Thursday, May 28, 2020

Whodunnit? Did Agatha Christie ‘borrow’ the plot for acclaimed novel?

The striking plot of one of Agatha Christie’s best-known mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, surprises each new generation of readers. But now there is a further twist in the tale. Fresh evidence suggests Christie may have taken the idea from an acclaimed Norwegian author.

Jernvognen (The Iron Chariot) by Stein Riverton.The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.Lucy Moffatt, a British translator living in Norway, has found a likely source for the famous solution to the murder in an early English magazine translation of Stein Riverton’s story Jernvognen (The Iron Chariot).  “You do have to wonder if her book was at least influenced by Riverton’s mystery,” said Moffatt.

Christie’s book, published in 1926, swiftly established itself as a classic of the genre. And in the 94 years since, her fans and publishers have been careful to guard the identity of the killer.

For Moffatt, a Christie fan, the power of Riverton’s book lies in its sinister handling of the environment, which mirrors the killer’s disturbed state of mind. “It is more of a study of madness,” she said, “It uses the landscape as metaphor, while Christie sticks to a smaller canvas.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Crime By Country

On this page I will be listing the many crime books that I have read and own according to which country they are (predominantly) set in. I will start with crime fiction, noir fiction, cosy crime and detective fiction. Depending on the list (which is by no means a complete list), I may even include some historical crime fiction. It will mean that titles in a series may be split up according to where they are set geographically and only those I have read are listed - which means there may be some incomplete or out-of-order series.

>>> start your reading journey here @ Crime By Country

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Review: Kit Marlowe series by MJ Trow

Kit (Christopher) Marlowe, Elizabethan playwright, intelligencer for Queen Elizabeth I, man-about-town.  In this series, MJ Trow has Marlowe in the role of investigator, commencing from this days at Cambridge right up until the final reckoning.

Elizabethan England:
In short, this period in history has been referred to as the golden age. There was the stability of a reigning monarch which contributed to economic prosperity and empirical expansion and also saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the flourishing of the arts, especially the theatre. 

In Elizabethan England, the "theatre became a place where people went to see, not dramatised lectures on good behaviour, but a reflection of their own spirit and day-to-day interests. They wanted to laugh and to cry – to be moved, not by divine reflection, but by human beings doing good and bad things just as they did – loving and murdering, stealing, cheating, acting sacrificially, getting into trouble and behaving nobly: in short, being human like themselves." (source: No Sweat Shakespeare).  In public or in private, these plays also provided an opportunity for a carefully crafted piece of pseudo-political propaganda - which could find an unlucky playwright secreted in the Tower.

With this series, what we get is an entree into this world of Elizabethan  theatre and the notable playwrights of the day which include one fledgling Will Shaxsper (aka Shakespeare), Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd,and Ben Johnson.  We also get a look behind the scenes at the goings-on at the various theatres including The Rose.

However, there was a darker side to Elizabethan England in that religious persecution was rife, and plots, conspiracies and rebellions against the crown were frequent. Under Sir Francis Walsingham, a dedicated spy network was established. "England’s first great experiment in government-backed spying network brought down a queen and perhaps a playwright, saw kidnappings, executions and murders. The fact that Queen Elizabeth reigned for 44 years—and died naturally in her sleep—is evidence of its success." (source History)

So, to the books in the Kit Marlowe series, please see below; and find a link to my review of those that I have read following.

Dark Entry
Dark Entry (Kit Marlowe, #1)First in the thrilling new Kit Marlowe historical mystery series - Cambridge, 1583. About to graduate from Corpus Christi, the young Christopher Marlowe spends his days studying and his nights carousing with old friends. But when one of them is discovered lying dead in his King’s College room, mouth open in a silent scream, Marlowe refuses to accept the official verdict of suicide. Calling on the help of his mentor, Sir Roger Manwood, Justice of the Peace, and the queen’s magus, Dr John Dee, a poison expert, Marlowe sets out to prove that his friend was murdered.

my review of Dark Entry

Silent Court
Silent Court (Kit Marlowe, #2)Second in the thrilling new Kit Marlowe historical mystery series - November, 1583. Desperate not to let the Netherlands fall into the hands of Catholic Spain, the Queen’s spymaster orders Cambridge scholar and novice spy Christopher Marlowe to go there to assist its beleaguered leader, William the Silent. However, travelling in disguise as part of a troupe of Egyptian players, Marlowe encounters trouble even before he leaves England. When the players make a detour to perform at the home of Dr John Dee, one of their tricks ends in tragedy – and an arrest for murder . . .

