Sunday, 31 January 2010

Serial Anticipations for Winter/Spring 2010

A few years ago, I fell into a reading routine that included seeking out book series, particularly British cosy mysteries.  I read blogs and reviews of such books and got into the habit of following a set of characters through a series of novels.  This can be quite a comforting exercise if you enjoy the style of writing and the world created by the writer and you are always (more or less) assured of another instalment in a year or so (once you've binged on the whole available oeuvre).

This year, I am looking forward to the publication of quite a few novels.  Some of these authors publish an instalment in a series annually, whilst the amazing Alexander McCall Smith manages to publish four or more books a year!

There are other anticipated novels that are due to be published later in the year, and I shall place those on the blog as the cover art becomes available.

Are you a series reader?  What series novels do you look forward to reading each year?

February 2010
25   Precious and the Puggies: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case - Alexander McCall Smith
This is a children's book about Mma Ramotswe and is published in Scots, ahead of an English publication in 2011. A glossary is provided and I am sure that adult fans will find it a thrilling enterprise.

March 2010
4   The Double Comfort Safari Club (No. 1 Ladies' 11) - Alexander McCall Smith
I have tried to get into The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but have had to put it on hold as the prose does not click with me.  I have, however, enjoyed the film series and still enjoy discovering the lyrical and whimsical titles of each new novel.  I will attempt the first book soon...

5   The Shooting in the Shop (Fethering Mysteries 11)- Simon Brett
Ah... one of my favourites.  I devoured the whole series in less than a year and love the Sussex setting.  I had to take a break from it two years ago to let the instalments accumulate.  I hope to reacquaint myself with the village of Fethering and its inhabitants again this year.

April 2010
6   The Mapping of Love and Death - Jacqueline Winspear
An excellent series set between the wars that is written beautifully and with great psychological and historical insight.  The first novel, Maisie Dobbs, was less of a mystery novel and more of a psychological one as it sketches out Maisie's war-linked history and lays the foundations for future novels.  The sequels are more crime focused and have been clever and highly enjoyable.  I learnt a lot about Britain between the wars from this inspiring work of fiction.  Highly recommended!

15   The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia De Luce Mystery 2) - Alan Bradley
I have read promising reviews about the first in this series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, so look forward to embarking on this series.

May 2010
1   The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions 2)- Alexander McCall Smith
I love this cover!  This book, and the first instalment, was written as daily chapters that were published online with the ability for readers to comment on the story as it unfolded.  Fans (and newcomers) can still read this book on the Telegraph website here.  There are 78 chapters in total and also access to an audio version read by the wonderful Andrew Sachs.  Hurry as these are likely to be removed from the website shortly before the book's publication.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Agatha Raisin on CD

I have been a fan of the Agatha Raisin mystery series for a few years now, ever since I snuggled down with The Quiche of Death during a bout of flu.  It was comforting to melt into the village of Carsley and follow Agatha bulldozing her way through a murder investigation in the calm of the Cotswolds.

The book first caught my interest after I heard a couple of episodes of the series on Radio 4.  It was a dramatisation of the books adapted by David Semple and featured Penelope Keith in the title role.  I have a fondness for Radio 4 plays and dramatisations and this snippet stuck in my head when I later came across the book series in my library.

The Agatha portrayed by Penelope Keith differs from the Agatha in the books (she's not so man-mad for a start!) and the dramatisation changes quite a few characters and plots but it is never-the-less an entertaining who-dunnit.

The radio series concluded in November 2006 and was described as being the last of the radio series.  This spanned three series over a period of three years and the BBC have slowly been releasing the episodes on 5 audio CDs.  The final CD was recently released this month and I think that it is the best of the lot.  Even though the location in the final story is moved from Norfolk (in the book) to Cornwall (in the radio series), and characters are changed etc., it is still an enjoyable listen and the version of Agatha in these CDs has a happier ending than our Aggie does in the books.

The books currently stand at 20 with There Goes the Bride released in October 2009.  I devoured most of them in succession and am now doomed to wait patiently each year for the latest offering, which is usually released each September/October.  I think that these will continue for a little longer and I hope they do.  The quality of writing throughout the book series varies, with the earlier books being stronger in writing, characterisation and plot, but I feel obliged to keep following Aggie in her quest for self-fullfilment.

I highly recommend the radio series and the books to all lovers of English cosy fiction.  The stories are light and humourous and the cantankerous character of Agatha Raisin makes a refreshing heroine.  Recurring characters and interesting backdrops make it a smooth and entertaining read, along with some original crimes.  Fans of Penelope Keith may also like to know that she is the reader in the audio versions of the books.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Grimy Cosy Crime

The first read of the new year was by an author who is new to me.  I am aware that Ann Granger has written a number of different crime/cosy series (with the Mitchell and Markby series appearing to be the most popular) but I was first drawn to this one as it is set in the Cotswolds.

I love reading cosy crime books (or any other books for that matter) that are set in places that I have visted or that spur me on to travel to those places.  I first visited the Cotswolds after reading a few of M. C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series so this book promised to conjure up familiar images of that pretty, rolling countryside.

And it did! albeit initially in a muddy way.  We are introduced to Lucas Burton, a shady businessman, who initially discovers the body of a young woman at his rendez-vous point in an abandoned barn on Cricket Farm.  He panics and flees from the scene but not before being spotted by a local and scraping his silver mercedes on a post.  Jess Campbell (a thirty-something police inspector) is called in to investigate the discovery and we are introduced to a number of characters who all seem to have something to hide.  Throw in an old family murder on Cricket Farm, and the only surviving relative talking to ghosts, and we have an interesting setup.

Mud, Muck and Dead Things is the first instalment in the Campbell and Carter series and as such is a good, solid introduction to the new characters. I found it to be well written with colourful descriptions of the Cotswold countryside and country folk. It seemed perfectly paced and we don't get too bogged down in police procedure. I was a little reticent at diving into this book at first as the protagonists are part of the police force and I prefer my detectives to be amateurs, enabling them to snoop freely and break all kinds of rules that bobbies are usually restricted by. Never-the-less, this novel is not a police procedural and fits firmly into the cosy genre.

This novel tends to portray more of Inspector Jess Campbell than her new boss, Superintendent Ian Carter, and I assume that Granger will be developing his character and their relationship in upcoming novels.  Sadly, a quick search on Amazon did not reveal any forthcoming Carter and Campbell novels on the horizon although Granger has another instalment in a different series lined up for this year.

I will look out for the next instalment and may even try the first book in her Lizzie Martin series, set in Victorian London, as the heroine of the piece appears interesting and a bit if a trail blazer.

New Year, New Blog!

Welcome to my new blog!  I enjoy reading and reading about reading and anticipating new reads.  I used to read a lot years ago but I'm hoping that 2010 will be the year of more reading for me. 

This blog is a place where I can write about the books that I like and where I hope to share thoughts on books with others as well as a cosy place to blog about other pleasant things.

I hope you will enjoy your visit and come back again as this blog grows and develops.