Sunday, September 17, 2017

MYSTERY MILE - Margery Allingham

























Judge Crowdy Lobbett is a man of justice, an upstanding pillar of American society.  And now he is in deadly peril, tailed across the Atlantic by the ruthless Simister gang.

Luckily for Judge Lobbett, however, he makes the acquaintance of one Albert Campion during his voyage to England.  The enigmatic amateur sleuth bundles the Judge off to the country house of Mystery Mile, where its a race against time...

This is more of a caper than a mystery, which was originally published in 1929.  It has lots of action and humour, a light John Buchan or very similar to a 'Bulldog Drummond'.  Either way its great entertainment.

Allingham manages to write different books in different styles while keeping her same core characters.  This is a light adventure but others in the her Campion series are very dark  mysteries.  Again, either way she is in my top three or four mystery writers.  Never disappointing and comes highly recommended.

These English country houses are just dangerous places, never a quiet moment.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

NO CLOAK, NO DAGGER - Benjamin Cowburn

























First published in 1960, No Cloak, No Dagger tells the story of four missions undertaken by Cowburn in France between September 1941 and July 1944 for the Special Operations Executive. The purpose of that organization was to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines, to ' set Europe ablaze' as Churchill ordered on its formation.  It was a clandestine group of whose existence very few were aware.  Some of the books action takes place in Vichy France, somewhere very much the subject of Cowburn's spleen - "truly the comic opera setting of officialdom wallowing in mediocrity" with the rest in the Occupied Zone and. briefly, Spain and Portugal.

What amazes me reading this is the understatement of Cowburn  , "jumped out of airplane at 500 feet and got on with it."  Even though Cowburn grew up in France the risks taken were unbelievable, while the attrition rate of his fellow agents was approximately 50%.  Attrition here means captured and executed.

The biggest risk to the networks set up was infiltration by collaborators who then betrayed everyone.

This is not a James Bond book, its all very matter of fact.  This however does not detract from the tension the author and his fellow agents lived under.

Amazing stuff.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

TO LOVE AND BE WISE - Josephine Tey

























It was rumoured that Hollywood stars would go to any lengths for the privilege of being photographed by the good looking . brilliantly talented and ultra-fashionable portrait photographer Leslie Searle.

But what was this gifted creature doing in such an English village backwater as Salcott St Mary's And why - and how- did he disappear?  If a crime had been committed , was it murder... or fraud.. or simply some macabre p[practical joke?

This mystery features Tey's detective, Alan Grant attempting to solve the disappearance of Searle.

This is very good, with the reader able to solve the riddle as all the information is available but close attention has to be paid.  Tey only got to write seven novels prior to her untimely death which was a shame as she gets better and better with each outing.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A HERO IN FRANCE - Alan Furst

























Spring, 1941.  Britain is losing the war.

Paris is occupied by the Nazi's, dark and silent at night.  But when the clouds part, and moonlight floods the city,a Resistance leader called Mathieu steps out to begin work.

The fighters of the French Resistance are determined not to give up.  These courageous men and women- young and old, aristocrats and night club owners, teachers and students - help downed British airmen reach the border with Spain.

But as the military police heightens surveillance, Mathieu and his team face a new threat, dispatched from the Reich to destroy them all.

This is the fourth book of Furst's I've read out of  fourteen.  These books are that good I am rationing them because it would be a shame to race through them.

Furst has the ability to ratchet up the tension from the start while writing of the extraordinary courage that so many displayed during the time of the German atrocities in Europe.

The writing is minimalist, the story goes from event to event detailing success's and failures. Unfortunately the failures are catastrophic with no second chances.

Sensational and can't be recommended highly enough.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB - Dorothy L. Sayers

























Lord Peter Wimsey bent down over General Fentiman and drew the "Morning Post"  gently away from the gnarled old hands. Then, with a quick jerk, he lifted the quiet figure.  It came up all of a piece, stiff as a wooden doll...

But who killed the general?

Sayers is the master from the 'golden age' of crime writing.  This is another thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery with the trade mark humour and  great banter between the characters.

This was published in 1928 and many of the characters here are suffering scars from the Great War which Sayers handles with great sympathy.

This is an excellent read and like all her books is recommended.













Wednesday, August 30, 2017

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - Ian Fleming

























Its been 4 years since I've read this and its still in my opinion the second best of the Bond books. Goldfinger is far and away the best but this is a good entertainment.

If you've read this book you'll know that the film adaptation is taken straight from it and makes the film my favourite in the series.

This isn't literature but pure escapism perfect for a flight, and there's nothing wrong with pure escapism at anytime.

I love most of the Bond books which these days tend to suffer from tiresome revisionism by tiresome individuals who want everything and everyone to agree to their tiresome world view.  But as I don't have anytime for tiresome people I will continue to enjoy these stories again and again.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

MISS PYM DISPOSES - Josephine Tey

























Leys' Physical Training College was famous for its excellent discipline, and Miss Lucy Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to give a psychology lecture there.  But she had to admit that the health and vibrant beauty of the students made her feel just a little inadequate.

Then there was a nasty accident.....

Another high quality mystery from Josephine Tey published in 1946. Her humour and ear for conversation is outstanding and make this is very pleasant read.

This isn't a story of multiple corpses laying about the country house but a tale of friendship taken to the nth degree.