by Cora Harrison
Published by MACMILLAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS
It's 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country. But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans - ruin everything - forever.
This book caught my eye in the library, and I picked it up hoping to find at least a few gems of historical detail. Sadly it feels more like a coming of age story in dress-up clothes. I guessed the solution to the underlying mystery far earlier than the characters, and when they figured it out, their actions felt far too modern.
The Body in the Thames
by Susanna Gregory
Published by Sphere
In the dilapidated surroundings of the Savoy hospital, a delegation from the Netherlands has gathered for a final attempt to secure peace between the two nations. Thomas Chaloner, active in Holland during Cromwell's time, knows many of the delegates, including the sister of his late wife. Then the body of his former brother-in-law is found in the Thames. Chaloner discovers that the dead man has left enigmatic clues to a motivation for his murder. Was he involved in a plot to steal the crown jewels, or did he fall foul of one of the many people in London who are determined that the peace talks will fail?
Finally we get to find out about Chaloner's first wife, as he marries and tries to settle down with his second. All the usual characters make an appearance, and we learn more about their motivations too. Plus some intriguing new arrivals keep the mysteries developing. As always I loved the historical notes at the end, although I would have liked more detail on the unusual weather conditions that plague the characters.
The Daughter of Time
by Josephine Tey
Read by Sir Derek Jacobi
Published by Chivers Audio Books
Inspector Grant begins the job of unraveling the centuries-old mystery of Richard III. Was he really the monster that history books made him out to be? Did he murder the two Princes in the Tower? Inspector Grant was ready to find the truth...
I am on a definite Richard III kick at the moment, although it seems so is everyone else as most of the pro books in the local library system have long reserve lists. Tey is definitely pro, and so, as the story goes on are Inspector Grant and his various temporary sidekicks. Grant is in hospital, having fallen through a trapdoor while chasing a suspect, and thus is bored and grumpy. At first he objects to the idea of historical research, but then he comes across a print of Richard in a pile of portraits pertaining to various classic unsolved mysteries, and gets drawn in. A very fun way of presenting the evidence, and one I might have listened to more than twice, had the library not wanted their copy back.
I now need to read more of Grant's adventures. He rather grew on me too.
What Happened to the Corbetts
by Nevil Shute
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Nevil Shute wrote this prophetic novel just before the start of the Second World War. In it he describes the devastation that results from an aerial bomb attack on Southampton that destroys the city's infrastructure and leaves the inhabitants at the mercy of cholera and further assaults. The story follows the trials and tribulations of the Corbett family as they try to get to safety.
A compelling, if at times stylistically dated, piece of what was then near-future speculative fiction. The characters have a habit of being obligingly middle class (even those who have got there by aspiration), especially as the daily staff flee to their families early in the story leaving our protagonists to cope by themselves. It was interesting spotting what Shute got right, and where he was some way off the mark, but overall he did an excellent work of prediction barring the one error he acknowledged having made in the introduction to the library's edition. Well worth a read.