Tag Archives: Ruth Rendell

[TSS] Recently Read

I’ve been busy with work deadlines lately, but looking back on what I’ve been reading, it seems audiobooks have come to the rescue! With audiobooks, I’m never “too tired to read”, so it’s been a great way to keep reading despite putting in loads of work hours every day towards my deadlines.

One of my reading resolutions this year is to keep track of what I’ve been reading. In past years I haven’t been that diligent, despite various Goodreads and Pinterest lists. So I thought for today’s Sunday Salon, I’d post an update as to what I’ve recently read.

police by jo nesboPolice, by Jo Nesbo. The latest instalment (#10) in the Harry Hole series, when my copy arrived at the library, I knew I had to drop everything to read it. I took a day off working on my deadlines, and devoured this one. The gist of the plot: someone is murdering police officers at the sites of old unsolved murders in which the officers were involved in investigating, but there’s a whole lot more going on which I really can’t mention for fear of spoilers. Lots and lots of twists, right down to the very end. This was one very enjoyable, suspenseful read.
no mans nightingale by ruth rendellNo Man’s Nightingale, by Ruth Rendell. In this latest instalment of the Wexford series, former Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford is settling into retirement, working on his goal of reading all volumes of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. When Kingsmarkham vicar Sarah Hussein is murdered, though, Wexford is glad to have Detective Inspector Mike Burden pull him into a consulting role in the investigation. There’s a flaw in one of the premises Rendell uses (she states that two brown-eyed parents cannot have a blue-eyed child, which is not true, as two brown-eyed parents both having a recessive blue eye gene can have a blue-eyed child) so if errors like this annoy you, this might put you off a bit. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable read with a nice twist at the end.
the invisible code by christopher fowlerThe Invisible Code, by Christopher Fowler. In this latest instalment of the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, the elderly detective duo of Bryant and May are asked by their old adversary, Oskar Kasavian, to find out why Oskar’s beautiful young wife has been behaving in such an odd and bizarre way. As always with this series, there are many strange goings-on, including an unexplainable murder and codes and symbols, plus lots of nice twists. Lots of laugh out loud moments, too. I started this one in print format, but finished up by listening to the audio version narrated by Tim Goodman, who did a great job.
bryant and may off the rails by christopher fowlerBryant and May Off the Rails, by Christopher Fowler. It seems I’m working backwards through this series, after having read most of the earlier books back to back quite a few years ago.  The Peculiar Crimes Unit has arrested the murderous Mr. Fox, only to have him break out, killing one of their own in the process. The chase is on, and we are lead through the shadowy corners of the London Underground. As always with the quirky Bryant and May detective duo, there are some very complicated twists and skillfully-placed laughs. I did this one entirely in audio, narrated by Tim Goodman, who once again does a great job with Bryant and May.
killer by jonathan kellermanKiller, by Jonathan Kellerman. It was good to see Alex Delaware back in form in this latest instalment of the series. Things start out slower than they do in most of the other books in the series, with Alex embroiled in a probate case involving the fight between two sisters for the custody of one sister’s child. But soon enough, there’s a murder, and Alex works with his old friend Detective Milo Sturgis to unravel the clues. This one’s not as intricately plotted as some of the older books, and the unveiling of “whodunnit” is a little bit out of the blue, but still it was an enjoyable read.
blood and circuses by kerry greenwoodBlood and Circuses, by Kerry Greenwood. In this earlier book (#6) in Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, someone’s been sabotaging Farrell’s Circus, and Phryne leaves behind the comforts of life, her title and her money in order to go undercover to find out why. Throw in the murder of a circus performer and some nasty characters from the Melbourne underworld, and Phryne’s in for an interesting ride. As usual with the Phryne Fisher series, there are sex scenes, although perhaps a little less than in some of the later books in the series. I could have done without the sex scenes myself, but they didn’t wreck my enjoyment of the book. I listened to this one in audio, narrated by the delightful Stephanie Daniel.
bryant and may on the looseBryant and May on the Loose, by Christopher Fowler. I continued to move backwards through the series with Bryant and May on the Loose (#7 in the series) in audio, narrated excellently once again by Tim Goodman, although this one was a reread. I was enjoying the audio versions so much, I decided to get this one, and then as I started listening, I realized I’d read the book before – but long enough ago, I didn’t recall how things ended.  In this book, #7 in the series, the Peculiar Crimes Unit has been disbanded despite their success in solving the bizarre crimes that have come their way in the past. But the discovery of a headless corpse by one of the unit’s members gives them the chance to persuade the Home Office to change its mind – as long as they can solve the case in a week. To complicate matters, there have also been a number of bizarre sightings of a half-man half-stag creature with knives for antlers who has been carrying off young women. Intricately plotted with lots of twists, this was another enjoyable listen.
the memory of blood by christopher fowlerThe Memory of Blood, by Christopher Fowler. I obviously have no problems reading a series out of order! This one is #9 in the series, but yes, I listened to this one after listening to Bryant and May on the Loose above. This one involves a locked room mystery: the young son of a theatre owner is, seemingly impossibly, killed in his bedroom during a cast party held in his father’s home. The only clue is a life-size puppet of Mr. Punch which the killer has left behind. Along with yet another complicated plot, there’s quite a bit of history of the origins of Punch and Judy, but the information is weaved seamlessly into the plot. Another fun and enjoyable listen!

