Book Bingo Twenty-Five – A Novel over 500 pages, and BINGO – Card completed.

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December already, and I have completed my bingo card for the year – BINGO! Over the past twelve months, with Theresa and Amanda, and several others, I have taken part in several challenges, including Book Bingo. This post will focus on my final square – a novel (or book) of over 500 pages, and in my next and final post for the year, I will do my final wrap up of the challenge, to link into an overall 2019 wrap-up in the new year.

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My final square was the 500-page book – which I always felt this year would be difficult as not many books had come across my desk that were 500 or more pages. However, on #LoveYourBookshopDay, I bought a book called Rebel Women Who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, and then received a review copy of The Book of Dust Volume Two: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, and decided that would work too – as it was well over 500 pages. In fact, it was well over 600 pages!

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First, The Secret Commonwealth. Fans of His Dark Materials and La Belle Sauvage have been waiting a long time for this one. Taking place ten years after we leave Lyra in Oxford after her adventures, and twenty years after La Belle Sauvage, where Lyra is delivered by Alice and Malcolm to the safety of Jordan College, we are back with Lyra and Pan. But something is different. Readers have known something has changed with Lyra and Pan since The Amber Spyglass, but for a time, we’re not sure what – until a series of events sets Lyra and Pan off on a journey across Europe and Asia, in search of a secret city for daemons! Filled with adventure, thrills and mystery interspersed with the fantasy themes, this is a wonderful addition to the series, and very much deserves the lengthy review I gave it, especially after the way it ended and I hope we get a resolution to it soon. Some books need 500 or more pages – and this is one of them, as there is so much going on with Lyra, Pan, Malcolm, Hannah, Alice and the Magisterium, as well as old friends, Ma Costa and Farder Coram, that no word was wasted, and there was action and intrigue on every page and it slowed down where it needed to, and sped up where it needed to as well.

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The second book that I read for this square was Rebel Women Who Changed Australia, a biography that included the stories of women throughout Australian history from a variety of backgrounds who made ground-breaking changes in the industries they went into, even though many would doubt them. Many overlapped as well, and knew each other, which made it more interesting. Many of these stories were ones that I did not know initially, and nor did I know many of the names. I feel knowing these stories of these women, like not knowing our Indigenous history, is a huge oversight in our education system, where many accounts we read and learn about are from white men, even if these other, more diverse accounts were available. Knowing them is the exception, rather than the rule, and I believe there is room for all to be told, starting with books like this, which are really interesting and filled with the stories we should know.

BINGO!

Rows Across:

Row One: BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row three: BINGO

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Well, that’s it for the year! I’ll be writing my final wrap up post for the twenty-first in the next week or so, and all the reviews will be collected there.

Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Updated-CTL-2018.pngTitle: Crossing the Lines

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Literary Fiction, Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Winner of the Ned Kelly Best Crime Fiction Award 2018

When Madeleine d’Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who’d never lower himself to read the story in which he stars, amuses her.

When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d’Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled.

As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other’s story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

This is a story about two people trying to hold onto each other beyond reality.

“…a pure delight, a swift yet psychologically complex read, cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed.” – Dean Koontz

“A tour de force!…a brilliant blend of mystery, gut-wrenching psychological suspense and literary storytelling… a shining (and refreshing) example of meta-fiction at its best – witty and wry, stylish and a joy to read.” – Jeffery Deaver

~*~

What happens when author and character write about each other, each thinking that the other is their own creation? Sulari Gentill explores this in Crossing the Lines, as Madeleine d’Leon contemplates writing something so different to what she usually writes, the limb she goes out on with Ned McGinnity begins to bleed into her life – and Ned begins to write about her. Leaving behind her much-loved and sought-after private detective, Madeleine delves into the world of Ned McGinnity, a serious novelist writing about Madeleine the crime novelist, who writes quirky, whimsical mysteries.

