Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Title: The Long Call, Two Rivers #1 
Author:  Ann Cleeves
Publication: Minotaur Books, hardcover, October 2019
Genre: Mystery/series

Plot: In the first of a new series, Matthew Venn, a Detective Inspector in North Devon is watching his father’s funeral from a distance when, moments later, he learns a body has been found near the home he shares with his husband, Jonathan.  Matthew became estranged from his family due to his rejection of his parents’ evangelical religion, the Barum Brethren, but he puts his familial angst away to investigate the crime, or so he thinks.  As Matthew and his team examine the death there are so many conflicts of interest that he suspects he should remove himself from the case: the fact that the body was found so close to his home, several connections to the Woodyard, the art/day center that Jonathan manages, and the appearance of members of the Brethren.

My Impressions: The day they found the body on the shore, Matthew Venn was already haunted by thoughts of death and dying.

What a first sentence!  This is a very dark and atmospheric new mystery from popular Ann Cleeves, whose other books I have enjoyed.  Matthew Venn is one of the most serious protagonists I can remember reading about and he struggles with a feeling of unworthiness although he is handsome, accomplished, and has a job at which he is skilled.  The story is set in a town in North Devon, near two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge that run into the Atlantic Ocean.  Matthew and Jonathan live in a house on the estuary they got at a bargain price because it might be obliterated in a flood.   The isolation suits Matthew but Jonathan is gregarious and popular; in fact, Matthew is constantly amazed someone so confident would be attracted to him.  This insecurity threatens to derail Matthew from the hunt for the killer but ultimately he triumphs.

In this book, even more than her others, I am impressed by the detailed depiction of minor characters, particularly Lucy and her father Maurice, and Jen Rafferty, the appealing sergeant who works for Matthew.  I had been angry with Cleeves for a plot development in her Shetland Island series but I suppose I am over it by now.  In fact, she was in Greater Boston recently promoting this book and I was disappointed not to be able to attend.

Off the Blog: Enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers in Rye, NY and working on my Nancy Drew paper.

Source:  Thanks to NetGalley for this read.  Recommended!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Back to Frederica by Georgette Heyer, Chapters 18-21

For those who wondered what had happened to the discussion of Frederica, I thought I should finish posting:
Image borrowed from
Chapter 18

After seeing Felix successfully wheedle Alverstoke and hearing that Jessamy is exercising his precious horses, Lady Elizabeth is dying of curiosity and rushes to see her elder sister, Lady Jevington, for her opinion of the Merrivilles.   Eliza reveals that Lady Jersey wrote to her, predicting Alverstoke would marry Charis and that Alverstoke painted her in the most glowing terms.  Lady Jevington says Alverstoke was hoaxing her: “But unless I am much mistaken it is the elder and not the younger sister for whom he has conceived a decided tendre.” 

More astute than Alverstoke realizes, Lady Jevington thinks he does not know his own mind but is determined to protect Frederica from gossip about his intentions.  Surprisingly, she is pro-Frederica and says idleness has been Alverstoke’s ruin so being the guardian of two boys will keep him busy (it is actually quite impressive how well Lady J has observed and analyzed her brother’s behavior).  Lady Elizabeth likes Frederica when she meets her at the Seftons’ party and thinks that she would be considered a very pretty girl were her looks not dimmed by Charis’ proximity.  “She possessed, moreover, the indefinable gift of charm which, unlike Charis’ fragile beauty, would be with her to the end.”  Lady Elizabeth says she’d like to call to meet Frederica’s aunt but Frederica reveals that Miss Winsham’s sister is about to suffer a bereavement so Miss Winsham has been spending all her time at the afflicted household.   Frederica is worried if her uncle-in-law dies they will need to go into mourning and miss out on the last weeks of the season.

Mr. Navenby has asked permission to make Charis an offer but she only cares about Endymion and is now convinced Frederica wants to separate them.  Endymion says if necessary he can sell out of the army so that Alverstoke can’t use his influence to have him sent overseas or on a secret mission (he and Charis don’t realize he does not possess the intellect for espionage).