So that’s what I’ve read so far in the past four weeks or so. I see now that I’ve been focused exclusively on mysteries, but I’m breaking the trend right now, as I’m a currently a third of the way into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

What have you been reading lately? If you’ve read any of the books on my recently read list, what did you think of them?

A List

I’ve finally been having some sustained success in journaling! And all it took was (1) making my son write in a journal every night as part of his homeschool curriculum (2) which he absolutely refused to do unless I journaled right along beside him (3) so I sat down reluctantly that very first night and that’s when I discovered it’s really easy if I just list in point form things and thoughts from my day.

Ahhhh. What a relief! So I thought I’d try the same thing with a blog post!

1.  I love smaller handbags these days. We walk everywhere now and guess what? That huge handbag filled with half my life for those just-in-case moments is, well, really really heavy. I never realized how heavy it was before because back in the suburbs, whenever I went out armed with everything but the kitchen sink, I was usually in a car, the handbag at my feet. A few months back I swapped it out for a much smaller handbag. I feel kind of naked not carting around all the things I might need in an emergency (flashlight, Chinese fortune cookies from our latest foray at a buffet restaurant, colouring books for the little one, headset in case I get bored at the doctor’s office, doodle pad, lined notebook, index cards, gum, pens in very colour of the rainbow, nail file, mints – you know, that kind of stuff) but I sure do walk a whole lot quicker.

2. Bad copyediting. There’s a lot of talk about bad editing these days, most of which is aimed at self-published books, but I’m sad to say I recently read a book by a much loved author – The Vault, by Ruth Rendell, the latest Wexford instalment – and I don’t think this book, published by a traditional publisher, was copyedited at all. Many of the mistakes were minor, but there were a few that took me right out of the story, mainly because I just had to look back at previous chapters to check previously stated facts. I even thought one of the mistakes was a plot point that I’d caught! A character was described as having parents in their seventies who were clueless about his life, so when we “met” these parents chapters later and they were middle aged and knew everything that was going on, I was sure they were imposters, and a part of a plot. But no, it was just a mistake that hadn’t been caught.

3. Another love: snail mail. I’m just loving my mail these days. Back in February, inspired by Carrie, I sent out a bunch of letters and notecards, and the end result is, I’m still sending and receiving snail mail now! And to top things off, I decided to sign up for Letters in the Mail at The Rumpus and it’s been so much fun getting mail from various authors as well.

4. Reading, reviews and sketchnotes. I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading lately, and I’ve been finding myself doing sketchnote reviews. (If you’re not familiar with sketchnoting, check out Sketchnote Army. To see a previous sketchnote review of mine – well, okay, the only sketchnote review I’ve posted so far – check out my review of Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator, by Jennifer Allison) Luckily, we finally bought a new printer, the really fabulous Epson Artisan 837 (and all I can say about this printer is, omg, I can now print from anywhere in the house and even from outside of my house via email), and it has a scanner, too! So if I can get my butt in gear, hopefully I’ll be posting sketchnote reviews of what I’m reading.

5. Navel gazing. Cause I always need to do some. I had a bit of an ergo-mishap about three weeks ago (some gremlin messed with the height of my typing chair and what chaos ensued!). Arm pain has finally subsided and I am starting to feel back in form. Three weeks of drooping around the house listlessly does not make for a very happy Belle, but hopefully I’ll be able to re-activate my recessive “doing” gene now.

I love lists! So, what have you all been up to lately?

[TSS] Incoming! The Library Edition

This was a great week for me, library-wise – I had a bunch of holds come in, and then while I was doing my usual dash-in, dash-out to pick up my holds, I of course managed to snag a few more interesting titles.

Here are this week’s library treasures. First up, the print books:

NeverwhereNeverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

It’s about time I read a Gaiman novel. This one looks like a good one to start with.

From the back cover:

Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart – and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed – a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city – a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known …

FingersmithFingersmith, by Sarah Waters.

I know. I don’t like historical fiction! But this one sounds just so intriguing … And thanks to my new bookmarking “system” (which works whenever I remember to use it, which thankfully I did this time around), I can give credit for adding this one to my TBR to Jill at Rhapsody in Books.

From the back cover:

London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves – fingersmiths – under the rough but loving care of Mrs. Sucksby and her “family”. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue’s fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.

Alcatraz versus the Evil LibrariansAlcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson.

Seriously. How could I resist this one?

From the jacket flap:

A hero with an incredible talent … for breaking things.

A life-or-death mission … to rescue a bag of sand.

A fearsome threat from the powerful secret network that rules the world … the evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry doesn’t seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them! … by infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness.

The Children's BookThe Children’s Book, by A.S. Byatt.

This addition to my TBR is courtesy of Molly at The Cozy Book Nook, and, although I didn’t have my bookmarking system in place at the time, the first seed of wanting this book was planted way back last summer, at Things Mean a Lot.