Yet as Ned and Madeleine write about each other – a crime novelist writing about a serious novelist, and a serious novelist writing about a crime novelist – the lines between reality and fiction, writer and character begin to blur, and their worlds begin to meld. Madeleine seems to fall into Ned’s world more than him into hers, but there is a feeling of connection beyond creation between the two – where the author becomes the character and the character becomes the author, and two worlds begin to collide.

2019 BadgeSulari Gentill has stepped away from Rowland Sinclair here – yet as she also as the Young Adult Hero Trilogy, it is interesting and fun to see the different things she can do with her characters and how they each remain faithful to their own books and works. Here, she has cleverly explored the relationship between character and author, and the act of writing and where it can take the author – sometimes to places that the author least expects, as happens to Madeleine in this book.

Filled with the complexities of the relationship of character and writing, this book has a feeling of meta-fiction to it – where the author character is writing about her character, and vice versa. It can be a confusing concept to try and understand, it is in essence, a piece of work of fiction, where the author uses parody, or departs from the traditional conventions of the novel. In this case, using the fictional author’s character to tell story as well as the fictional author, in an attempt to look at the various ways genre can be explored and how authors respond to genre.

This was a fun read – a few people Sulari knows make cameos, adding to the metafiction feeling, and showing that there are many ways to tell a good story, and many ways to write a story. It is an intriguing read for all, and one that I managed to read in one sitting, and now I must wait for my next taste of Sulari’s work with the tenth Rowland Sinclair next year.

The Case of the Wandering Scholar (Laetitia Rodd #2) by Kate Saunders

wandering scholar.jpgTitle: The Case of the Wandering Scholar

Author: Kate Saunders

Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: It is 1851 and Mrs Rodd has received an unusual commission: wealthy businessman Jacob Welland is dying of consumption and implores our redoubtable detective to find his beloved brother, whom he has not seen for fifteen years.

Joshua Welland was an Oxford scholar; brilliant, eccentric and desperately poor. Nobody can say exactly when he disappeared from his college, but he had taken to wandering the countryside and one day simply failed to return. Since then, there have been several sightings of his lonely, ragged figure. Ten years ago a friend spotted him in a gypsy camp, where it was rumoured he was learning great secrets that would one day astound the world.

Mrs Rodd uses her search as an opportunity to reconnect with a couple from her past, but then a violent murder is committed and Scotland Yard are called to investigate. Mrs Rodd’s old friend Inspector Blackbeard doesn’t want to hear any nonsense about gypsies or secrets. Mrs Rodd, however, is convinced that something very sinister is lurking in this peaceful landscape.

~*~

Following a current trend in crime fiction, where the setting shifts to the nineteenth century, or a situation where the investigator or investigators don’t have access to the technology our favourite crime fighters in many television shows like Criminal Minds and NCIS have. And this is where the Laetitia Rodd series is interesting. Set in the 1850s, Mrs Rodd is a private investigator – with a friend in the police force – Mr Blackbeard – who seems torn between wonder at what she can achieve, and between maintaining the societal norms and gender norms of the day.

In her second outing, Mrs Rodd is called upon to help find a missing scholar, Joshua Welland, who has been spotted after ten years, hiding in a gypsy camp. During her search, Mrs Rodd reconnects with a couple from her past – Arthur and Rachel Somers until an horrific death tears the couple apart – and Mrs Rodd’s mystery deepens.

Because this is set in 1851, it takes much longer to uncover evidence, to gather information and determine who the right killer is. Without the convenience of instant contact, phones, and tracking systems, Mrs Rodd and her friends must rely on slower communication, and other ways of gathering information to uncover the truth behind Welland’s disappearance, and the murders.

In a way, this is quite delightful, as it allows the characters to develop along with the crime, and the secrets are easier in a way to keep and hide, and this makes the outcome satisfying. All investigators work hard for their cases and have their challenges. Private investigators face the challenge of not having access to resources that the police do, so they have to get creative.