Witch Hammer
Witch Hammer (Kit Marlowe, #3)Christopher Marlowe investigates a possible act of witchcraft in the third of this intriguing historical mystery series. - July, 1585. Desperate to pursue his chosen career as a professional playwright, the young Christopher Marlowe abandons his Cambridge studies to join Lord Strange’s men, a group of travelling players. En route to perform at Oxford, the players are rehearsing amongst the famous Rollright Stones on the Warwickshire border when they are rudely interrupted by the discovery of the corpse of actor-manager Ned Sledd. Is it an act of witchcraft, a human sacrifice to mark the festival of Lammastide? Or is there a more personal reason? Kit Marlowe determines to find out.

Scorpions' Nest
Scorpions' Nest (Kit Marlowe, #4)Christopher Marlowe investigates a school for exiled Catholic priests in the fourth of this intriguing historical mystery series. October, 1586. Sir Francis Walsingham has despatched Kit Marlowe to the English College in Rheims where he suspects the Catholic traitor Matthew Baxter is hiding. Infiltrating the College undercover, Marlowe learns that the community has been rocked by a series of unexplained and violent deaths. With the help of master codebreaker Thomas Phelippes, can Christopher Marlowe unearth a murderer, track down a traitor and extract himself from the scorpions’ nest without being fatally stung?

Crimson Rose
Crimson Rose (Kit Marlowe, #5)March, 1587. Christopher Marlowe’s play Tamburlaine, with the incomparable Ned Alleyn in the title role, has opened at the Rose Theatre, and a new era on the London stage is born. Yet the play is almost shut down on its opening night. For a member of the audience, Eleanor Merchant, lies dead, hit by a musket ball fired from the stage. The man with his finger on the trigger? A bit-part player named Will Shakespeare. Convinced of Shakespeare’s innocence, Marlowe determines to find out what really happened. When a second body is found floating in the River Thames, it becomes clear that Eleanor Merchant’s death was no accident, and that something deeper and darker is afoot. And why is the Queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, taking a close personal interest in the case?

Traitor's Storm
Traitor's Storm (Kit Marlowe, #6)May, 1588. With Elizabeth I s court rocked by stories of an imminent invasion and one of his key undercover agents missing, Sir Francis Walsingham despatches Kit Marlowe to the Isle of Wight off the south coast: the first line of defence against the approaching Spanish Armada. Lodging at Carisbrooke Castle with the Isle of Wight s Governor, Sir George Carey, Marlowe finds the Islanders a strange and suspicious lot, with their own peculiar customs and dialect. But is there reason to doubt their loyalty to the Crown? And is the Island really haunted, as some believe? Of one thing Marlowe is certain: it s no ghost behind the series of violent and inexplicable deaths which plague the region. But will he have time to uncover the truth and expose the killer before the might of the Armada descends?

Secret World
Secret World (Kit Marlowe, #7)Christopher Marlowe tackles his most baffling case yet. June, 1589. Now a feted poet and playwright, Kit Marlowe is visiting his family in Canterbury. But it's not the happy homecoming he had hoped for. A long-standing family friend has been found dead in her bed, killed by several blows to the head. Convinced that the wrong person has been found guilty of the crime, Marlowe determines to uncover the truth. What did the dead woman mean when she spoke of 'owning the whole world'? If Marlowe could discover what she had in her possession, he would be one step closer to catching her killer. And why is the Queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, taking such an interest in the investigation?

All Hallows' Eve: A Kit Marlowe Short StoryAll Hallows Eve
"'Tell me a story, Kit...'"
It's All Hallows' Eve and Kit Marlowe's evening is disrupted by the call of an ethereal voice, requesting a tale for the haunted night. From the depths of his creative mind comes the tale of ghostly horrors and unearthly cries which rattles even the most supernatural of beings...

Eleventh Hour
Eleventh Hour (Kit Marlowe, #8)April, 1590. The queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, is dead, leaving a dangerous power vacuum. His former right hand man, Nicholas Faunt, believes he was poisoned and has ordered Kit Marlowe to discover who killed him. To find the answers, Marlowe must consult the leading scientists and thinkers in the country. But as he questions the members of the so-called School of Night, the playwright-turned-spy becomes convinced that at least one of them is hiding a deadly secret. If he is to outwit the most inquiring minds in Europe and unmask the killer within, Marlowe must devise an impossibly ingenious plan.

my review of Eleventh Hour

Queen's Progress
Queen's Progress (Kit Marlowe, #9)May, 1591. When Queen Elizabeth decides to embark on a Royal Progress, visiting some of the grandest homes in England, her new spymaster, Sir Robert Cecil, sends Kit Marlowe on ahead, to ensure all goes smoothly. But Marlowe’s reconnaissance mission is dogged by disaster: at Farnham Hall, a body is hurled from the battlements; at Cowdray Castle, a mock tournament ends in near tragedy; at Petworth, a body is discovered in the master bedroom, shot dead. By the time he reaches Chichester, Marlowe fears the worst. Are the incidents linked? Is there a conspiracy to sabotage the Queen’s Progress? Who is pulling the strings – and why? To uncover the truth, Marlowe must come up with a fiendishly clever plan.

my review of Queen's Progress

Black Death
As plague stalks the streets of 16th century London, Christopher Marlowe is drawn into a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears.

