Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

marple jacket

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

A well-written short story can make for a very satisfying one sitting read. If you like traditional mysteries with a variety of mundane and exotic settings and time periods from 1930s to the 1970s, this collection is a fine choice. Agatha Christie’s iconic amateur sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, solves new mysteries in short stories by twelve acclaimed women authors, including Ruth Ware, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, and Leigh Bardugo. Miss Marple travels to Hong Kong, Italy, and New York City, and investigates crimes at a vicarage and at Christmas, sometimes finding the culprit surprisingly close at hand. If you fancy new Hercule Poirot tales, try Sophie Hannah’s four new mysteries, beginning with The Monogram Murders.

Brenda

Daisy Darker

daisy darker jacketDaisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Fans of Agatha Christie’s  And Then There Were None, rejoice! Alice Feeney takes readers on a tense and tumultuous journey with this modern twist on a murder mystery classic.

Daisy Darker tells the twisted tale of the Darker family, who gather on a tidal island in Cornwall, United Kingdom, to celebrate the birthday of their beloved, if not eccentric matriarch. The party, which falls on Halloween and Nana’s eightieth birthday, proceeds as smoothly as can be expected for this dysfunctional clan until they begin to be murdered, one by one every hour, starting at midnight with the aforementioned matriarch and birthday girl. Adding to the suspense and unease is a raging storm that leaves the family stranded at Nana’s sprawling seaside mansion until morning. Seemingly no one in this deceitful crew is safe, as everyone from Daisy Darker herself to the pianist prodigy father has secrets to hide, even from those they are supposed to love the most.

Feeney expertly concocts an immersive and atmospheric setting by featuring a unique landscape and utilizing descriptive language. Said captivating language contributes to the visceral feeling of unease that readers are likely to endure, while turning page after page, as alluring settings are an Alice Feeney staple. This title is one of her more memorable works, and is chock-full of complex characters that are well-developed, snarky, and unreliable, which make the mystery all that more intriguing and onerous to solve. Told from the perspective of the title’s namesake, Daisy Darker combines short chapters, dramatic flashbacks, and an intricately crafted storyline, to leave readers feeling haunted and eager to discover who the most dangerous Darker really is.

Readalike titles include One by One by Ruth Ware,  An Unwanted Guest by Shari LaPena, and They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.

Savannah

 

The Bullet That Missed

bullet that missed jacket

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club meets for a third time in their upscale retirement village to charm readers while the 70-somethings gather to discuss and solve another cold case. This time Elizabeth, Ron, Ibrahim, and Joyce are looking at the disappearance of TV journalist Bethany Waites, whose car was found at the bottom of a cliff 10 years earlier. Bethany was investigating a money-laundering scheme. One of their earlier cases has had unintended consequences, as Elizabeth and husband Stephen have been threatened by a mysterious Viking, who demands that Elizabeth kill Viktor, or else. Viktor is a retired Russian Colonel, who was in the KGB when Elizabeth was a British spy. How Elizabeth approaches this dilemma makes for delightful reading, especially as Joyce records the scenes in her diary. Joyce gets to meet a TV personality when they’re looking into Bethany Waite’s case, and gets to swim in a private rooftop swimming pool. Former union organizer Ron gets to play snooker and drink whiskey with Russian Viktor, and a (possibly former) gangster. While the three men seem to have little in common, they certainly enjoy their time together. Elizabeth’s husband Stephen, who has dementia, gets more scenes here, including an adventure connected to rare books. Other characters from the first two books return, some in new and unexpected relationships. This novel is humorous and witty, and full of strong, dangerous men and women. That many of the characters are well over 70 simply adds to their charm. While not a cozy British mystery, it’s entertaining and heartwarming. Start with The Thursday Murder Club for maximum enjoyment. More entries are planned.

Brenda

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle

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The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

In this historical novel of female friendship set on the home front in England during World War II, three very different women become friends. One night fashion designer Cressida Westcott escapes her flat during a bombing raid, and loses both her home and nearby business in one night. Without a dress to her name, she leaves London for the Westcott manor she hasn’t visited in decades. Cressida is welcomed by her niece Violet and nephew Hugh, who’ve never met her. Violet is a socialite, ready to marry a man from the right sort of background, and reluctant to report for training for war work, even though she will be able to live at home while chauffeuring American officers. Dutiful Grace, daughter of the widowed vicar, visits parishioners and joins committees, and will soon marry another vicar, who likes but doesn’t love her. Her mother’s wedding gown needs repair, and the local sewing circle, now including Cressida, works to repair and alter the dress, which, unexpectedly, was made in Paris. With clothes rationing, women are having trouble even getting a new dress or dress fabric for their wedding, let alone a white gown. With Cressida’s help, the sewing circle begins to collect older wedding gowns, and starts an exchange to help women, especially those in the military, borrow an updated white wedding gown. The three women grow and change tremendously, with Violet making friends of all classes during her training while Grace learns to have fun again, and learns about dress design from Cressida. I enjoyed this engaging, uplifting novel. Readalikes include Ryan’s Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce, Until We Meet by Camille Di Maio (which uses the same photo on the book jacket), and The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester.

Brenda

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting

iona iverson's jacket

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

Iona Iverson, 57, is a larger than life magazine advice columnist. A former It girl who covered major social events, Iona has had an amazing life, but needs to modernize her column to keep her job. Regularly commuting to London on the train, she enjoys observing the other commuters, but never, ever talks to anyone except her French bulldog Lulu. One day there’s a (nonviolent) crisis on train car #3, and the travelers finally meet and connect. I enjoyed learning their nicknames for each other, especially teen Martha thinking of Iona as magic handbag lady. While Iona tends to steal the scenes she’s in, everyone except David and Jake gets their turn to narrate the story. Sanjay the anxious nurse, impossibly pretty Emmie, and trader Piers in his expensive suits all need Iona’s advice at some point, including Martha, who ends up getting coaching for a theatre audition from Iona and math tutoring from Piers.