Mrs Rodd is a very creative and clever private detective, using the skills and tools she has at hand as a woman in the 1850s to solve not only the murder case, but find out about Joshua Welland – his secrets and where he has been. Much like the first book, which came out three years ago, I very much enjoyed this one. She sits comfortably amongst all the other private detectives – Rowland Sinclair, Phryne Fisher, Sherlock Holmes and many others – to breathe new life into the crime genre and give it a new set of characters and a new way of looking at private investigators. Some are reluctant, some are keen, and some grow into it. This was a delightful addition to the series, and I hope there are many more to come.

Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver.jpgTitle: Silver

Author: Chris Hammer

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 576

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Martin Scarsden returns in the sequel to the bestselling Scrublands.

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands.

~*~

I read Chris Hammer’s first book when it came out last year, and what was interesting about it was that it was more about why the crime happened, rather than the who or how. In the sequel, Silver, the focus is on clearing a single person – Mandalay Blonde – who is Martin’s girlfriend. When Martin arrives back in Port Silver, he is confronted with the murder of an old friend, Jasper Speight, and Mandalay’s supposed guilt. The set-up is promising, no doubt, because a death in Martin’s hometown has the potential to be intricate and, in some ways, it was There were many engaging sections, and at the same time, many that felt like they meandered too much.

I did enjoy it when the crimes were discussed and mixed into the recipe – for me, these were the most interesting parts. I wanted a resolution to the accusations against Mandalay – and we got one, of course – there always has to be, I just wish the baking journey had spent a little more time on the crime rather than just exploring the personal side – both of these can be done equally and I think, in far fewer pages than 580.

At the same time, Martin must confront his past and the people from it – which is done very heavily, and in a very meandering way – I felt this took away from the main murder, and also, from some of the more interesting aspects of the novel even though it seemed to have some baring on what happened, it felt abrupt when it appeared and it wasn’t always clear when we were flashing back into the past. Whilst intriguing and necessary, I had hoped some of these flashbacks were clearer, and it all led to something that I thought came quite out of the blue. Though it gave the characters and story something interesting to do, and explained some of the things earlier on, it came on all too quickly and maybe could have been dealt with earlier and without dropping vague hints – this was one of the aspects I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I should have. The family tragedy and drama is very interesting – and would have been more interesting if some things didn’t feel as though they faded into the distance – without knowing something strange was simmering and cooking away, the Big Reveal felt a bit abrupt.

The one plotline I had hoped would have more meat and intrigue to it was about the cult storyline appears properly more than halfway through and bubbles away until the real crime that occurs there and is loosely linked to the original crime smashes into being in an abrupt way. Cult stories today are much of a muchness. But a cult were crimes might actually happen is an intriguing idea. This had the potential to be really well executed.  Something seems to have interfered somewhere in the process, however, because we ended up with something not as satisfying, and that felt rushed. Perhaps if the preparation had been slower and more detailed, this part of the plot may have had a better outcome. Whilst a lot of the book has worked, it appeared parts of it were rushed and the speed at which it was concluded left me feeling disappointed that this didn’t get as much attention. Then adding a new idea close to the end, without enough setting up left me a bit lost, because that also would have been interesting to tease out a bit more. New ideas should be teased out and added far earlier. In some ways, this did make sense, but in others, I feel like suggesting these things earlier could have made for a better story. Overall, there were many elements I liked, but these faded into the background.

There are elements that work here – many that do, and some that don’t. Whilst the ending was satisfying in some ways, in others it didn’t, but I hope this book works for the fans and others who enjoy this kind of thing. It did have promise, and I do think had some meandering parts been sacrificed to focus on crimes, or at least, some things that happened more than once been tightened a little, this would have worked much better for me. I do hope there are people out there who will like this novel, but in this instance, this just didn’t work for me the way I had hoped it would.