September, 1592. “Kit, I know we have never been friends, but you are the only man in London to whom I can write. Someone is trying to kill me”.  

Christopher Marlowe had never liked Robert Greene when he was alive. But when the former Cambridge scholar is found dead in a cheap London boarding house, shortly after sending Kit a desperate letter, Marlowe feels duty bound to find out who killed him – and why.

What secrets did Robert Greene take with him to the grave? And why is the Queen’s spymaster, Sir Robert Cecil, taking such a keen interest in the case? As plague stalks the streets of London and the stage manager of the Rose Theatre disappears without trace just days before the opening of Marlowe’s new play, the playwright-sleuth finds himself in the midst of a baffling murder investigation – where nothing is as it first appears.

my review of Black Death

The Reckoning
The inaugural performance of Christopher Marlowe's controversial new play is marred by sudden, violent death in this lively 16th century mystery. December, 1592. England is entering dangerous waters as thoughts turn to the question of the ageing Queen Elizabeth's successor. Christopher Marlowe meanwhile is leading a troupe of the Lord Chamberlain's Men on tour with a controversial new play.

Marlowe expects his latest play, Edward II, to ruffle feathers. What he doesn't expect is it to lead to is sudden, violent death. The morning the tour is due to begin, the newest member of the cast is found stabbed to death in the local brothel. And when a second murder, and then a third, disrupt rehearsals for the inaugural performance in the Great Hall at Scudbury Manor, it becomes clear that someone is determined to prevent this play from being performed – at any cost. But who ... and why?

my review of The Reckoning
I loved this latest installment in the Kit Marlowe series so much so that I did not want this to end, and as I realised where this was going, I slowed my reading to tease it out to the very end. All the old crew are back: Will Shaxsper, Burghley, Cecil, Nicholas Faunt, Tom Sledd, Ned Alleyn, Ingram Frizer, Robert Poley and Nicholas Skerries. Marlowe's path will lead him, ultimately, to a tavern in Deptford where he will meet his final reckoning. Fans of Marlowe will know what awaits the Muses' Darling.

more on Marlowe
- Roy Kendall: Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys Through the Elizabethan Underground
- Jstor: The Truth About Elizabethan Playwrights
- Jstor: The Death of Christopher Marlowe

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Review: Scotland Yard's Murder Squad by Dick Kirby

Scotland Yard's Murder SquadSynopsis: In 1906 the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was asked by the Home Office to make available skilled investigators for murder enquiries nationwide as few constabularies had sufficiently skilled - or indeed, any - detectives.

Thus was born the Reserve Squad, or Murder Squad, as it later became known. Despite a reluctance by some forces to call upon The Met, the Murder Squad has proved its effectiveness on countless occasions with its remit extended to British territories overseas. A particularly sensitive case was the murder of a local superintendent on St Kitts and Nevis.

A former Scotland Yard detective, the Author uses his contacts and experiences to get the inside track on a gruesome collection of infamous cases. Child murderers, a Peer's butler, a King's housekeeper, gangsters, jealous spouses and the notorious mass murderer Dr Bodkin Adams compete for space in this spine-chilling and gripping book which is testament to the Murder Squad's skills and ingenuity - and the evil of the perpetrators.

Brimming with gruesome killings, this highly readable book proves that there is no substitute for old fashioned footwork and instinct.

Kirby - through his vast experience and network of contacts from his Flying Squad days - is able to present an eclectic range of cases from the annals of Scotland Yard. After presenting us with a brief history, representing a nostalgic view of bygone times, we are launched into our first case, taking place at the turn of the 20th century. 

As with many of the earlier cases, forensics was in its infancy, and detectives were still expected to put in the hard slog and discover or reveal the evidence for themselves. Fingerprinting was in use as was the traditional "line up", but it was the sharp-eye witness and the sifting through the circumstantial evidence that aided in a conviction. Only one case presented featured the "court room confession" and a number of cases are still unsolved; and not all our suspects paid the ultimate price. We meet along the way a mixed bag of detectives - a "suspicion" of detectives if you like - and I enjoyed the "what happened to ..." at the end.

For those interested in true crime and / or police methods, this will prove an enjoyable read.

Review: Vintage Crime edited by Martin Edwards

Vintage CrimeSynopsis: Vintage Crimes will be a CWA anthology with a difference, celebrating members' work over the years. The book will gather stories from the mid-1950s until the twenty-first century by great names of the past, great names of the present together with a few hidden treasures by less familiar writers. The first CWA anthology, Butcher's Dozen, appeared in 1956, and was co-edited by Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert, and Josephine Bell. The anthology has been edited by Martin Edwards since 1996, and has yielded many award-winning and nominated stories in the UK and overseas.