Happily, the commuter train to London isn’t the only setting in this contemporary novel, letting readers glimpse homes, workplaces, Martha’s school, and the maze at Hampton Court Palace. I listened to the audiobook narrated expertly by Clare Corbett while commuting in my car; I’d love to see someone reading this on the train. While I liked the author’s first book, The Authenticity Project, I didn’t find it memorable or outstanding. This heartwarming and uplifting story about the riders on the train is one of my favorite reads so far this year. Readalikes include The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg, The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore.

Brenda

Think of Me

think of me jacket

Think of Me by Frances Liardet

A companion novel to Liardet’s 2019 debut, We Must Be Brave, this covers three different times in vicar James Acton’s life. As a young pilot in the Second World War, he meets his future wife Yvette in Alexandria, Egypt. The war separates them, and then they marry after the war and settle near Liverpool in a poor parish. A pregnancy loss early in their marriage threaten to divide them again, and James doesn’t care where Yvette finds support on her long drives in the country. Later Yvette keeps a diary before her death in the 1960s. In 1974, with son Tom a college student, James moves to a new parish in Upton, where he has a leaky roof, a study full of the last vicar’s papers, and a crisis of faith. Tom and James quarrel over Yvette’s diaries, then James starts meeting people who knew Yvette. Not as sad as We Must Be Brave, with a puppy and Tom providing comic relief, and a stern archbishop providing unexpected support, the plot keeps the reader guessing in this compelling read. The Alexandria setting is unfamiliar and has links to the author’s family. I also enjoyed the English countryside setting and the scenes of daily life of a 1970s English vicar.

Brenda

The Marlow Murder Club

marlow murder club jacket

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood

At 77, Judith Potts is perfectly happy with her solitary life. She lives in a cluttered mansion along the Thames in Marlow, creates crossword puzzles, has a nightly scotch, walks through her neighborhood in a cape, where she thinks her age makes her invisible, and enjoys swimming nude in the Thames. While swimming one evening, she hears a gunshot in her neighbor Stefan’s garden. The police find nothing, not even the body she discovers the next morning, complete with a medallion inscribed Faith. Soon, Judith connects with two other Marlow residents, vicar’s wife Betts and dog walker Suzie, to investigate. After another murder with a different medallion, the trio look into whether the victims are linked by a fondness for rowing or a valuable modern painting sold cheaply many years ago. Their favorite suspect, smug auction house owner Elliot Howard, unfortunately has a solid alibi. The women become friends, though not sharing all their secrets with each other, or with DS Tanika Malik, heading the investigation due to budget cuts. I look forward to a return appearance with The Marlow Murder Club. Readalikes include The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton, Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, and The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman.

 

Brenda

The Littlest Library

littlest library jacket

The Littlest Library by Poppy Alexander

What Anglophile hasn’t dreamed of buying a cottage in a charming English village? Made redundant when her public library closes, Jess impulsively buys Ivy Cottage in a small Devon town, and opens a little library in a red phone booth with 10 boxes of books left to her by her beloved grandmother Mimi. Soon she’ll need a paying job, but for now she’s weeding the lush garden, making friends, and falling for handsome neighbor Aidan and his tween daughter Maisie. Charming and well-written; perfect summer reading. Readalikes includes novels by Jill Mansell, Jenny Colgan, Jojo Moyes, and Katie Fforde

Brenda

A New Look at Agatha Christie

Recent Books and Films inspired by the Queen of Crime

Mysteries

 Benedict, Marie. The Mystery of Mrs. Christiemystery of mrs. christie jacket

Buzzelli, Elizabeth Kane. And Then They Were Doomed

Cambridge, Colleen. Murder at Mallowan Hall

Christie. Agatha. The Last Séance: Tales of the Supernatural

De Gramont, Nina. The Christie Affair

Hannah, Sophie. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, The Mystery of Three Quarters

Rader-Day, Lori. Death at Greenway

Wilson, Andrew. Death in a Desert Land, I Saw Him Die

Non-Fiction

Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life

Valentine, Carla. The Science of Murder: The Forensics of Agatha Christie

TV & Films

Crooked House

Death on the Nile

Inside the Mind of Agatha Christie & Agatha Christie’s England

Murder on the Orient Express

Triple Feature: Three Tales of Murder & Mystery

Coming Soonmarple jacket

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries 9/22

Cambridge, Colleen. A Trace of Poison 10/22

2020 saw the celebration of 100 years since the publication of A Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie’s debut novel. There continue to be new editions of her mysteries, as well as books and films inspired by the author and her characters. Enjoy!

Brenda

London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency

London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency: A Memoir by Kate MacDougall

Kate has a dull entry level job at Sotheby’s auction house in London, appropriate for her university degree, but not very fulfilling. It isn’t going well, and Kate impulsively starts a dog-walking business. Her mother is upset, but partner Finlay, though not a dog lover, is supportive. In 2006, dog walking hasn’t yet caught on in London as it has in American cities, so Kate starts small. She quickly learns that the hardest part of the job is working with the dogs’ owners. Gradually Kate needs to hire other dog walkers, and meets rival Agnes. Each chapter is focused on a particular dog, their owners, and the neighborhood where they live. Even readers who prefer cats may enjoy this charming memoir, a coming-of-age tale with lots of heart and humor. The quirky personalities of the dogs are lovingly described, as Kate shares her successes and failures in business, and life. Muddy, messy, and joyful, this is an uplifting read.

Brenda