Book log: 82) Victor Canning — The Whip Hand

1965 thriller, the first of four featuring private eye Rex Carver. Carver accepts what is presented as a straightforward job of tracing a young woman, and ends up chasing around Europe in a murky plot where he’s working for at least three different masters who may or may not be on different sides, and include at least one official intelligence organisation. Definitely a product of its time, in more ways than one, but good fun and well worth a read.

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August 2012 book log

The extremely late summary of August’s books:

73) Ruth Rendell — End in Tears
20th in the Inspector Wexford series.
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74) Dick Francis — Reflex
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75) Francis Durbridge — Paul Temple and the Curzon Case (audio book)
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76) Edward Marston – the Queen’s Head
First of the Nicholas Bracewell mystery series, set in a theatrical company in Elizabethan London.
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77) Jean Plaidy – The Shadow of the Pomegranate

Historical novel about Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry the Eighth.
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78) PD James — A mind to murder
The second book in the Adam Dalgliesh series, previously reviewed here.

79) Jennifer Ashley — The Duke’s Perfect Wife
Fourth and final book in the Highland Pleasures quartet of romance novels about four brothers who are Scottish Lords in Victorian Britain.
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80) Georgette Heyer — Behold, Here’s Poison
Re-read of Heyer’s golden age murder mystery. Previously reviewed here.

81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)
Second of the long-running Mrs Bradley mystery series.
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book log: 81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)

81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)

Second of the long-running Mrs Bradley mystery series, and the first I’ve read. I bought a set of nine of the novels recently re-published by Vintage (Random House) because I adored the BBC adaptation starring Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon. Unsurprisingly, the books differ significantly from the tv series, but are equally enjoyable. And I think the tv adaptation is faithful to the tone of the novels; even if Diana Rigg is far too elegant and glamorous to be the physical Mrs Bradley of the books, she’s got the personality right.

Mrs Bradley is elderly, wealthy, eccentric, and a talented and experienced psychologist who uses her skills to solve crimes. As other reviewers have noted, there’s a distinct resemblance to what you’d get if you turned Miss Marple into a wealthy woman who has married and divorced three times, and divorced at least one of those husbands for being boring. The ones I’ve read so far are enormous fun.

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop is fairly gruesome, in that the body of one Rupert Sethleigh is found neatly butchered and laid out as cuts of meat in the local butcher’s shop. Sethleigh will not be missed by Wandle Parva, and there is a large and varied selection of people with motives to do away with him. Adding to the fun and games, many of those people have reason to protect each other, and their attempts to do so only confuse the issues. General silliness ensues as Mrs Bradley disentangles methods, motives and opportunity, frequently by deliberately poking the suspects to see what they will do.

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Booklog: 79) Jennifer Ashley — The Duke’s Perfect Wife

79) Jennifer Ashley — The Duke’s Perfect Wife

Fourth and final book in the Highland Pleasures quartet of romance novels about four brothers who are Scottish Lords in Victorian Britain. This book is about Hart MacKenzie, oldest of the brothers, and head of the family since their father’s death. Their father was a brutal monster, whose ill-treatment of his family has damaged all four men. Hart has done much and sacrificed much to protect himself and his brothers, and that as much as the ill treatment has had its effect on him. There are other losses besides, including losing his wife and child to death.

And before that there was Eleanor Ramsey, his first fiancee, who broke off their engagement when she discovered what it was he did to deal with his demons. Now Eleanor is back in his life, with the intention of protecting him from a potential scandal involving nude photographs taken of him long ago.

Hart still loves her, and has no intention of letting her go this time. But holding Eleanor Ramsey will take more than even Hart Mackenzie’s skill at seduction.

It’s a good book, and does an excellent job in rounding off the story arc of the family as a whole. But it doesn’t quite make good on hints dropped in earlier books about the darker strands of Hart’s personality. There were things set up which suggested that Hart had been involved in some fairly heavy BDSM, which may or may not have been consensual, but which contributed to his reputation as a man who could use his social position and wealth to get away with a great deal. As it turns out, Hart has good reason for thinking of himself as having the same capacity for viciousness and violence as his father did, but it’s to do with trying to protect his family. The BDSM isn’t a red herring, but it’s not what we were led to believe in the earlier books. I thought it worked, in part because I eventually felt Ashley may have been making a deliberate point about society’s assumptions about consensual BDSM, but I can see why other readers felt that it was bottling out. There’s fannish gossip about backtracking due to publisher pressure — if true, then I think Ashley did a good job in retconning the setup from earlier in the series.

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