I’ll be honest, it didn’t start well. I opened it, the binding cracked and a page fell out. The opening didn’t feel good and the proofreading wasn’t great. Then, still suffering from the after effects of Covid, I put it down and didn’t pick it up again, though I kept meaning to. I bought the paperback last year. started it but became ill and never finished it.
It was the first book I bought for my new Kindle after Christmas and the first thing I noticed as I started it again, was that the proofreading seems to have been tightened up. Unfortunately the first section doesn’t really give an accurate impression of the rest of the book.
The other criticism I’d make is that the plotting is a bit complex for my tastes in certain respects (I’m trying to avoid giving anything away here) and it’s a bit too tidy at the end, though I’d still like to see what happens to the characters in a later book..
However, once it gets going it’s brilliant. Characterisation, storytelling, dialogue – all spot on. Great sense of time and place. He says his next book is going to be a romance, which is a shame as his writing style would be perfectly suited to crime. I really feel this paragraph should be longer to balance the length of the criticism I made earlier, because it’s quite clearly a great book. Buy it. Read it. You won’t regret it.
The Windsor Knot is a modern whodunnit with a good helping of originality, a novelty detective and an undercurrent of humour.
The Mazaroff Mystery is a Golden Age detective novel, published in 1928. There is nothing original about it, the detective is not unusual (a young man looking for amusement after serving as an officer in the Great War) and there is no humour. It lacks depth, including themes you would expect in a modern novel – class, race and sex, – and the protagonist has suffered no mental or physical problems as a result of his war service. The world of the Golden Age detective novel was largely white, middle class and not given to introspection. Peter Wimsey suffered from shell shock, but the rest of that generation seem remarkably unscathed.
The authors are both fine writers, the characterisation is good, and the plots both have the odd weak spot. The pacing of the older book is superior, as is the quality of the red herrings and the supporting characters.
I would say that if you want a book for entertainment, get The Windsor Knot. If you want a good detective novel, The Mazaroff Mystery is the one to go for. Unless you are looking for historical detective fiction.
I notice one or two people in the reviews, seem to think it is historical fiction, some liking its authenticity, and at least one complaining that it is old-fashioned. Well, it would be. it’s 93 years old. The author was born in 1863, just four years after Conan Doyle and two years before Kipling. I always think of those two as Victorians. The surprise isn’t that the book is old-fashioned, the surprise is that it is quite fresh and contemporary rather than being rooted in Victorian days. He was, by the way, the favourite mystery writer of Woodrow Wilson
It’s well worth a read if you like Golden Age whodunnits, and is currently available on Kindle for £0.77.
I have a dozen subjects in mind but some require research or other effort and others are simply not suitable. Sorry about that.
I finished a book last night, which is why this is a book review. Book Reviews are worthy subjects for blogging but don’t require much work or research, just reading a book and remembering a bit about it.
That, I find, is one of the difficult things about a book review. Someone has just spent a year or so sweating over this but after a few hours reading and half an hour typing, I feel qualified to pass judgement on it. That’s one of the reasons I don’t write many reviews, because I find it hard to offer criticism of somebody who has just done something I can’t do. On the other hand, as I normally only review books I enjoyed, I don’t do much criticising.
In a world where books need a gimmick, and there are plenty of novelty sleuths about, it must be difficult to com up with another variation. That’s all taken care of with this book – the investigator is Queen Elizabeth II, This is handled well, with plenty of great characterisation, a lot of detail and the feeling that S J Bennett (a) knows and loves the subject and (b) could write first class fiction in an y genre.
The pacing is acceptable, but it does seem to slow a little in places as the book progresses. This around the time when we seem to be bombarded with a few too many characters, who aren’t always well differentiated.
What about the plot? . It could do with being tightened up and I was left with a feeling that if I examined it too closely the whole thing would fall apart. There were just a couple of places where it seemed weak.
The ending – which is important in most mystery novels, has a fault that can’t be fully overcome. The Queen must remain in the background at all times and part of the tension in the book is that she is constrained taher than assisted by her position as monarch. That means the credit for solving the crime goes to another person, who explains it to the Queen. This is unsatisfactory, but it’s a logical part of the way the book works and would be hard to work round. Foe this reason, I’ll accept this fault.
I don’t feel quite as forgiving about the patchy pacing, the slight excess of slightly samey characters and my reservations over the plot. I will read the next one in the series, and am sure I will enjoy it, but it’s only four stars.
If there was no crime in the book I would still enjoy this as a comic novel featuring the Royal Family, which tends to indicate that the crime element needs a bit of a boost. It’s a great read but it’s not, unfortunately, a great whodunnit.
According to the Amazon details the book has 276 pages. It didn’t seem like it. Time flew,and although I spread it over two nights, it finished too soon. If there was another in the series I would definitely buy it right away. Unfortunately, there isn’t.
That’s really all you need to know. It’s less than £3 on Kindle, so what are you waiting for?
Of course, book reviews are supposed to be slightly longer than that so I’ll just add a bit of waffle. The action takes place in a magic county called Elferterre (somebody is showing their French roots again!) , which is a convincing place, and has an excellent talking cat. There are very few books that can’t be improved by the addition of a talking cat, so this is good to see.. Even a talking cat couldn’t improve Don Quixote, but I won’t go into that.
I always get off to a slow start as I pick up the threads from the last book, but it is handled well, with enough prompts to get the reader up to speed, and enough information to help a first-time reader get into the story. After that it goes along at a decent pace and, as I say, is over all too soon.
