January - 6
1. Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War - book one in the Mrs Caldicot series
by Vernon Coleman
As I read a line in this book, I had a flash of seeing a television production of it. I looked it up, and it starred Pauline Collins and John Alderton. I don't remember much about it, but from what I read, the film was changed some from the book. The story is about a very passive, very sheltered woman whose overbearing husband suddenly dies. Her son feels that she should go into a retirement home. She is my age (gulp!). The book is all about how the residents become empowered about their living conditions, and their lives. It is quite inspiring, with a happy ending, though there is sadness for the reader seeing how this place is run. And that there is such little regard for the inhabitants until Mrs C shows up.
2. The American Agent - book fifteen in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
Gosh, a lot of time has passed since we readers first met her in 2003. I so enjoy these books and the characters. One of the very great pleasures of my reading life.
3. The Nine of Us
Growing Up Kennedy
by Jean Kennedy Smith
Jean Kennedy Smith is the last surviving child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She has written a really lovely telling of her life. Even if you've read everything about the Kennedys, she offers a new perspective. I loved this book, and am so happy she wrote it.
4. Mavis of Green Hill
by Faith Baldwin
My first book of the 1920s, and such a joy it was. This wasn't about flappers and gin, but about a young woman who was bedridden from a train accident a dozen years before. She begins a correspondence with a young poet, and rather falls in love with him through his poems. She is a romantic soul who doesn't have a lot to amuse her in the life she leads. A new doctor comes into her life who suggests new treatments, and suddenly her whole life changes. One of the treats of the book is seeing Cuba in those days.
5. Brooklyn Legacies - book five in the Erica Donato series
by Triss Stein
I do so enjoy this series. The reader learns something new about Brooklyn in each book. This one focused on the tensions of development between the Jehovah's Witness church and an historical home. The only negative for me is that I got annoyed at the main character's little criticisms of older times, while she is an historian!
6. The Cask
by Freeman Wills Crofts
I've never read anything quite like this 100-year-old book. It is the ultimate police procedural, with the emphasis on procedure. It was almost like reading a police report, and then later a lawyer's report.
These policemen are mostly all men, except for a short time when three women do some work. They don't have families or girlfriends. They have friends, and they eat out, and they go to the movies, but there is no romance. They are totally devoted to their work. This work is slow and methodical.
I actually had to look up the word cask. It is a large, barrel-like container used for storing liquids. In this book casks also held statues, and a dead woman's body.
The people investigating went back and forth from England to France to Belgium, trying to find out who killed her. The phrase about not leaving a stone unturned absolutely applies to these men. A fascinating book with a thrilling ending.
I have mentioned before, I think, that I subscribe to a publication called Give Me That Old-Time Detection put together three times a year by a man named Arthur Vidro. The autumn edition featured Mr. Crofts. The 1996 review ofThe Cask was written by Charles Shibuk in the British publication CADS. I am going to quote some of the review.
Crofts suffered a major breakdown of his health in 1919 and, while seeking something to distract him from a slow and tedious period of convalescence, decided to try his hand at writing a detective novel.
The Cask (1920) secured rave reviews, and was translated into many languages, and had sold the not inconsiderable total of 200,000 copied by 1940.
With the exception of E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1913), The Cask is probably the best first detective novel in the history of the form, and with Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), it heralded the advent of the detective story's great Golden Age. Critic Anthony Boucher, reviewing a 1967 reissue of The Cask, remarked: "Probably the most completely competent first novel in the history of crime, it is the definitive novel of alibis, timetables - and all the absorbing hairsplitting of detection..."
Ellery Queen, who considered it one of the ten most important detective novels, described it as the first great modern police novel.The Cask is available on the Kindle, in paperback, and in hardcover. Not bad for a century-old book! Well worth all the praise. I was completely immersed and fascinated.