FOLLY by Stella Cameron
This series features Alex Duggins, pub owner, graphic artist and animal lover and is set in the beautiful Cotswolds in the town of Folly-on Weir. Alex has returned to her home town after the failure of her marriage but she soon finds that this quiet village holds very dark secrets when stumbles across a corpse, buried in the snow.
With suspicion falling on her, Alex begins investigating to clear her name. It soon becomes apparent that the killer is determined that Alex not make any progress in her investigations as she soon becomes a target.
The setting of this novel is beautifully atmospheric and Cameron pens a reasonable tale. There are a few occasions where the reader must make major assumptions, even after re-reading the passages, in order for the sequence of events to make sense. Intentional or poor editing? Either way, it leaves questions in the mind of the reader. However, I’m willing to try the second book in the series: Out Comes the Evil to see if it fares any better.
Like all of Grimes’ books in the Richard Jury series, each title is the name of a pub somewhere in the general area of where the story takes place. The Knowledge is no exception to this “rule”, but it also harbours another meaning. “The Knowledge” is the comprehensive list of street names and routes that all London cabbies must know in order to obtain their license.
Robbie Parsons is a cabbie who has just dropped his fare off at the exclusive Artemis Club when suddenly the couple are gunned down and the shooter jumps into his cab and demands that he begin driving.
Richard Jury reads about the crime the following day and recognizing one of the victims, calls in his friends Melrose Plant and Marshall Trueblood to help in tracking down the murderer, known to have escaped to Nairobi. Along with Jury’s merry band of friends, a group of young people, not unlike Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars, take up the challenge to find the killer.
Jury’s questioning of Robbie Parsons takes place in his cab as they drive through London, passing many of the pubs that were the scenes of previous cases, while Jury reminisces about them. This had me wondering if Grimes is wrapping up the series or hedging her bets just in case she isn’t able to continue writing . Hopefully, this isn’t the case because you don’t come across many books as humorous, clever, and cunning as this one was.
In December of 1926 Agatha Christie went missing from her home in Styles, England. For eleven days the police scoured the countryside for any clues as to what had befallen her. Had she committed suicide? It was well known that since the death of her mother some months previously, Christie had been depressed and had developed writer’s block. Her depression was further intensified by the marital problems that she was having at the time. Had she somehow been injured? Or, most dreadful thought of all, had she been murdered and done away with?
While using the known facts of the case, Wilson has created a story that gives us another possibility for her disappearance. As Agatha, herself relates the events, we learn that her disappearance was orchestrated by someone wanting her to commit a murder for him. Who better to do this than the Queen of Crime? And what was the hold that he had on her in order to coerce her to do this? Blackmail and threats of harm to her family! So how could she not do what he was forcing her to? Agatha must use the same ability that creates the clever plots in her mystery stories to make this personal story end well.
Christie never talked about her disappearance and makes no mention of it in her autobiography so we’ll never know what really happened. To my way of thinking, Wilson’s story is as plausible as any of the other explanations that were bandied about during the winter of 1926.
A SPOT OF FOLLY by Ruth Rendell
When Ruth Rendell (Barbara Vine) died in 2015, we lost another great mystery/crime writer. She was a master of psychological mysteries which often left the reader remembering the stories long after they wished they could forget them! Some of them have stayed with me, personally, for many years and give me shivers every time I think of them. That cannot be said of this collection of “ten and a quarter new tales of murder and mayhem”, however.
Other than the brilliant story – “Never Sleep in a Bed Facing a Mirror” – told in three simple sentences, I found the remainder of the stories to be predictable and disappointing. The plots were so familiar that it was easy to predict the outcome of each of the stories. Other than the above mentioned story, the remainder of the stories quickly became forgettable. If this is the last of the new material from Rendell, then it’s a shame that it ends on such a disappointing note.
DEATH AT LA FENICE by Donna Leon
This is the first book in the Commisario Guido Brunetti series, set in Venice. Leon paints a picture of its beauty and its age as her characters walk the streets, climb the many stairs to their apartments, or huddle in their tenement-like hovels. The city is as much a character in the story as the people themselves.
Brunetti is a quiet, thoughtful man, who relies on his wits to investigate the death of Maestro Helmut Wellauer. The Maestro is found in his dressing room between acts of La Traviata, the apparent victim of cyanide poisoning. Brunetti concentrates on finding out as much as he can about, “Wellauer, the man” for here, he believes, he’ll find the answers that he needs to solve this case.
This was a quick, enjoyable read, with comfortable characters and an interesting plot and is reminiscent of Barbara Nadel’s Inspector Ikmen series, set in Turkey. Both provide a good story, and picturesque scenery. The occasional touches of humour make one laugh out loud and help to humanize the characters. Cozy reads for a winter’s day!