I didn’t read as many books as usual last month because I was overcome by a sudden mania for decluttering, tidying and cleaning, which was very time consuming. I should have been tidying up the garden for winter, of course. Here’s the list.

Mozart, the Man Revealed , John Suchet
A Peacock for the Footman, Rachel Ferguson
The Dancing Bear, Frances Faviell
The Dark Circle , Linda Grant
Helen Passes By, E R Punshon
The Descent of Man , Grayson Perry
Winter , ed Melissa Harrison
The Red House Mystery, A A Milne
thoughts )

Born Scared, Kevin Brooks. Full review I forgot to post last month
Holding, Graham Norton. Review soon
Secrets Can’t be Kept, E R Punshon
The Amazing Adventure of Jane Smith: A Golden Age Mystery, Patricia Wentworth
Today Will be Different, Maria Semple. Review soon *****
Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins, James Runcie
Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz. Review soon
A Leap of Faith, Trisha Ashley
It Might Lead Anywhere, E R Punshon
A Chelsea Concerto, Frances Faviell
Currently reading:
Mozart, John Suchet
A Peacock for the Footman, Rachel Ferguson
reviews )

Good news from the nice people at Dean Street Press: ten more books by E R Punshon are being reissued this month. They kindly sent me There’s a Reason for Everything to read. This is the 21st Bobby Owen book and he is now a Deputy Chief Constable. Bobby is not the type to sit behind a desk issuing orders and when there’s a local murder, he takes an active role in the investigation. The book was first published in 1945 and has a wartime background, so Bobby is contending with the problems caused by a lack of manpower and petrol. Even the Deputy Chief Constable has to ride a bike.

The story begins when two psychical researchers are investigating a vast, deserted mansion called Nonpareil, which is supposedly haunted. It was also the repository of a vast collection of artworks, mostly worthless. But there’s a possibility that the house once contained a previously unknown painting by Vermeer. If it exists, can it be genuine? This is a treasure people are prepared to kill for, and they do. Bobby has his hands full chasing up everyone with a connection to Nonpareil and following red herrings. But are they? He doesn’t like coincidences and sure enough, all the mysterious events in the area turn out to be connected. In his introduction Curtis Brown suggests Punshon may have got the idea about forged art from the true story of the Dutch forger Han van Meegeren. The Bobby Owen books are well worth reprinting; they have tricky plots and plenty of interesting characters. I enjoyed this one very much.

Comes a Stranger is the best sort of book: the kind you want to read all the time. Sit down with a cup of coffee? Read another chapter. Ooh, just one more, and so on. This is the more remarkable because the book has been out of print for seventy years. In his day, E R Punshon was a popular writer admired by Dorothy L Sayers. His best known books are the series about Bobby Owen, an unusual hero because he works for Scotland Yard but as a Detective-Sergeant rather than a DCI.

The Stranger of the title is death. Can it be mere coincidence that as soon as Owen, known to be ‘a Scotland Yard detective’ appears on the scene, the murders begin? It’s almost as if someone wants old mysteries solved. He is visiting his fiancée, Olive, who is staying with Miss Kayne, an old family friend and owner of the world famous Kayne library. Started by Miss Kayne’s father and run by the mysterious librarian Broast, the library is the repository of some of the world’s rarest books; yet Miss Kayne seems to hate it. Even more strange is that almost her first words to Owen are that she once committed ‘the perfect murder’. The bodies begin to pile up, there are suspects galore and the book gallops towards a Götterdämmerung-style climax. An afterword by the crime historian Curtis Evans explains how part of the story (minus the murders) was based on a true case.

Comes a Stranger will be out, with four other Punshon novels, on 7th December and they’ll be cheap as chips. All praise to Dean Street Press for reissuing these books and thanks for sending me a copy of Comes a Stranger. I’ll be reading the rest as well.



January 2017



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