Chapter 19

Felix arrives at Alver House early the day of the ascension and chatters away to the Marquis and Lady Elizabeth regarding everything they wanted to know about balloons but were afraid to ask.  They park the phaeton near Lord Buxted’s carriage so Lady Elizabeth can converse with Frederica.   Buxted has brushed up with the encyclopedia to playfully provide aeronautics information to Jessamy (who doesn’t care) and Felix (who has already headed off to bother the balloon technicians).   Despite Buxted, they are enjoying the afternoon until the balloon rises into the air with Felix dangling by a rope.   Charis faints and everyone watching freaks out but Felix is hauled into the basket safely.   Frederica does not overreact but says Felix is susceptible to bronchitis and may react badly to the cold.  Jessamy begs the Marquis to lend him the phaeton so he can chase the balloon, and when Frederica also asks him, Alverstoke and Jessamy set off together.

Chapter 20

Alverstoke and Jessamy (and Curry, Alverstoke’s groom) drive off in the direction of the balloon, and Alverstoke tries to calm down Jessamy who is blaming himself.   After driving for some time, they see the balloon descend and when they catch up with it, they learn when the balloon came down it got stuck in a tree.  Spectators tell them the boy (Felix) climbed out of the basket all right but then fell to the ground and was “taken up for dead” and brought to nearby Monk’s Farm.  Jessamy is freaked out again but manages to control himself until they reach the farm.
Chapter 21

The Judbrooks, a kindly farmer and his cranky sister, have taken in Felix and the other injured balloonists, and gruff but competent Dr. Elcot is already there.  He reports that Felix suffered a severe concussion, sprained wrist, broken ribs, and various bruises, and scolds Alverstoke for being “a mighty careless guardian.”   The aeronaut relates that Felix was helping them with the balloon and said he wished he could ascend with them.  They said his parents wouldn’t like it.  But when he clambered into the balloon basket with them, the first thing he said was that he didn’t have parents so they wouldn’t get in trouble!   However, it was cold in the air so Felix probably didn’t realize how numb his hands were: when the balloon got caught in a tree and the occupants had to climb down, he couldn’t hold onto the branch and fell.

Alverstoke gets a good impression of the plainspoken country doctor, who tells him it will take a day or so to determine how serious Felix’s condition is (Alverstoke explains the boy has a history of bronchitis).  Then Alverstoke tells his groom Curry to drive Jessamy back to London, update Frederica on what has happened, and explain that Curry will pick her up the next morning in the Marquis’ traveling carriage to bring her to Felix.   Alverstoke also writes a note to Charles to update him and request some cash (as he is giving all of his to Curry for the travel back to London). Alverstoke is angered by the whole situation until he sees poor Felix lying in a laudanum-induced coma and then he experiences not only pity but also a sense of responsibility.   He realizes he has to take care of Felix until Frederica arrives and also needs to reassure Jessamy who is unwilling to leave.  He flatters Jessamy a little: “You mustn’t think I don’t value Harry, but I can’t but feel that if I stood in Frederica’s shoes I should look to you for support rather than to him.”     After Jessamy and Curry leave, Alverstoke settles down in an armchair next to Felix, expecting a night of tedium, and the chapter ends as he begins to contemplate finding a political patron for Charles Trevor.
Lady Jevington understands her brother better than he realized (we eldest sisters spend a lot of time observing and know our siblings’ flaws quite well) and I suppose we should all be grateful she didn’t intervene and spoil this romance.   Is she right that marriage to Frederica will end his boredom?   Heyer is less optimistic (or is she?) that marriage will reform Damerel.

Heyer describes the balloon ascension so well – including its ignominious descent.    Several years before I read Heyer, I fell in love with the Flambards series by K.M. Peyton, in which one of the characters is an early aviator.  The aeronauts here escape lightly but that was not always the case.  Doesn’t it make you wonder how those early pioneers of the air had the courage to try to fly?

Alverstoke really comes into his own in the chapters at the Judbrooks.   He carries it off with his usual calm but in Chapter 21 he admits to feeling unfit for the responsibility.  It is the trust he sees in Jessamy’s eyes (and knowing unconscious Felix *has* to trust him) that helps Alverstoke cope with a novel and difficult situation.

