I read ten books in February. Five of them are here, five in the previous post.
Life and Death in the Woods by Cecilia Peartree
A proposal to build a museum of trees on the outskirts of a town in central Scotland brings together a disparate assortment of people – and a dead body. Max, curator of a small university museum, gets involved against his better judgment. Janice, the owner of a local sandwich shop, finds herself becoming an eco-warrior, against her better judgment. A good cosy crime with some light-hearted fun-poking at academic institutions and the machinations of local government.
Dead Stock by Rachel Ward
I much enjoyed the first outing for amateur sleuths Ant and Bea, The Cost of Living. Twenty-one-year-old Bea is on the checkout of a supermarket and Ant, with whom she was at school, does shelf-stacking, floor-wiping and other odd jobs. I love that the titles of the books reflect their environment so aptly.
Here, cats are going missing and a body is found on the bypass. Ant and Bea investigate but juggling that, work, and their difficult home lives takes its toll. The dialogue between them, and the other characters, crackles with life.
Bea is worried for the safety of one of her regular customers and the discovery of a body on a building site causes an upheaval in her own family. Meanwhile, Ant finds himself homeless. Another corker; more please.
House of the Glimmering Light by Jane Shaw
First published in 1943 and reissued by Girls Gone By Publishers. Jane Shaw, best known to girls’ story aficionados for her Susan series, has two engaging heroines here, Angela and Noel. They meet when they are both staying in the House of the Glimmering Light built on a rocky promontory in the wilds of Argyllshire.
Yes, of course the plot, of two young teenagers outwitting a dastardly enemy in their midst to save Great Britain from devastation, is to be taken with a cellar-full of salt but it is gripping and told with the author’s good sense of humour and great sense of place – plus the fact that it was actually written when the outcome of the war was unknown gives it an urgency.
Read on Kindle for book group. DO was brought up in Motherwell in the west of Scotland in the 60s/70s, a turbulent time of industrial unrest for that area where most of the men, including her father, were employed at the steelworks, Ravenscraig, later closed by the Thatcher government.
A clever and artistic child, Deborah was encouraged at school by her parents – but only up to a point. What they really wanted for her was to stay virgo intacta until a suitable husband presented himself, then she should live round the corner and give them grandchildren.
There’s a pun in the name of the book and the name of the town – because since she grew up and defied them by moving away (becoming a respected journalist in London and marrying and divorcing Will Self) she has pondered at length on the personalities of her parents, particularly her mother, and come to less-than-flattering conclusions about them. That they were controlling of her and had baggage of their own is undeniable but she appears to blame them totally for subsequent toxic relationships she had.
I thought her writing was terrific and the snapshot of 1970s industrial Scotland she shows the reader is an important one, rarely seen. I was totally on her side for more than half the book but then I began to think of it as a misery memoir which isn’t really my cup of tea.