the boss of the house, is getting use to Donald and gave him a good welcome. She goes in and helps me wake him up every morning and really wants the stuffed dog he sleeps with 🙂

Sorry bossman walked through my 15 second video!

Have a great day and hug someone you love today! Never know how long you’ll have them!

Mysteries in Maine X2

Earlier this year I read two mysteries, a series by Elisabeth Pollack. They are well worth bringing to your attention! Sadly they are the only books Ms. Pollack wrote. First I’ll tell you a little about the author, chances are you’ve never heard of her…

img_7352Elisabeth was a widowed, former Army wife. She spent much of her married life in many parts of the US and France. She sold real estate in Maine’s Oxford County Hills for 15 years and was a real estate appraiser. She lived for 17 years+ on a 200 acre farm in South Paris, Maine which she shared with her Gordon Setter, Kate Gordon. She was born in 1921 and passed away at the age of 91. She published her books in 1989 & 1996, later in life. Her main character Lee Heaward is a farm owner and real estate agent in the southwestern foothills of Maine. 

rowantreecropThe Rowan Tree Crop is simply a riding crop, a short whip used in horseback riding. But this one is a special crop, a talisman, for it is crafted from the wood of a rowan tree, which has long been held to have magical powers.

In this novel, magic and illusion, mystery and murder, and romance and death play out against a background of rural real estate, garden tours, and country auctions.

Set primarily in the southwestern foothills of Maine, The Rowan Tree Crop follows farm owner and real estate broker Lee Heaward, her associates and her friends through four seasons of love, friendship, introspection, recurring fear and suspicion, and finally, murder.

Unpleasant events begin when Lee takes a firm stand against unrestrained and questionable land development schemes that threaten the pleasant, established life of “The Hill” and its surroundings

An unknown and chilling presence is stalking the old Hartley place and its 400 acres even as Lee and her business partner, Meg Bundy, are preparing to list the property for sale.

Its old buildings hold the key to the mystery. It is there that strange sightings are made. It is there that violence walks. And it is there that Lee must face mortal danger, armed and protected only by her dog and a talisman made from a rowan tree her “protection against harm.”

gatheringThe Gathering, set in the mountains of Western Maine, continues the set of country mysteries featuring Lee Heaward and Hod Cole. The scene is Indian Pond at the foot of Indian Mountain where the old Adirondack- type lodge is run by A.E. Gibbons, a former art student turned frustrated innkeeper. Characters include Motorboat, a trucker and A.E.’s admirer, Enough Peabody, the yardboy whose curiosity is his downfall, Peggy the kitchen helper, Robbie, the last of the “Swampers” and a basketmaker, and Howard, a rescued pony.

Looming above the lodge, the mountain works its magic with the country people who join together to search for a lost boy. It is Hod Cole who finally solves the mystery. The Gathering is not only a country mystery, but a testament to people’s goodness intimate of need. 

gatheringmapBoth books have a list of characters in the front and maps of the area so we can visualize the neighborhood. I really like that. I liked the characters and the setting. The story line was strong and engaging. You get invested right off the bat in the lives of characters. Kate is Lee’s dog, a Gordon Retriever just like Elisabeth’s dog!, and she’s a character in the book!  I’m just sad there are only two books.

If you like mysteries I hope you get a chance to read these.

Go to My Grave

By Catriona McPherson

Donna Weaver has put everything into The Breakers. Now it waits – freshly painted, richly furnished, filled with flowers – for the first guests to arrive.

But as they roll up – these couples and cousins, all in their forties – each one discovers they’ve been here before. Sasha had his sixteenth birthday at scruffy old Knockbreak House, as it was then. Peach started a life of boozing there. Rosalie and Paul began the life they still share. Buck and Jennifer had one night they barely remember. They’re the lucky ones.

because the party that started with peach schnapps and Postman’s Knock ended with a girl walking into the sea and the rest of them making a vow of silence: lock it in a box, stitch my lips and go to my grave.

But one of them has broken the pact. Someone is playing games, locking boxes, stitching lips. And before the weekend is over, at least one of them will have gone to their grave.

WOW! I didn’t think I really liked this one, not one character was likable. But I had to keep reading to find out what had really happened all those years ago. I was a little disappointed that it seemed fairly obvious who was behind all the ‘stuff’ going on, BUT, the twist at the very end… well it was worth the read! My mind was changed in the last few pages. Read it!