September 2019 Round Up

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

 

This month, I reached my overall reading goal of 150 books with Whisper by Lynette Noni. Overall, I have reached 71 books in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge, and am nearing the end of my PopSugar Challenge, with only a few categories left. I also filled out my Book Bingo card for the year, with my final wrap up post to be written after my final post for that goes live.

#Dymocks52Challenge

Here is a breakdown of what I read.

September Round-Up – 15    

Book Author Challenge
The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle Kate Forsyth General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Lighthouse in Time Sandra Bennett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
New Coach Tim Cahill General, #Dymocks52Challenge
488 Rules for Life Kitty Flanagan General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Silver Chris Hammer General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

 

Maia Chance General, #Dymocks52Challenge
There Was Still Love

 

Favel Parrett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Rebel Women who Changed Australia

 

Susanna de Vries General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo
Binder of Doom: Boa Constructor Troy Cummings General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Deathless Girls Kiran Millwood Hargrave General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth Philip Pullman General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Book Bingo
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch Tom Fletcher General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon Tracey West General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Mitford Scandal Jessica Fellowes General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Whisper

 

Lynette Noni General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,

2019 Badge

  1. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth
  2. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett
  3. Tiny Timmy: The New Coach by Tim Cahill
  4. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
  5. Boa Constructor (Binder of Doom) by Troy Cummings
  6. Silver by Chris Hammer
  7. Beauty, Beast and Belladonna by Maia Chance
  8. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
  9. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries
  10. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  11. The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
  12. The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher
  13. Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon by Tracey West
  14. The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes
  15. Whisper by Lynette Noni

 

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Book Bingo

 

Rows Across:

 

Row One: BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

 

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

 

Row Three: BINGO

 

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

 

Row Six: BINGO

 

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

Rows Down:

 

Row One:  – BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

 

Row Two: BINGO

 

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

 

Row three: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

 

Of these, due to work obligations, not as many were Australian Women as I would have liked but will aim to get more read in the coming months. Other challenges will hopefully be filled in then as well so I can add those lists in towards the end of the year and in my final wrap up posts for each challenge.

 

Until next month!

The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes

Mitford Scandal.jpgTitle: The Mitford Scandal

Author: Jessica Fellowes

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Sphere/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 380

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart . . .

This wonderful new book in the bestselling THE MITFORD MURDERS series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.

The year is 1928, and fortune heir Bryan Guinness weds eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters. The newlyweds begin a whirlwind life zipping between London’s Mayfair, chic Paris and romantic Venice. Accompanying Diana is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers-on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.

But when one of their party is found dead in Paris in 1930, Louisa begins to think that they might have a murderer in their midst. As the hedonism of the age spirals out of control, shadows darken across Europe…and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself.

~*~

After three books, starting in the early to mid-1920s. we are now headed towards a series of events in world history that plunges Europe and the world into the Great Depression and World War Two. Against the backdrop of impending economic crisis in the years following the end of World War One, or what was known in the 1920s as The Great War, there are hints at unrest in Europe, especially Germany. This is filtered through the only Mitford brother, Tom, who appears every now and then, discussing the politics of the day and setting up what is to come, and what we know happened with the six Mitford sisters during the war for the books that are to come, presumably focusing on Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo).

Louisa and Nancy are perhaps the key anchors throughout these books, as well as the rest of the Mitfords, occupying much of the action, especially Louisa, who is reunited with Guy, her policeman friend in this book when some maids at a Mitford party fall through a skylight, and die, and another vanishes, setting in motion a side mystery.  Yet the key mystery begins in Paris, and weaves in and out across the early 1930s as death touches the Mitford-Guinness party across the years in mystery deepens, and ebbs and flows as suspects are interviewed until the death of the prime suspect seems to bring a halt to the case – which ends up being much more complicated than anyone first thought.

This series takes real life people, fictional people and uses the world and politics they existed within to create mysteries that are engaging and thrilling to read. The pacing of them fits the setting and ensures a desire to read on – especially when things seem to wrap up too neatly, that as a reader, I knew there was more to what had happened. Something had to give because it was all too easy.

