Last and First

The last book I read in 2016 was Murder for Christmas

A CLASSIC MYSTERY FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON: MULLED WINE, MINCE PIES… AND MURDER

Mordecai Tremaine, former tobacconist and perennial lover of romance novels, has been invited to spend Christmas in the sleepy village of Sherbroome at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame.

Arriving on Christmas Eve, he finds that the revelries are in full flow – but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.

Midnight strikes and the party-goers discover that it’s not just presents nestling under the tree…there’s a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas.

With the snow falling and the suspicions flying, it’s up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit – and prevent someone else from getting murder for Christmas.

This book was first published in 1949. Frances Duncan was the author of over twenty crime novels published between 1937 and 1959. Every year I say I’m going to read a Christmas mystery for Christmas and never get around to it. Finally I did! I picked this book up in Scotland last August.

It is a good solid mystery. I didn’t figure it out thats for sure! I didn’t warm up to any of the characters so it’s a good thing the plot was good. I liked Denys and her boyfriend Roger, but they didn’t really have a big enough play in the telling of the story to get to spend enough time with them. I’d like to come across more by this author. Have you read any of his books?

The first book of this year is Bodies in a Bookshop by R.T. Campbell

Botanist Max Boyle visits “a curious little shop in a side-street off the Tottenham Court Road” in London and is delighted with the bibliophile treasures he finds. He also stumbles across something less pleasant: in a back room, an unlit gas ring emits its noxious fumes and two corpses lie sprawled on the floor.

Boyles calls in ‘the Bishop’ – Chief Inspector Reginald F. Bishop of Scotland Yard – who in turn coaxes professor John Stubbs, a rotund old Scottish botanist and amateur criminologist, to lend his assistance. The salty old professor, quaffing pint after pint of good British beer, his pipe emitting clouds of foul smoke: the protesting Boyle, who would rather be basking in the sun on the Scilly Islands: and the polite, skeptical, world-weary Bishop soon delve beneath the tip of a sinister iceberg to discover skulduggery and dark deeds. Fueled as much by friction among themselves as by enthusiasm, the little crime-solving club threads a maze through London’s book and print emporia, grappling with a puzzle that is likely to baffle even the most astute armchair detective.

Bodies in a Bookshop is filled with amusing sallies of wit, quaint and pungent observations, droll characters and rambles among many a volume of forgotten lore. Crisp dialogue keeps the plot moving at top speed. After forty years, Bodies in a Bookshop is as exuberantly readable as ever, a welcome and refreshing relief from so many of today’s flat and colorless mystery puzzles.

This is my second book by R.T. Campbell (you can read my review of Unholy Dying here), and a gift from Joan @ Planet Joan! She’s such a thoughtful person. After she read it she thought of me and mailed it right off. Thank you, Joan!

Once again the wonderful John Stubbs with all his eccentricities. The story is told by Max and he is very drool and serious compared to Stubbs flamboyant personality. As in the first book Stubbs car, a Bentley, is almost a character and his driving is outrageous. There is always little comments by Max when they jump in and take off to search out a clue…

  “I’ll drive ye down.” he announced, “that’ll blow the depression out o’ yer head.”
  The Bishop shuddered, but apparently felt that he had nothing to live for anyhow and climbed in the Bentley. the journey passed without incident. We managed to negotiate Hyde Park Corner and finally found ourselves in the King’s Road.

This mystery was extra special as it was set in a bookshop and a quite smart book theft ring was uncovered in the solving of the murders. Lots of talk about beautiful old copies of rare books…

I had never held a genuine Blake illuminated book in my hands before. It was certainly very beautiful. I could almost, for a moment, understand the temptation that would fall on a collector if the book was offered to him. It was such a beautiful piece of work that to have it in the house would be a continual pleasure.

A man after my own heart! Another grand romp and solid mystery.

This book counts for Read Scotland 2017 and Bev’s Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt 2017 – Gold era with a staircase on the cover and is the first book in my chain for Bev’s Follow the Clues Challenge

Peggy Ann