How does changing horses really work?  You wouldn’t want to leave your own valuable horses in a strange stable without your groom, would you?  And if you are driving job horses and are merely changing one set for another, isn’t there some ultimate owner who wants his horses back too?  It’s not like a national rental car company where the “one-way-dropoffs” make their way back eventually, is it? 

For the previous discussions of Frederica, click here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Five Things

I was in Denver this week for work and had a lovely dinner with six other Betsy-Tacy fans.  One told me she had just finished reading Meet the Malones and she wrote about it here.  Don’t you love a convert?
Somehow I found myself vacuuming under and behind my bed recently!   Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen again due to the fact I found ONE jade earring bought in Canada at a friend’s wedding.   I am afraid the other one was vacuumed.   Is it worth going through the vacuum bag to check?  Even if I find it, would it be too gross to ever wear again?

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw

Title: A Killer in King’s Cove: A Lane Winslow Mystery
AuthorIona Whishaw
Publication: Touchwood Editions, paperback, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery/series
Setting: Canada, 1946
Plot: Lane Winslow wanted to get away from London after the horrors of the war but no one was expecting her to take her modest inheritance and buy a home in western Canada.  In King’s Cove, a small town in British Columbia, Lane is welcomed by her new neighbors. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

What is a Lib Guide?

Curious about the History of Children's Literature class I have been taking this fall? 

Last week's assignment was to create a LibGuide, which is basically a subject guide that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study.  I decided to do mine on children's fantasy, so I researched and included nonfiction reference books and encyclopedias, articles, websites, and some of my favorite books in the genre. I suppose it is really just a bibliography with images. I had fun finding all the covers, including the one below from an edition I own:

It will be interesting to see what my professor thinks of my choices!  For those interested, the text we are using is Children's Literature by Seth Lerer.

Here is the link: Fantasy Lib Guide

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From Alice to The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the book is Alice in Wonderland.  I have very pleasant memories, not only of reading it but my grandmother gave me LP versions of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass which I listened to often as a child on my own little record player.  At one point, I could quote long passages.  Prior to this gift, I will admit I'd thought the book was called Allison Wonderland. 
Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, and Aloysius
(copyright Granada Television)
Alice made me think of my first book which begins in Oxford: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. When I visited Oxford, reminders of both books were everywhere!  Brideshead is one of the few books of which I consider the miniseries as good or better.  It really captivated viewers when it first came out, including me.  Oh, Anthony Andrews, I could watch you in anything!   In fact, I loved you in a movie of my second book:
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy, set during the French Revolution, about an Englishman who plays the fop but is really a spy:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell?
That damned, elusive Pimpernel

My third book is by Georgette Heyer, who was inspired by Orczy and Rafael Sabatini to try her hand at a romantic adventure story.   I have a couple favorites but I am thinking about Devil’s Cub, in which Mary Challoner pulls a gun on the young nobleman trying to seduce her as they travel to France.
Intrepid heroines are always my favorite!   My fourth book is one I was thinking about earlier tonight, Nobody’s Girl by Hector Henry Malot, translated from French and available through Project Gutenberg.  Perrine’s dying mother makes her promise to find the grandfather who disowned his son for marrying beneath him: “Make him love you without revealing your identity!”   An elementary school friend lent me this book when I was about 10 and I was happy to find a copy with the same pink cover not long ago.
My fifth book is also set in France.  (Hmm, there are bits of Brideshead set in Paris so I guess there is a French theme for my chain that I hadn’t planned but will now maintain.)  I am a big Daphne du Maurier fan and once persuaded my book group to read The Scapegoat, an improbable tale of impersonation.   Not all my friends like historical fiction as much as I do but this fascinated everyone.
Finally, for my sixth book, I will end with a book I just finished, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan, who writes light-hearted women’s fiction but often surprises the reader with serious themes.  Here, an unlikely friendship between Anna and her old French teacher results in Anna going to Paris to work for a famous chocolatier.  This will help Anna recover from an accident and causes Claire to remember her magical time in Paris as an au pair when she was young and in love.
See you next month for Sanditon, soon to be on Masterpiece!