Review : The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories ( editor : Martin Edwards )

My next read for the holiday season is The Christmas Card Crime , an anthology of Christmas mysteries edited by Martin Edwards . The individual stories have been rated ( check out the stars next to the title for the rating ) . Also , there are only quick holiday season references and no detailed delving into the festivities of the season . Still , I would say that there are some gems here which should not be missed . . . Here’s a quick look at the teasers for each of the eleven stories – I should warn you that this is a mixed bag . . .

A Christmas Tragedy by Baroness Orczy ** :

Lady Molly ‘ s lady – in – waiting is the narrator here . I have several complaints against this one – the narrator ‘ s tone was obsequious throughout the story ( I could have lived with that if Lady Molly had done some decent detective work . But her actions and suspicions are frequently attributed to her excellent intuition ** Duh!!** ) and took on a snobbish tone when it came to narrative about the servants of the manor where she is investigating the murder of one Major Ceely . The motive for the murder seems to be pretty absurd and there is next – to – nothing detection done by our ” detective ” whose detective powers are praised to the skies . While I can understand that the pen has been wielded by one of Lady Molly ‘ s social standing to warrant this narrative style and that it has not aged well , the close to zero detective work made this a boring read . I would suggest anyone to save this one for the last and start with Crime At Lark Cottage or The Christmas Card Crime . . .

By The Sword by Selwyn Jepson **** :

The Cathertons have always died by the sword . Read this one to find out how this family curse plays out in the latest death in the family . A clever one but the story – telling could have been better with holding the reader ‘ s interest . . .

The Christmas Card Crime by Donald Stuart ***** :

A group of passengers in a train end up in a lodge with a shady past . One of the passengers ends up murdered and another seems to have someone shadowing her . Plus there is the torn half of a Christmas greeting card which she seems keen to protect from someone . Why is it that an old , torn Christmas greeting card hold much value /? The solution to this one is a really clever one . . .

The Motive by Ronald Knox **** :

A lawyer narrates a curious case in which he defended a man named Westmacott ( yes , that ‘ s a nod to Agatha Christie ) . A very interesting and clever story but you might probably have to stick with the somewhat mediocre narrative to get to the superb ending – I would say that the ending is worth persisting with this one . ( The narrative alone would have got only 3 stars but I loved this story – so , bumping it up to a 4 . . . )

Blind Man ‘ s Hood by Carter Dickson **** :

A couple arrive at their host ‘ s late and a young woman narrates the story of a mysterious death in the same house . A superb locked room mystery with a delicious paranormal twist at the end . . .

Paul Temple ‘ s White Christmas by Francis Durbridge *** :

Paul and his wife have flown to Switzerland for Christmas but what they don ‘ t expect is a mini – adventure which plays out the moment that land in Switzerland . There is not much mystery here and it is very predictable . . .

Sister Bessie or Your Old Leech by Cyril Hare ***** :

Timothy , a banker , recounts his tracking down of his ” blackmailer ” and getting rid of this supposed blackmailer . But , in a deliciously ironic twist , he has only put himself at the mercy his blackmailer once again who signs the blackmail notes as Your Old Leech . . . I loved this one and will be picking up more by this author in the future . . .

A Bit of Wire Pulling by E . C . R . Lorac :

Inspector Lang from the Yard recounts a murder which took place in a Christmas party in which he was present .

I am not very good at visualizing contraptions or mechanisms even if they are explained in the For Dummies fashion . So I would reserve my judgement on this one . I only remember that the solution involved what the title is about – some wire pulling .

Pattern of Revenge by John Bude *** :

Two men loved Karen Gaborg and one of them is now serving time for her murder . Now , the other one is confessing to Karen ‘ s murder and detailing how he framed his rival for her murder . Some elements of the solution were not very surprising but it was a pretty decent read . . .

Crime at Lark Cottage by John Bingham ***** :

John Bradley stops at a home near Skandale where a woman and her daughter reside . The woman seems frightened and hints that she would like the visitor to stay for the night . Eventually Bradley comes upon a newspaper article which enlightens him as to the strange situation which he finds himself in . . .

This one has a brilliant narrative which managed to fool me about the trajectory the plot was about to take with a superb twist at the end . . .

Twixt the cup and the lip by Julian Symons *** :

A jewel heist masterminded by a bookseller goes awry in every way possible , all thanks to his bungling comrades . The narrative is on the lighter side and the solution is quite clever . . .

If you have already read this anthology , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . If you have any interesting Christmas themed recommendations , please do share them . Until the next review then . .

Review : The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

In a peaceful retirement village , four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings .

But when a local property developer shows up dead , ‘ The Thursday Murder Club ‘ find themselves in the middle of their first live case .

The four friends , Elizabeth , Joyce , Ibrahim and Ron , might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves . Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late ?

My thoughts on the book :

The retirement home setting where the everyday pace of life is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and the bunch of amateurs eighties – pushing sleuths is such a refreshing change from the deranged murderers , psychological profiling of the disturbing characters , cliques with secrets , unreliable narrators and everything in between that the current gen suspense fiction can ‘ t seem to do without . What is even better is the fact that the gang has two murders to solve . . .

The narrative is highly engaging and the author manages to keep the suspense quotient up despite the easy tone of the narrative . A good two – thirds into the novel , the author starts playing with the reader by throwing the red herrings left , right and centre and except for very few , the reader wouldn ‘ t guess them for what they are ( atleast I didn ‘ t identify several of the red herrings . But , it did not bother me at all and I was only too happy to let the author surprise me . . . ) .

Another thing I loved about the book is it ‘ s character sketches – especially those of the eighty plus amateur sleuths . Richard ‘ s amateur sleuths are not spry just because they happen to be the protagonists – they have their own fears about possible memory decline and concerns about each other ‘ s physical and mental well – being .Only a brave author could do what Richard has done with these four – creating characters with weaknesses and showing the readers how they have learned to live with them . Aside from the sleuthing , the dynamics amongst the residents of the retirement home offers a poignant picture into old age and it ‘ s hopes , fears , regrets and everything else it entails . . .

It is a breezy read – there is suspense but without the tension that comes with the regular supense fiction narrative . In these times , I think we would like a mood booster read and I guarantee you that this IS one . If you are a hardcore suspense fan who is loath to pick up any other genre but still need a change from the gore , police procedurals and detectives with egotistic tendencies , unreliable narrators , shades of disturbing psyches etc etc , then this is the book which you didn ‘ t know you needed . . .

I am looking forward to #2 and #3 in the The Thursday Murder Club series . If you are checking out Audible version , it has the author interview by Marian Keyes as a bonus . . .

Rating : 4 . 5 / 5

If you have already read The Thursday Murder Club , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .

Review : The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Plot summary ( from Goodreads ) :

On a cool June morning , a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach . Before she can stop him , the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick , but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister . . .

The next morning , three women in and around London—Fatima , Thea , and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come , from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only , “ I need you . ”

The four girls were best friends at Salten , a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel . Each different in their own way , the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game , telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty , with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them . The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict : no lying to each other—ever . Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out . But their little game had consequences , and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school ’ s eccentric art teacher , Ambrose ( who also happens to be Kate’s father ) .

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Ruth Ware read and I am pretty impressed with her plotting abilities . A clique forced to revisit the memories of the past and discovering new angles to the secret which ties them together is not an entirely new premise in suspense fiction . What sets this one apart from the rest is the constant shapeshifting of the narrative which constantly makes the readers to question almost every single thing that is being said about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ambrose . The narrative keeps transitioning seamlessly from one mystery sub – genre to the next – from a whodunnit to a whydunnit to “don ‘ t tell – the real -thing – and – give – them – umpteen – scenarios – to – keep – ‘ em – guessing ” . It succeeds in keeping up the suspense right until the last chapter but one .

Now for the cons –

The narrative pace was somewhat slow for a good two – thirds of the novel . There are too many unwanted mentions about Isa ‘ s first – time mother woes and fears , long winded descriptions of all the drama in the reunion at Kate ‘ s house , the friends ‘ reactions to Fathima embracing her religion late in life ( to mention a few ) made me want to put the book in the DNF pile . Only the brilliant twists and interesting reveals kept me turning the pages . The name of the local policeman is found only in the mentions of the local who happens to be his mother who gets some inside information on the case proceedings and gloatingly voices the information and her opinions to the narrator . The police procedural involves only ominous mentions about a tent in the excavation site . While suspense fiction fans tend to look down upon works which do not have some police procedural drama , The Lying Game ‘ s popularity is a testimony to the author ‘ s brilliant plotting and decent storytelling skills . There were also some questions which were still left unanswered at the end . . .

I expected the finale to pack a punch after the narrative seemed to have finally picked up pace . After spending hours navigating through the deluge of everyday drama for a good one – third of the novel , the final few pages raised my hopes too much . However , the finale` was a huge dampner and somewhat over dramatic – a la` House of Wax . ( Hope you have got the hint . . . ) .

Hardcore suspense fiction readers can steer clear off this one easily . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . Until the next review then . . .