Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars, Miranda Emmerson
Will be reviewed January
Mystery in White, J Jefferson Farjeon
The Crime at the ‘Noah’s Ark’, Molly Thynne
All Balls and Glitter. My Life by Craig Revel Horwood
The Week Before Christmas , Freda C Bond
High Rising , Angela Thirkell
Christmas at High Rising , Angela Thirkell
The Late Scholar, Jill Paton Walsh
The Girl Before, J P Delaney
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Christmas at Nettleford, Malcolm Saville
The House on Bellevue Gardens, Rachel Hore
Murder of a Lady A Scottish Mystery, Anthony Wynne
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Jenny Colgan
reviews and books of the year )

June Books

Jul. 3rd, 2016 10:30 am

Jane’s Parlour, O Douglas
Dark Bahama, Peter Cheyney
The Two Mrs Abbotts, D E Stevenson
The Countenance Divine, Michael Hughes
Love Notes for Freddie, Eva Rice
Death on the Riviera, John Bude
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, H E Bates
Death on the Cherwell, Mavis Doriel Hay
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
The Sea Garden, Marcia Willett
A Week in Paris, Rachel Hore
Weekend with Death, Patricia Wentworth
The Butterfly Summer, Harriet Evans
Eliza for Common, O Douglas
opinions (long) )

For a while now, Rachel Hore has been my favourite modern middlebrow author. (See previous reviews here.) In this book, Ms Hore uses her familiar ‘backwards and forwards in time’ technique to the usual good effect, teasing the reader with a mystery from the past. The linking factor here is the world of publishing. In the late 1940s, a young woman called Isabel runs away to London and throws herself on her aunt’s kindness. Rather fortuitously, she gets a job with a publisher, and does very well. In the present day, Emily is a book editor, currently working with attractive Joel on his biography of a successful author, Hugh Morton. The latter’s best-known book, The Silent Tide, is about to be serialised on television and gives its name to this novel.

Emily is mystified when a person unknown keeps leaving information about Hugh Morton for her to find, and has no idea who this might be. The material reveals that Isabel was Morton’s first wife, and died young; it includes a written account by her of her marriage, which gives a very different impression from the one Joel is telling in his book. Emily becomes obsessed with the idea that Isabel is being erased from Hugh’s story and that Joel, for ambitious reasons of his own, is colluding with Morton’s formidable widow, Jacqueline, to present only one side of the story. The more Emily finds out, the more the surprises mount up and we wonder how she will persuade Joel and Jacqueline to present a more truthful account of events.

This is a really enjoyable read: interesting about publishing and social life in two different eras, intriguing in its mystery and with a twist at the end

June Books

Jul. 1st, 2012 10:01 am
This month I have been mostly reading books already lying around the house or on the Kindle.


The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (Isabel Dalhousie), Alexander McCall Smith
Glimpses of the Moon, Edmund Crispin
Illyrian Spring, Ann Bridge
Chocolate Wishes, Trisha Ashley
Alice by Accident, Lynne Reid Banks
Bertie, May and Mrs Fish, Xandra Bingley
Call to Romance, Maureen Heeley
I Met him Again, Maysie Greig
Half Sick of Shadows, M C Beaton
Take no Farewell, Robert Goddard
Venetian Rhapsody, Denise Robins
The Glass Painter's Daughter, Rachel Hore
thoughts )

Guns in the Gallery, Simon Brett
Magnificent Obsession , Helen Rappaport
The Black Ship, Carola Dunn
The Fountain Overflows, Rebecca West
Prelude to Terror, Helen MacInnes
Hasty Death, M C Beaton
Chronicles of Carlingford: The Rector and The Doctor’s Family , Mrs Oliphant
The Old Wives’ Tale , Arnold Bennett
The Dream House, Rachel Hore
The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L Sayers
The Memory Garden, Rachel Hore
Faulks on Fiction, Sebastian Faulks
thoughts )

I bought A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore in a charity shop recently. I might have thought I was buying Lucinda Riley’s Hothouse Flower, the covers are so similar. I’m a sucker for almost any book with a cover picture of a gate opening onto a garden and in this case the story came up to expectations.

Jude, in her early thirties but already widowed, has an enviable job as a valuer and cataloguer of antiquarian books for a London auction house. A chance phone call to the office sends her to Norfolk to value an eighteenth century collection of scientific books and instruments, assembled by Anthony Wickham, an obsessive amateur astronomer. It happens that Jude’s own family has roots in the area going way back; her gran and sister still live near Rusbrough where Jude is working. Jude finds herself fascinated not only by Wickham’s story but by the tower, known as the folly, he built as an observatory. In the library of the big house she finds the journal of Esther, Anthony’s adopted daughter and collaborator, which adds to the mystery. Who exactly was Esther, what was her relationship with her ‘father’ and why didn’t she inherit the estate as he wished? Did she, an unknown woman, discover a new planet? Why do so many people find the folly a frightening place?

Jude is disturbed to find that her little niece, Summer, is having the same nightmares she herself had as a child and is then even more worried by Summer telling stories which she says she ‘wakes up and knows’; these are the very stories Jude is reading in Esther’s diary. Her gran is obviously worried by something from the past and produces a necklace which had once belonged to a gipsy girl she was friendly with as a child. She wants Jude to find the owner. All the events turn out to be connected.

Poor Jude! She can’t get over the loss of her husband. She worries about her niece and her own troubled relationship with her sister Claire. More complications arise when she is attracted to a local writer but thinks Claire may be too. She’s under pressure from work to get this sale, sympathises with the family dowager who doesn’t want the collection sold, shares the family horror that the new owner of the neighbouring land wants to pull down the folly. Everything that’s happening seems somehow connected to the tower and to the gipsy families which have been returning to the area for centuries. The least successful part of the book I found to be the long extracts from Esther’s journal, used as narrative. It’s very difficult to write in a convincingly eighteenth century style and have you noticed how often in novels these old diarists write about exactly the things the main character wants to know? If anything the mysteries increase as the book progresses and the coincidences pile up.

I see this is Rachel Hore’s fourth novel and no doubt everyone else has discovered her before me. If it has to fit a genre I suppose it’s ‘light romantic’ rather than literary but none the worse for that as it’s very dense. I found A Place of Secrets a gripping mystery and loved it.



January 2017



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