From the back cover:

Olive Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children gathered at her knee. For each, she writes a private book, bound in its own colour and placed on a shelf. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh the children play in a storybook world – but their lives, and those of their rich cousins and friends, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.

Born at the end of the Victorian era and growing up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, a whole generation was unaware of the darkness ahead; in their innocence, they were betrayed unintentionally by the adults who loved them.

The Dragon HeirThe Dragon Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima.

I read the first book in the series, The Warrior Heir, during my own recent personal mini-readathon weekend. I immediately placed holds on both the sequels in the trilogy. Unfortunately, The Dragon Heir is the final book in the series, so I will probably have to renew this one (if I can!) while I wait for The Wizard Heir to come in from the library.

From the jacket flap:

The covenant that was meant to keep the wizard wars at bay has been stolen, and Trinity must prepare for attack.  Everyone is doing their part — Seph is monitoring the Weirwalls; Jack and Ellen are training their ghostly army; even Anaweir Will and Fitch are setting booby traps around the town’s perimeter.  But to Jason Haley, it seems like everyone wants to keep him out of the action.  He may not be the most powerful wizard in Trinity, but he’s prepared to fight for his friends.  When Jason finds a powerful talisman –a huge opal called the Dragonheart–buried in a cave, his role takes on new importance.  The stone seems to sing to Jason’s very soul — showing him that he is meant for more than anyone guessed.  Trinity’s guardians take the stone away after they realize that it may be a weapon powerful enough to save them all.  Without any significant power of his own, and now without the stone, what can Jason possibly do to help the people he cares about — and to prove his mettle?

Madison Moss can feel the beating heart of the opal, too.  The desire for it surges through her, drawing her to it.  But Maddie has other things besides the Dragonheart on her mind.  She has a secret.  Ever since absorbing the magical blow that was meant to kill Seph, she’s been leaking dark powers.  Although Maddie herself is immune to magic, what would her friends think if they knew what kind of evil lay within her?  Trinity’s enemies are as enthusiastic about her powers as she is frightened.  They think they can use her to get to the Dragonheart — and they’ll use anyone Maddie cares about to make her steal the stone for them.

Moral compasses spin out of control as a final battle storms through what was once a sanctuary for the gifted.  With so much to lose, what will Jason and Maddie be willing to fight for — and what will they sacrifice?  Every man is for himself in this thrilling conclusion to the Heir trilogy.

And the audiobooks:

The Nine TailorsThree Lord Peter Wimsey audiobooks came in: the unabridged versions, narrated by Ian Carmichael, of Striding Folly and Unnatural Death, and the BBC radio dramatization of The Nine Tailors.

All three audiobooks are in my TBR now courtesy of Memory, who has been on a Sayers reading streak – her reviews of Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night reminded me it’s been a long while since I last read a Lord Wimsey book. And I decided, what better way to get reaquainted then in audio?

Monster in the BoxMonster in the Box, by Ruth Rendell. I was also thrilled to have this one come in – it’s the new Inspector Wexford book by Rendell (I also have the print version on hold). I’m really looking forward to this one:

Outside the house where Wexford investigated his first case – a woman found strangled in her bedroom – he noticed a short, muscular man wearing a scarf and walking a dog. He gave Wexford an unnerving stare. Without any solid evidence, Wexford began to suspect that this man – Eric Targo – was the killer. Over the years there are more unsolved, apparently motiveless murders in the town of Kingsmarkham and Wexford continues to quietly suspect that the increasingly prosperous Targo – van driver, property developer, kennel owner and animal lover – is behind them.

Now, half a lifetime later, Wexford spots Targo back in Kingsmarkham after a long absence. Wexford tells his long time partner, Mike Burden, about his suspicions, but Burden dismisses them as fantasy. Meanwhile, Burden’s wife, Jenny, has suspicions of her own. She believes that the Rahmans, a highly respectable immigrant family from Pakistan, may be forcing their daughter, Tamima, into an arranged marriage – or worse.

I think I’ve got a great few weeks of reading (and listening!) ahead of me. What great books came into your hands this week?

Review: Not in the Flesh, by Ruth Rendell

Not in the FleshFrom the Jacket Flap:

Searching for truffles in a wood, a man and his dog unearth something less savoury – a human hand.

The body, as Chief Inspector Wexford is informed later, has lain buried for ten years or so, wrapped in a purple cotton sheet. The post-mortem cannot reveal the precise cause of death. The only clue is a crack in one of the dead man’s ribs.

The police computer stores a long list of missing persons. Men, women and children disappear at an alarming rate, something like 500 every day nation-wide. So Wexford knows he is going to have a job on his hands to identify the corpse.

And then, only twenty yards away from the woodland burial site, in the cellar of a disused cottage, another body is found.

The Snapshot Review

What I Liked: Sitting down with Wexford and Burden again; the subplot which, as often happens in Rendell’s Wexford novels, deals with a complex socio-cultural issue, one which Rendell handles well.

The “But”: Plot was predictable; characters not as finely detailed as in previous Wexford novels.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: Wexford fans are always thrilled with a new Wexford novel, but this one isn’t quite up to par with previous ones. Still, very readable.

Read the Full Review of Not in the Flesh