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21 October 2014

I’m currently revising books. One YA, and a mystery theme collection, both to be published by Cyberwizard once the revision is completed. I’m going back and forth between them with the editor, and as I have a third unsold book I want to revise as soon as this pair are clear, I have a feeling that I’ll be revising right up to Christmas. Sigh. And after too possibly, as an editor has indicated possible interest in another mystery short story collection. But then, this is what makes certain I’ve never bored – I don’t have time for that?

Large paperback, published The Story Plant, April 2014. second in the Coleman and Dianah Green Mysteries.
Again a good well-written mystery, with what is becoming a trademark for this writer, the ability to trickle interesting information on the art world into and throughout the book without ungainly infodumps, or items so arcane that the ordinary non-artistic reader won’t understand them. In this book Coleman is expanding her art magazine domain by a second magazine. That’s the good side, on the bad side is a major firm that wants to buy both magazines from her when Coleman doesn’t want to sell. The major firm isn’t taking no for an answer and Coleman knows that if she continues to hold out, the dirty tricks come next because what Colossus wants, Colossus gets. None of this is helped by an old friend who’d like to be a lot more and who also isn’t taking no for an answer. Despite Coleman’s having explained that she isn’t interested, isn’t interested, isnt…
Then there’s her cousin Dinah who’s having trouble making ends meet with her art gallery, however the contract she’s signed, to provide attractive prints for the walls across several floors of a large firm could save her if DDD&W pay up, and if some of the very peculiar things going on there don’t impinge on the contract too far. Except that they do when Dinah finds a body there and becomes chief suspect. The police arrive to investigate led by an extremely unpleasant detective who leaps to a number of conclusions and is both threatening and intimidating. Wound through the murder investigation is the possible disappearance of a large number of very valuable artworks from DDD&W, and the possibility that someone in the firm is responsible and that the murder may be connected to that.
Again I enjoyed this book, but less so than the previous, Restrike. Last time the cousins dealt with most of their problems themselves. This time they are a little too supported by a husband and his host of influential friends who do most of the detective work, and Coleman’s brother, who solves her pressing personal problem. Hang on, Dinah and Coleman are supposed to be the ‘detectives,’ although this aspect may not bother other readers the way it bothered me. As for Detective Harrison, I found him overblown and unlikely, but then I come from a small country where police behaving that way went out back in the last century. Rob, a private detective who is in love with Coleman is initially portrayed as a professional, a friend of the cousins and Dinah’s husband, and an ex-polieman, but over and over he drops the ball on his investigations as he assists them, behaving as a complete amateur. I feel that this was unlikely and inserted as a deus ex machina, a pity as it detracted from the verisimititude. Nor did I find the portrayal of one of the movers and shakers at DDD&W, that convincing. He is initially depicted as a man who dislikes Dinah and Coleman, and whom they heartily distrust and dislike in turn. But in an unbrupt and unrealistic turnaround, at the end of the book it appears that he is really a nice man, doing his best to cope with his firm’s vagarities, and he’s asking Coleman out to dinner. And that rang with the dull clanking of a cracked bell with me. This second in the series is like the curate’s egg, very good in parts, and as an allover effort, quite readable. But I plan to buy the third in the series which is just out, and if that isn’t better, I won’t be buying a fourth and someone else may end up with books two and three. I like the main characters and the series theme a lot and hope the next book is an improvement but there’s a limit beyond which I won’t perservere – or pay – and two not-so-good books is a row is it. So, I live in hopes…

She went broody as they begin to around this time of the year, and sat on eight eggs. However unbeknown to me she was allowing a good friend to lay in the nest as well – maybe more than one good friend. And when the stack of eggs that she was sitting on become uncomfortable she simply got off and walked away leaving 24 eggs to chill and die. The piglets are benefitting from this but I’m not and I’m irked by it. !@#$% Hens!

5 October 2014

hardcover, published by Hodder and Stoughton 1997.

I’ve always liked Mary Stewart’s writing. She started with what were called Romantic Thrillers, but many had a touch of fantasy as well, and I loved that combination, a romance, a murder or mystery, and fantasy, everything a reader could ask for. So I bought most of her books, in hardcover when I could afford them, and still have all I purchased baring one or two that had to be replaced for some reason. She began writing in the 1950s, and to my mind those earlier books are still mostly the best. But of her later books I really liked Thornyhold, Stormy Petrel, and Rose Cottage. And, having temporarily run out of new unread books, I’d gone back to reread all my Mary Stewart’s and to review this one. So –

Kate Herrick’s grandmother hasn’t been well, and she’s asked Kate to go from Scotland where her grandmother now lives, back to Todhall, to retrieve personal items that were accidentally left in the old cottage. Kate arrives to find that the tiny inbuilt locked hidey hole has been opened and is empty. And after that mysteries proliferate. Kate is illegitemate, her mother left home when Kate was six and is believed dead. Who was Kate’s father? Who opened the cache? Kate is being drawn back to all her old friend in Todhall each of whom has something to contribute, particular Davey Pascoe, her old schoolfriend. Then there is the mystery man who was asking around the village about Kate’s grandmother, the blanket of flowers left on her great aunt’s grave (a woman disliked if not loathed by all who’d known her.) And the evidence that someone had been digging by the old cottage. Where they burying something or digging it up, and if so what? No murders, no crimes, but a host of small mysteries important mostly to Kate only. And the author answers them all, believably, beautifully, and engagingly. This is a gentle story, well told, and evoking a quiet nostalgia for a world now gone. I do recommend Mary Stewart’s writing, for the length of time that she wrote she didn’t write a vast body of work, but it’s quality, and very well worth reading.

On Friday winter came back, just in case we’d thought that it was really spring now. I was reading a book and making notes for a review mid-afternoon when I had the impression that temperatures had dropped. I checked the outside thermometer and they certainly had. Around lunchtime it had been a good 13 degrees, now it was three! And not only was it starting to spit, but the wind was getting up as well. I fed the feathered contingent and retired smartly. I know the symptoms, it’d be a wild night – and it was. 100k gales, lashing showers of alternate rain and hail, and Thunder my cat settled on me like a brick all evening – humans exist to keep cats warm. The weather stayed that way most of Saturday too, ending with the lawn white with hail, and in the end by Sunday morning when it’s settled – briefly I know – we’d had 20mls of precipitation, and gales are forecast to begin again later tonight and continue as really severe all Monday. So much for ‘it’s spring.’ Winter had one last bite and we’re being bitten.

more of my consumer articles have appeared in our newspaper in the last four weeks. They reprinted YOU’VE WON A TRIP…IS IT WORTH IT?, which is also on this blog. And new articles, ODD USES FOR OLD TENNIS BALLS, 10 NEW WAYS OF USING PAPERCLIPS, and 10 THINGS TO DO WITH PIECES OF OLD GARDEN HOSE have been published.

Some have asked where on earth I get ideas for these articles, and the answer is easy. My mother grew up in the great depression of the 1930s, and had a huge body of knowledge of recycling and of making up things from ordinary items found in a kitchen cupboard. I learned a number of these from her, and over the years have added others. I begin most articles of the type with something that I use already, and go on from there to quiz friends, and chase down other sources. I enjoy doing the articles and have a lot of fun seeing some things that can be done with bits and pieces regarded as discardable but which may be given a new life.