A nice mixed bag of stories - not overly long - from some well-known and not so well-known names in crime fiction. We have stories covering practical jokes gone awry, sleepwalking, dreams, espionage, love and betrayal, greed and jealousy, accidental death and out-and-out murder. Quite a few have that twist at the end that readers will enjoy, and not all our protagonists are deserving of our empathy. With some distinctive noirish tones, I enjoyed all twenty-two stories, and appreciated the mini author biographies at the end. Martin Edwards does it again - collating a diverse range of tales for this murderous anthology.

Review: The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd

The Smart Woman's Guide to MurderSynopsis: A faded country house in the middle of nowhere. The guests are snowed in. The murders begin.

Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and (Joy)Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojangles. It doesn’t matter that they’ve read Gone Girl three times this year already. But someone has other ideas.

A body is found in the grounds. Is a lone killer hunting them? Or has one of their own group embarked on a killing spree? What they need is a guide to survive.

I enjoyed this for what it was - a modern version of the "locked room" mystery. The clues in this cosy-mystery are there from the beginning - its just that they have yet to be put into perspective - and there are also a few red herrings.

I enjoyed the style of writing (quirky and witty) - though the narrator - Ursula - did grate on me a little (bit of an attention seeking neurotic with a daddy fixation). The pace was steady (real time if you will) as we kick off with a bang and then wind back to the beginning and proceed from thereon. Snappy chapter headings offer some much needed advice if you want to survive a murderous weekend away. 

Would be interested in reading something else from this author. Nice little isolation read!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Women: Icons of Christ by Phyllis Zagano

Women: Icons of Christ by [Phyllis Zagano]Women: Icons of Christ traces the history of ministry by women, especially those ordained as deacons. The author demonstrates how women were removed from leadership, prevented from using their voices, and eliminated from official ministries in the life of the Church. And she refutes arguments against restoring women to the ordained diaconate.

Review for America Magazine by Brianne Jacobs:
For the past 25 years, Zagano has shaped the discourse on gender and the history of leadership in the Roman Catholic Church with multiple award-winning articles and books. In particular, she is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of the diaconate. She has written on how the meaning of this role has shifted over the last two millennia. More provocatively, she has written about who has filled this role in different circumstances and times in church history. Zagano’s thorough historical scholarship has shown that we must count women in that number.

While Zagano thoughtfully draws out the theological implications of her research, her main point is historical: There is simply no precedent on which to base the exclusion of women from the diaconate in the Catholic Church.

This new book describes the fruits of Zagano’s many labors, both before the 2016 commission and during it. Women: Icons of Christ is not only informative; it may also be a helpful guide for discerning the nature and purpose of recommendations that may be made by the new commission.

read full review here @ America Magazine

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

From Vox - review by Emily VanDerWerff
Kristin Lavransdatter is an amazing novel about how God doesn’t care if we live or die. This Norwegian masterwork is over 1,000 pages long — and it may be the perfect book for the current moment.

The cover of Kristin LavransdatterKristin Lavransdatter is over 1,000 pages long and was published in three parts between 1920 (one century old, baby!) and 1922. You can purchase it as either one volume or as three separate ones. It follows the life of one medieval Norwegian woman named (you guessed it) Kristin Lavransdatter, from the age of 7 until she dies somewhere around the age of 50. She leads a mostly normal life, but like all of us, she lives in abnormal times. Throughout her lifespan, major world events provide a backdrop of endless political intrigue, rises and falls from fortune and glory, and the arrival of the Black Death in Norway in 1349.

She focuses on the life Kristin carves out irrespective of them, a life involving a broken engagement, a scandalous love affair, and a slowly splintering relationship with her seven sons. By the time Kristin is gracefully approaching death, the book takes on a transcendent, almost religious quality — and even if you’re not a believer, the power of Kristin’s faith in God and her hope to feel his purpose in her life when he remains silent will still be moving.

read more here from Emily VanDerWerff @ Vox

Mysterious island monk explored in new book

The prehistoric and medieval landmarks of western Scotland take centre stage in a new book telling the story of one of the greatest northern saints.

The Man Who Gave His Horse to a Beggar (@aidan_all) | TwitterThe Man Who Gave his Horse to a Beggar, by John Connell, follows in the footsteps of Aidan of Lindisfarne, taking the reader on an odyssey through Ireland and northern Britain.

The lavishly-illustrated book features photographs from award-winning writer and exhibition designer Phil Cope, and is a biography of a man about whom little is known until now.

Part-biography and part-pilgrimage, The Man Who Gave his Horse To A Beggar takes the reader back in time but also asks what lessons this neglected holy man might have for our own troubled times.

read more here @ The Oban Times

further reading:
Medieval Sourcebook: Bede's Ecclesiastical History