Review 1790: Mrs. Tim of the Regiment

I accidentally read Mrs. Tim Gets a Job first, but when I discovered it was third in a series, I decided to read the rest in order. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is the first.

Hester Christie (Mrs. Tim—I didn’t discover her first name until I read this book) leads an active and happy life where her husband’s Scottish regiment is based in Southern England. However, her life is upended when her husband is temporarily transferred to Westburgh, Scotland. She must find a house, move, and then try to create a new social life. She feels especially close to her neighbor, Mrs. Loudon.

It isn’t long, though, before her husband gets his majority, which means they must move right back to where the regiment is stationed. Tim is sent back almost immediately, while Mrs. Tim prepares for the move. Before she leaves, though, she is invited to see the real Scotland by staying with Mrs. Loudon farther north.

At first, with its diary entry format, this novel was so full of little everyday events that, even though amusing, it began to seem too like the Provincial woman series. However, it eventually develops more of a plot, in particular, Hester’s attempts to help Mrs. Loudon, whose son Guthrie has fallen for an unsuitable young lady.

Although written in 1940, Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is set earlier. The exact year isn’t stated, but the soldiers all have relatively recent memories of World War I. This is a charming novel, although it does have some snobbery toward some wealthy acquaintances. However, Hester is a lively, likable heroine.

Mrs. Tim Gets a Job

Miss Buncle’s Book

Miss Buncle Married

Review 1789: The Postscript Murders

This second Harbinder Kaur novel begins with the apparently natural death of 90-year-old Peggy Smith. Peggy was a sprightly old lady with an interest in crime fiction who used to record everyone who passed her apartment.

Her carer, Natalka, thinks there might be something wrong about Peggy’s death. When she and a neighbor, Benedict, are packing up some of Peggy’s things, they notice that several mystery writers have thanked Peggy for her help. Then someone holds them up with a gun and takes a copy of an old murder mystery.

Dex Challoner is one of the writers who thanked Peggy. Natalka, Benedict, and Peggy’s friend Edwin talk Harbinder into attending a book event for Dex, and he admits that Peggy used to help him come up with interesting murders. He makes an appointment to meet with them later, but the next day he is found dead, shot in the head in his home.

This novel was certainly a page turner, so much so that I read most of it in one day. It has a light cozy feel to it, and clues galore. I found it an enjoyable read.

The Stranger Diaries

The Stone Circle

The Dark Angel

Review 1788: Miss Plum and Miss Penny

At 40, Miss Penny leads a full life in the village. She has her village activities and her two close friends, Hubert, the vicar, a timid widower with a son, and Stanley, a self-pleasing fussy man. Miss Penny always receives a birthday letter from George, the suitor her parents disapproved of, but this year it doesn’t arrive. Miss Penny is hurt and begins to wonder what her life would be if she had left with George.

On her way to the movies, Miss Penny stops a woman from drowning herself in the duck pond. When she finds out the woman has no money and nowhere to go, she takes her home and is soon nursing her through an illness. Miss Plum turns out to be a whiny neurotic who bursts into tears and complains about her hard life. She also shows a tendency to hero-worship Miss Penny.

This darkish comedy shows an insight into human character, for you needn’t make the mistake of thinking Miss Penny’s efforts are rewarded with gratitude. In fact, she is soon consumed by only one thought—how to get Miss Plum out of her house.

This fun novel is filled with eccentric characters. I enjoyed it a lot and was happy to read it for my Classics Club list.

O, The Brave Music

The Stone of Chastity

All Done By Kindness

Review 1787: The Girl from the Channel Islands

I selected this book mostly because of its setting. That it is based on a true story sounded intriguing, too.

About a hundred pages in, I began to think about not only why I wasn’t buying this novel but also why it it made me uncomfortable. Perhaps this is a politically incorrect statement these days, but for me to accept the idea of a Jewish girl having a romance with a German officer during World War II, I had to feel the love. But I wasn’t feeling it or reading about it. I was reading about sex, and I didn’t think a Jewish girl who knew what was going on in those times would risk everything for sex.

This is down to the author, I’m afraid, whose writing is merely workmanlike. I didn’t believe this story, true or not, so I stopped reading it.

Salt to the Sea

To Bed with Grand Music

Lilac Girls

Review 1786: The Unforeseen

Although I haven’t yet read Dorothy Macardle’s The Uninvited, the movie based on it remains one of my favorites for Halloween. I didn’t realize that The Unforeseen is not a sequel to it but a follow-up and that a few of the characters make a reappearance. So, I’m reading and reviewing out of order.

Virgilia Wilde cannot afford to live in the city while she is sending her daughter Nan to art school in London, so she buys a cottage in the wilds of Wicklow. There she enjoys herself rambling the countryside and working on a children’s book about birds. However, she begins having strange experiences. First, she thinks she is seeing ghosts—a shadow in the doorway when no one is there, a telegram being delivered when one isn’t. She fears she is losing her mind so consults Dr. Franks, a psychiatrist. But he thinks there is nothing wrong with her. He consults his son Perry, who is a doctor with an interest in parapsychology, and eventually they realize that Virgilia is having visions of the future.

In the meantime, Nan has a frightening encounter with a sculptor and decides to come home for the summer while she works on illustrations for a book. Virgilia doesn’t want Nan to know about her visions, but soon she has some frightening ones.

This is a good little thriller with a supernatural angle to it. It has convincing characters and beautiful descriptions of the Irish countryside, reflecting the relative peace of Ireland during World War II.

