Review 2021: A House in the Country

All during the war, Ruth, her husband, four friends, and the Adam children have been stuffed into an uncomfortable house in London, suffering privations of every sort. As early as 1941, they all began dreaming of taking a house in the country together, where they could have space, good food, and plenty of fresh air for the children. At the end of the war, Ruth finds an ad for a large house in Kent, 33 rooms. They go to see it and fall in love.

They figure that with their combined incomes, they can barely afford it. Ruth will do the housekeeping. The house comes with Howard, a handyman/gardener who has lived there most of his life and whose assistance proves invaluable.

Adam lets us know right away that this plan doesn’t work, but the descriptions of the beauties of the landscape and garden sometimes made me forget this. Written with a deadpan humor, the autobiographical novel tracks the ups and downs of this experience, through employment issues, attempts at agriculture, paying guests, house sharing. But as Adam repeatedly states, the house was built to be served, not to serve.

The story of the hapless occupants is funny and touching. I found it fascinating.

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Review 2011: Green for Danger

The details of an operating military hospital during World War II are meticulously recounted in Green for Danger. The novel begins with the postman, Higgins, delivering six letters about the writers’ postings to the hospital. The readers then learn that one of the six people will become a murderer.

The military hospital in the Kent countryside is busy one night, because an air raid in the nearby town has caused the hospital in town to send some civilians there. Among them is Higgins, the postman, who is also a member of the local rescue, most of whom have just been killed or injured.

Higgins’s femur is due to be set in surgery the next morning. It’s a relatively straightforward procedure that shouldn’t be dangerous, but as soon as he starts to go under the anesthetic, he dies. The operating team is shocked.

What seems to be an unusual but unsuspicious death from the anesthetic has Inspector Cockrill wondering. However, there seems to be no way that the canisters containing oxygen, which are black and white, could have been switched for the green carbon dioxide canisters, and no poisonous substances could be forced into a canister. If the death was murder, only the six people in the operating room could have done it.

That evening, Sister Bates, who is jealous of womanizing surgeon Gervase Eden, has a little snit during which she announces that she knows the death was a murder and she has evidence. Later, she is found dead in the surgery, stabbed and wearing a surgical gown and a mask.

This mystery is purposefully claustrophobic and quite suspenseful at times, although the explanations at the end are a bit long. I thought I knew the motive and the murderer all along, but I was fooled! I am happy to be seeing more and more women writers represented in this crime series.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and fair review.

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Review 1648: Joanna Godden

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Joanna very much, in this novel that is essentially a character study. She is large and brash. She likes to wear bright colors and to impress people. She is a fine figure of a woman.

As a young woman, she inherits her father’s sheep farm on Walland Marsh in far southeastern Kent. From the first, she will take no advice. She’ll run her farm the way she wants, and she scandalizes the neighborhood for firing her father’s shepherd of 28 years, for painting her wagons and her house yellow, and for other such offences against tradition.

At first, she makes some costly mistakes in her willingness to experiment. She hires a shepherd just because she likes his looks, but he is too docile and inexperienced to warn her when she’s about to make a big mistake in breeding. She sends her little sister Ellen away to a posh boarding school and gets back a sulky, discontented young woman who thinks she is too good for the farm.

I couldn’t help growing to love this heroine, though. She is bumptious but well-intentioned, pushy but kind. By the end of the novel, I was touched and sorry it was coming to a close. I read it for my Classics Club list and hope to find more by the author.

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Day 1241: Calamity in Kent

Cover for Calamity in KentReporter Jimmy London is on vacation in the seaside town of Broadgate recovering from an illness when he meets a man behaving oddly. This man is the operator of the Broadgate Lift, a cliff railway. He has discovered a body in the locked lift.

Jimmy is happy to be on the spot of a scoop, so he investigates while he sends the operator to the police. He is delighted to find that his old friend, Inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard, will be on the case. Shelley offers to exchange information with him if he will help investigate.

A classic locked door novel with a twist, the book was heavy going for me, for some reason. I think it was because if anyone made a point or explained anything, Rowland found a way, usually through Jimmy’s questions, to repeat it, as if he assumed his readers are dolts. As with many older mysteries, there’s not much characterization. So, a meh for this mystery.

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