Simmering beneath the mystery is the growing tensions of post-war Europe, and the clashing of political ideologies, such as communism, fascism, democracy and Nazism – with some characters expressing an interest in Nazis and indeed suggesting they would support them. This is chilling as we know what the Nazi regime eventually led to. Reading about these people, even in a fictional way, before they became embroiled in and deeply connected to the Nazi regime and ideology is chilling because instead of reading them just as Nazis, we get to see how they start to gravitate towards this ideology and the scandal that it eventually caused within society and their family. What it leads it is an ending where whilst the crime may be solved, the family and those around them – and the reader – will be plunged into a world where nothing is certain, and where Louisa may soon find she does not know who she can trust.

I have been following this series since it first started, and have been loving it, looking forward to seeing what happens next. As we descend into fractious politics that will divide family and a coming war, it is starting to sit comfortably alongside the Rowland Sinclair mysteries as a series that combines family, politics and murder and the world of the 1930s to create stories that are engaging and thrilling.

To the Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith

land of longlost friendsTitle: To the Land of Long-Lost Friends

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Cosy Crime

Publisher: Little Brown/Hachette

Published: 10th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 230

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The next charming and heart-warming installment in the NO.1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY series, from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith. This is Mma Ramotswe’s twentieth wonderful adventure.

The latest installment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY series…

TO THE LAND OF LONG-LOST FRIENDS

At a wedding, Mma Ramotswe bumps into a long-lost friend, Calviniah, who confesses that her only daughter Nametso has inexplicably turned away from her. Not only that, an old acquaintance has simultaneously lost all her money and found solace in a charismatic ex-mechanic turned reverend, who has seemingly cast a spell over several ladies in the region. With little work on at the agency, Precious and her colleague Mma Makutsi see no harm in investigating these curious situations. Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is anxious. He has few prospects and little money, so how can he convince his beloved Queenie-Queenie’s father to approve of their marriage?

As Precious and Mma Makutsi dig deeper into the stories of Nametso and the mysterious reverend, Precious once again ponders the human condition. She chooses to believe in goodness, that true equality can be found with one another. But in this world, can that assumption be justified? It will take all her ingenuity and moral good sense to get to the heart of the matter.

~*~

Mma Ramotswe is back and is attending a wedding when she sees someone whom she believes to be dead – yet it has been a case of mistaken identity, and this is where the mystery begins. She discovers that her friend’s daughter has become distant, and as she begins looking into Nametso’s strange behaviour, she also stumbles upon a case of a reverend who appears to be taking advantage of women. With Mma Makutsi and Charlie, she begins to look into each case, and helps out at the Orphan Farm as well, while Charlie grapples with how to impress Queenie-Queenie’s father.

Each crime or case is a personal one – and each shows the flaws and strengths of each character, and reveals something of the human nature, and how some people will take advantage of those who are vulnerable or easily manipulated. Throughout the novel, the world of Botswana comes through. All sides are shown through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe and how she sees the world, and wishes the world to be, which is in direct contrast to Mma Makutsi’s pragmatism and superior sense of self – she did receive 97 per cent at the secretarial college after all, which she never lets anyone forget (poor Charlie and Precious must be tired of hearing about it by now). And sitting in between, is Charlie, who wishes to marry the woman he loves and prove himself to be a good detective, but finds that he has doubts about marriage, but loads of confidence when it comes to being a detective – and I think he is quite good at it.

Working separately and together, Precious, Mma Makutsi and Charlie follow people and talk to whomever they can about the crimes, slowly revealing what is going on and resolving the questions set to them by those who have come to ask them for help.

This is one of those series that can be read in order, or one can jump around, yet I think reading them in order will give you a better understanding and make it more enjoyable in the long run. Drawing on the clash of cultures and how people adapt, this book is a great addition to the series and characters created twenty books ago.