Dark Enchantment

The Uninhabited House

The Victorian Chaise-Longue

Review 1785: The Half-Crown House

The Half-Crown House is Fountain Court, a once-stately home that has fallen into disrepair after years of money and estate mismanagement and crippling death taxes. Its heir is Victor Hornbeam, a little boy who is coming to live there for the first time, his widowed mother preparing to marry. The property has been supported for years by Victor’s young aunt, Henrietta, who opens the house for viewing, and her cousin Charles, wounded during the war, who runs a market garden. They are struggling to support the estate so that they can hand over something to Victor when he comes of age. The only other family member living in the house is their grandmother, now bedridden, whose ferocious spending and mismanagement has bankrupted the family.

As the novel opens, Victor is arriving on one of the visitor’s days. Henrietta has a wealthy American suitor who wants to buy one of the valuable paintings, and she is hoping to sell it. However, that morning her grandmother tells her that it, along with many of the other paintings and jewels in the house, is a worthless copy that she had made when she needed to sell the original to pay her debts.

The household is wondering if Henrietta will marry the American, but it was apparent to me early on that her heart lay elsewhere. That only increases the little bit of suspense around this decision.

This novel is a meandering one. At times, it is much more concerned with the past elegance of the house and the events of the long-dead Hornbeams than with the living, for it goes off into little vignettes either through the memories of its inhabitants or during the descriptions of its current state. Thus, it particularizes the postwar state of the country, when many large homes were being dismantled or sold.

It’s an odd little book that reminded me a bit of Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary and a couple of Rumer Godden novels that center around a house over the generations.

Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary

China Court

A Harp in Lowndes Square

Review 1784: Death in Oslo

I began reading this Norwegian series after watching the Swedish TV show Modus that is based on it. I mentioned that connection before, but while reading this novel, I thought about it a lot.

Helen Bentley, the American president, disappears from her hotel room during a state visit to Norway. Adam Stubo isn’t involved in the case at first, but then FBI agent Warren Seifford requests Adam as a liaison. When Adam’s wife, Johanne Vik, hears this, she demands that he refuse to work with Warren even though she won’t explain why. Then she leaves home with her baby when Adam reports to work.

Perhaps it’s because I watched the Modus version of this book first, which made significant changes, but I found it much less plausible than I have Holt’s other books in the series. I have already noticed, though, that her character Johanne Vik tends to be a little hysterical at times, unlike the calm counterpart in the TV series.

First, I felt that Holt had little grasp of the way politics between the Norwegians and the Americans would play out. Most of the time, she just shows them spinning their wheels in power plays. She, or perhaps the translator, also gets things wrong about American speech. The mistake I can think of offhand has an American on the news call gas “petrol.” Americans don’t use that word. I would think the book was simply translated for a British audience except the word was used in a supposedly verbatim news report from the States. I also noticed a similar error when Warren’s thoughts are revealed.

The TV program has the President stashed in the closet of an abandoned building, but in the novel she is in an apartment basement and just happens to be found by the servant of the woman Johanne Vik goes to stay with. That coincidence is bad enough, but that they don’t immediately call the police is wholly unbelievable.

Finally, there’s the big climax. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have to say that since the person the president thinks is guilty isn’t, what happened to the danger that she was supposedly in? They handled this much better in Modus by having there be actual danger.

So, a bit disappointed here. I’m ahead of the series on the next book, so we’ll see if that makes a difference.

Punishment

The Final Murder

The Water’s Edge

Review 1783: Himself

Mahony has been raised to believe that his mother abandoned him on the steps of an orphanage. However, when Sister Veronica, who hated him, dies, he finds out that he was left with a note telling him his true name, his mother’s name, and “she was the curse of the town, so they took her from you.” So, he travels to Mulderrig, County Mayo, to find out what happened to Orla Sweeney.

Mahony is an attractive young man, and at first he is warmly received despite his mid-70’s hippie rig. Soon, though, the word is out, and most of the townspeople want him gone. Orla was wild, a thief and a prostitute, and she just up and left. But he finds a few supporters who believe she was murdered: Mrs. Cauley, an impressive old actress; Bridget Doosey, the slatternly housekeeper for the nasty local priest; and Shawna Blake, who takes care of Mrs. Cauley.

And, although they can’t really help him, Mahony can see the dead. When he was a child he saw them, but they faded until he set foot in the town. There’s only one dead person he can’t see—Orla.

This is a peculiar, dark story. I loved it. I first read Kidd about six months ago, and she hasn’t disappointed.

The Hoarder (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort)

Things in Jars

The Haunting of L.

Review 1782: The Toll-Gate

I was rereading some Georgette Heyer novels last winter as I replaced some of my ratty old 70’s copies, and I remembered The Toll-Gate as one of my least favorite of her romances. I was confused, however, for the novel was amusing and had a fun adventure plot.

Back the second time from the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Jack Staple has been intending to settle down. His mother and sister have accordingly presented a string of attractive, eligible girls, but Jack hasn’t been interested. He says he doesn’t want to get married until he receives “a leveller.”

On going to visit a friend, he loses his way and comes to a toll-gate that is manned at night by a terrified young boy. The boy tells Jack that his father told him to mind the toll-gate for an hour, and he hasn’t been back. The boy is terrified of a man his father sometimes meets during the night. Jack decides to stay with the boy until his father returns. Then the next morning, he receives his leveller, in the person of Nell Stornaway.

This novel is just delightful, and I don’t understand how I misremembered it so badly.

The Talisman Ring

Sprig Muslin

Faro’s Daughter