My reading has whisked ahead of my reviewing of late. I’ve been scavenging reading time in between preparing food for festive feasts and managing a few pages at the end of each tiring day but I haven’t found much time to sit in front of a computer. So here’s some mini reviews of the last 3 books I’ve finished to bring me up to date.
The second book in Julie Hyzy’s White House series, Hail to the Chef again features Olivia (Ollie) Paras in the role of Executive Chef at the White House who also manages to become embroiled in the building’s latest security crisis. The White House is subject to several bomb scares during Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season while the First Lady is being pressured by some old friends to sell a business that she inherited a stake in after her father’s recent death.
The main thing that annoyed me about the first book in the series was the eye-roll inducing dialogue about how world-shatteringly important everything that goes on in the White House is but happily that element was largely absent from this one. The things I liked about the first book are still present though, including the extremely well researched details of the daily activities in the building and the plucky but believable nature of the heroine. The setting also adds to the credibility of this series as it’s a little easier to believe that security threats would be routine events in Washington DC than in the small towns in which many amateur sleuth novels are based. My rating 3.5/5
I also listened to Agatha Christie’s Thirteen at Dinner (originally published as Lord Edgware Dies) narrated by Hugh Fraser who has played Captain Hastings in several of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot TV movies which feature David Suchet as Poirot. It’s a typically complicated Christie plot involving the death of a man whose actress wife, Jane Wilkinson, was seeking a divorce from him. Having been reported at Lord Edgware’s house moments before his death Wilkinson was immediately suspected of his murder by Inspector Jap but proved to have a strong alibi. Even Poirot is confused for some time by the presence of impersonators and liars among the potential suspects but when a second then third murder are committed he finally solves the case.
I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of this story which wasn’t as dated as some of Christie’s can seem and it’s quite nice to see Poirot humbled for a while. I’ve never liked Inspector Jap terribly much but he doesn’t play a huge role and the rest of the characters are interesting. In particular the character of Jane Wilkinson is quite intriguing as she changes over the course of the book.
I’ve listened to several Christie stories narrated by David Suchet and thought it might be interesting to compare this book narrated by Fraser, especially as this story is told from Hastings’ point of view. Surprisingly, because the Suchet narrated stories are wonderful, I found this narration comparable in quality and again found myself quickly lost in the story. My rating 3.5/5
Valerie Wolzien’s We Wish You a Merry Murder was the last christmas-themed book I’ll be reading until next December. In it housewife Susan Henshaw is up to her eyeballs in visiting mothers-in-law, shopping and preparing for an alarming number of festive events but is also worried about one of her neighbours, Kelly, who seems unable to come to grips with the fact that her ex-husband has married another woman. When they stumble upon his body and that body then disappears before anyone else sees it Susan moves into investigating high-gear.
I have to admit I didn’t really warm to this book. Normally I quite enjoy settings that are different to my own world but collectively the people in this story spend the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on presents and other seasonal paraphernalia (one woman receives a sports car as a gift for example and they all buy expensive gifts for virtually everyone they’ve ever met) and I found this off-putting and distracting as it made it difficult for me to like any of the characters. I also found the plot stretched credibility somewhat as no one in officialdom seemed remotely interested in the reported sighting of a dead man and the solution relied a bit too heavily on random guesswork for my liking. If you’re not turned off by rampant consumerism then give it a go for next Christmas as it’s definitely got lots of Northern Hemisphere seasonal traditions well depicted. My rating 2.5/5.
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I don’t know why I tend to read cosies at this time of year, it’s definitely not all to do with holiday themes although that does play a part. It’s probably got something to do with the fact they tend to be shorter and smaller (easier to carry around). Anyway now that things have slowed down (festively speaking) and I can read more than three pages of a book at a time I’m back to reading darker crime fiction having picked up Asa Larsson’s The Black Path from Mt TBR this morning. What a pity I have to return to work tomorrow.