Tag: roundup

The Murder Bit.

I’ve been on holiday this past week, which you might think would mean I’ve had plenty of time to do loads of my own personal work, unhampered by the ties of the day job. You would be incorrect. What’s actually happened is I’ve ground to a shuddering halt and watched two full seasons of Game Of Thrones. Time well spent, yes, but it has put me behind on reading for this blog.

Oh no Jon Snow!

I did read a book while I was on leave, but it was in no way relevant to a blog which is, at best, tenuously linked to historical mysteries. I’ve linked it here, it you’re interested, but otherwise I’m not going to mention it.

In lieu of that, and bearing in mind that if I stop posting weekly I’ll probably never start again, let’s look at some books about DEATH.

Click the images for more information.

Amazing True Stories of Execution Blunders – by Geoffrey Abbott

These days, I consider myself something of an historical death aficionado, in so much as a person can be when they read a lot of fiction and are easily grossed out. I know all about the old punishments and the ones which never really happened, but this introduced me to several more disgusting methods which I had known nothing about. It’s not quite so Horrible Histories as it looks, either, and was a heavily sobering look at how awful people used to be – and still sometimes are.

The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death – by Timothy Taylor

Yes. This one.

I think it’s always a sign of a good book when you can remember, over a year later, exactly what you were doing when you started it.

I was on a train to London early one morning, sitting by myself in a deserted carriage. I was nervous about what I was going to London for – something to do with the day job – and wasn’t at all sure I’d chosen the right book to bring. I was testing myself – it was the first non-fiction book I’d ever read about death, and given my history and temperament, it could have set me off into a quivering, shrieking mess. Parts of it almost did.

The Buried Soul is a comprehensive look at the culture which has grown up around death, dating far back into pre-history and spanning the globe. It takes a close and respectful look at the taboos surrounding the way we treat our dead, the superstitions which have developed in different parts of the world and why, and what I found most interesting of all, our changing attitudes to cannibalism. Both grim and enlightening, a non-judgemental and intellectual study of why we do what we do, and why we stopped doing what we did.

Review Round-Up

I am always late to the party.

Not real parties with real people, because I don’t very often get invited to those, but cultural parties. Take Harry Potter – I only read the books (after giving up on them as a kiddywink because they were too scary) when the last film came out. Same with Hunger Games, and loads and loads of other books. As such, when I “discover” books for myself they tend to have been out for quite a long time. Hence, I shan’t wax lyrical about any of the following books for more than a few sentences, because chances are you’ve read them already! If you haven’t, perhaps this will inspire you to give something different a try; I missed some of these books first time round because back then, I was neck-deep in romance, and murder mysteries just weren’t my bag.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Suskind

I only had a vague idea that this was about a guy who made perfume and killed people. While this is factually correct, what sets this book apart is the fragrant use of language. At times repugnant, scent and odour are conveyed through beautiful prose.

The Tea-Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

A young woman marries a man she barely knows and begins a new life in another country. A bit Rebecca, a bit Victoria Holt, and a little bit… “what!?”, but in a good way. If you know what I mean.

The Seed Collectors – Scarlett Thomas

An old aunt dies and leaves various members of the younger generation possibly poisonous seeds. Trippy, gripping, and even though I finished it weeks ago, it’s been on my mind ever since.

House of Shadows – Nicola Cornick

I don’t usually like time travelly, magicky stuff, (I’m looking at you, Labyrinth) but I loved this. Three stories revealed consecutively, three pairs of lovers each two centuries apart, their fates entwined with a mirror and a pearl. Who will be brave enough to give themselves to love?

What books have you discovered after the initial buzz had died down?

Moody Review Round-Up

In the strictest sense of the word, I don’t really do reviews. I don’t like to. I feel drastically under-qualified, and as an author myself, massively hypocritical when judging other people. This is why, as you might have noticed, I only ever publish good reviews on here. If I don’t like something, then I won’t write about it.

Perhaps that’s wrong – there’s certainly value to be found in critical evaluation. But in a blog full of death it’s nice to have some positivity, and to bastardise Lesley Gore, it’s my murder blog, I’ll be nice if I want to.

With this in mind, I thought I’d do a brief recommendations round-up of books I have read and loved, long before this blog was a dark shadow on the very edge of your peripheral vision.

A lot of these are books which have been out a good long time, and pulled me deeper into the abyss of murder mysteries and sharpened my interest in psychology. When I’ve not read a book for a long time what I tend to remember about it is mood, and these books are dark, psychological, and moving. Oddly enough, three of these books live together on the same shelf on my bookcase.

The Pleasures of Men – Kate Williams

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A young woman who feels a connection to the victims of a serial killer searches for the key to uncovering his identity.

I started reading this in bed, late at night and quickly had to stop. I saved it instead for periods of bright sunlight because I am a giant wuss, and this is absolutely chilling. Like reading someone’s nightmare.

The Drowning People – Richard Mason

Proof (if proof were needed) that these are my badly cropped scans. £2.00! Bargain!

Proof (if proof were needed) that these are my badly cropped scans. £2.00! Bargain!

Reflections in the aftermath of a murder.

Discovered in a charity shop and couldn’t live without. Beautiful, bewitching and painful in equal measure. Foolish young things in love refusing to think of the consequences of their actions. One of those books which has stuck with me, and that regularly comes to mind.

True Things About Me – Deborah Kaye Davies

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A woman drawn into a destructive and addictive relationship struggles to find a way out.

I  kept it on my shelves for a while, then when I was feeling at my lowest ebb I ran a bath, poured myself some vodka, and read it in one sitting. When I was done I cried into the cold water, and the next day I began to sort myself out. There are books which change your life, and this irrevocably altered mine.

The Observations – Jane Harris

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A maid with a past she’d rather keep hidden is asked to carry out increasingly odd tasks by her new mistress, and encouraged to keep a diary of her most intimate thoughts.

My first foray into claustrophobic historical mysteries, and the first time I read “fuck” in a book, if I remember rightly. Unusual as well in that it’s a first person account told by a highly literate maid. Amusing and frightening by turns.

 

There are many more, of course, and I’ll likely do a couple more round-ups over the next few months. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What would you add to the list?

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