There’s a bit of teenage romance going on, which I suppose you have to accept in these modern times, plus some comment on equality, ecology and vegetarianism, though it’s all done lightly and it isn’t laboured. This is handled much better than C S Lewis manages it in Narnia. (Cut that out as a quote Laurie “much better than C S Lewis”).
The only fault I can find in the book – the ending seems a little rushed. I felt there was room within the pacing for a little more action but the book seemed to pick up speed towards the end, as if a word limit was looming. Apart from that – pacing, character, action, context – all brilliant.
All that remains is for me to recommend the purchase of a copy, as I said, at £3 on Kindle it’s an absolute bargain.
Fortunately my reserve of cheese has been able to make up the deficiency. The good thing about cheese, apart from the fact that it tastes good, is that it’s virtually interchangeable with ham. You can use tomato relish and Branston pickle on it, and if you make Welsh Rarebit you can even pair it with mustard. They can both go in omlettes, on pizza and, if you really must, in salad.
If I ever have to make a choice I may have to go for cheese, as it can go in Welsh Rarebit, as previously mentioned, and cheese on toast.
Talking of Welsh Rarebit, which makes cheese on toast into a meal instead of a snack, I was surprised to see how complicated it can be. I whisk a drop of milk into some grated cheese whilst heating gently, add the mustard and it’s ready. Sometimes I add Worcestershire Sauce and black pepper. Sometimes I don’t. No beer, no flour, no fat, no roux.
The tie I have saved by not shopping for more ham was spent reading an excellent crime novel – In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. It’s the 10th book in the series, and I’ve missed a few out, so I had a bit of catching up to do. That’s the trouble you have if you hate paying more than 99 pence for a Kindle book.
It’s Tartan Noir, with lots of Scots and violence plus dark humour, exhuberance, convolution, complication dialect and a pig farm.
Sometimes it’s a bit over the top, and sometimes a bit irritating, but generally it’s a great book in a great series. When I get caught up with my reading pile I might buy a few more in the series. I’d go so far as to say if I could only take one crime series to a desert island it would be this one.
I’ve written about tsundoku before – the habit of piling up unread books. It was brought into painful focus earlier today when I opened up a box of books that has been undisturbed for several years. For “several” you could probably substitute “ten” judging by the publication dates.
When I read The Elements of Murder last month I was surprised at my familiarity with poisons and notable poisoning cases. Not only surprised, but quietly impressed with the breadth of my knowledge.
So when I found a copy of the paperback edition in the box today it was a bit of a downer. Not only is my knowledge based on reading the book ten years previously, but my memory is in fact so bad I didn’t remember buying the book twice.
It’s also a reminder that when I pictured the seven books in the photograph I was intending to review them swiftly. I’ve actually managedtwo and started two more. I haven’t even finished reading one of them. But I have bought more, and read several of them.
I’ve confirmed my hospital date, I’ve eaten cake from one of the neighbours and I’ve bought socks with grips on the bottom. They seem to be the preferred footwear in hospital these days. They did lend me a pair last week, but as usual they don’t do my size. It’s not as if I have fat feet, just a size or two bigger than average.
I’ve also written a book review, made up my diary, developed a system of paperwork and exercised my bad foot. The “system” consists of tucking current papers into the back of my diary and putting an elastic band around it all. Once the paperwork is no longer current I file it in a plastic folder as this makes it easier to lose in bulk. The “exercise” consisted of walking to the fridge and answering the front door to accept the cakes.
From this I presume you can see why Julia laughs in an ironic manner when I refer to the future date “when I retire”.
She has had a fuller day than I have, preparing for a job interview, holding a meeting at the community accounting group she chairs and doing associated paperwork.
However, because I have used more words to describe my day it looks like I’ve been busier than she has.
I suppose I should have taken a photograph of the cakes. They were miniatures for an event tomorrow, the open day at the hospital garden. Hopefully the weather will improve as they put a lot of effort into the gardening. I may give it a miss, as I’ve seen it enough recently, but Julia is going.
The picture is a Herring Gull walking on the top of my car in Llandudno. Fortunately the recent rain has washed away the other evidence.
I’ve read a few books of his sort (which I think of as novelty travel, or even annoying novelty travel) and have mixed feelings about the genre. Is it really necessary to do more than travel and write entertainingly? Do you need to take a fridge with you, or in this case, do you need to start off in your pants and beg your way the length of the country? Not that it really matters, because charity shops are full of these books and they rarely cost more than £1.50. At that price I can adapt to most things.
Part of the problem is that everything seems to fall into place so easily, finding footwear before doing any serious damage to their feet for instance, and the other is that a lot of the stuff they are given is the result of theft. They may be amazed at the generosity of staff in large chains, but actually, that’s theft. Same goes for the employees of smaller establishments who give them free drink or food while the boss is away – theft.
George Mahood thinks the penniless journey is a demonstration of the basic decency of human beings who are selflessly prepared to help two idiots on their way from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.
I think it’s about finding a gimmick to base a book on.
It’s beginning to sound like I don’t like the book, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a good book, with well-observed characters, warmth, moments of peril, light and shade and humour. I did follow them with bated breath, I did worry about them, and I was rooting for them, despite my moral misgivings.
It was a birthday present from Number One son and arrived in the post whilst I was in the grip of several different infections (the advancing years are not being kind), so I left it for a week before picking it up.
Once I started it I finished it in two sessions and was really sorry to reach the end.
Judged from a moral standpoint – theft, begging, fecklessness and having defective brakes – it’s hard to give it more than three stars, but from a reading point of view it’s a massive five.