The Caves of Peregord by Martin Walker read by John Lee

Who was it that decided that moving back and forth between time periods is consistent with the suspension of disbelief, or that a temporal spread is an adequate basis for a plot?

A reader, emerging from the swamp of Chapter Two — where an exiled ‘Keeper of the Beasts’ falls in love with the virgin daughter of a ‘Keeper of the Horses….’ believes nothing. Oh, please. The bulls of Lascaux don’t need to be stipulated by way of stipulating a primordial artist with his own cave, balls, tribe, and palette of coloured dung.

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

Sad, unnerving story of two sisters, untended during childhood, who are each singularly wounded by their past, their parents, their theories of who they are and what they deserve. An Emergency Room physician who has written off relationships finds her addict-sister in New Zealand after years of believing she is dead. While in New Zealand, she meets an interesting man. Their emotional narratives braid together.

The Empty Nesters by Carolyn Brown

Slightly tighter, sharper, more ascerbic Carolyn Brown “women helping women” novel. 5 military wives cling together to comfort yet another soon to be divorced wife of a retiring military husband who, incidentally, is unfaithful. It is not altogether a celebratory narrative. The wives take a camping trip to the charmless and uninspiring Texan backwoods. They write letters to their daughters in bootcamp. They weep. They chop wood.

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

One reason to write books is that you can name your chapters — more than just One, Two. You can name a chapter “Visiting Nora at Nova Scotia Rest Hospital”.

Out of nowhere appears a book about Jacob from Halifax who was born in the reading room of the Halifax Free Library where his mother Nora worked as a head librarian.  The book begins with Nora flinging an open jar of black ink on to the photograph “Death on a Leipzig Balcony” by Robert Capa. Nora is arrested and brought to the police station where she is interrogated by Martha, who is Jacob’s girlfriend.

Martha, a police detective, is also charged with investigating a cold case, which is, incidentally, a case about Jacob’s father, and also, incidentally, a case about his mother.

The case is very very cold.

And as Marthe reveals, the files reveal more information about Nora than her son has ever had. The details of his birth as he has been told them are incorrect. What Jacob doesn’t know, among much else, is that his real father was a Halifax police detective who was a known Anti-Semite and who was suspected of one or two murders of Jews who had just barely escaped from the camps…

Jacob has grown up among hundreds of photographs of his mother and the man who was not his father, hanging on the walls of their bungalow. Once, when he invited a girlfriend to dinner, his mother told her that “If I thought you would be part of his family… I would take you through the pictures one by one… It would probably give you, healthy as you appear to be, a heart attack…”. As he walks his girlfriend home she tells him, “I now identify with the survivors of the Titanic.”

But the man in the photographs is not his father, his mother is now confined to the Nova Scotia Rest Hospital, and Jacob decides to study Library Science at the university….

Anne Perry

Delicious, spicy and scathing dialogue among Victorian ladies and their feminine advice about men, husbands, manners, and society. But also dainty and adorable details about the human very human habits defining circumstantial character and characteristics. In Callander Square:

“Instead of perching on the edge like the other children, she snuggled far back in the deep corner, like a cat, with her feet tucked under her. She still managed to look prim. She waited for him to speak.”

“Would you like to play the piano, Chastity?” he asked.

“No thank you Uncle Reggie.”

“Playing the piano is a most useful art. You can sing at the same time. You cannot sing at the same time as playing  the violin.” 

“I cannot sing anyway, no matter what I played.”

Rendered by Davina Porter in the perfectly pitched ingenuous voice of a child uninterested in lying — or in playing the piano….

Whether it is Inspector Monk with his beautifully tailored expensive suits or Inspector Pitt who appears to be a late 19th century Columbo (“He surveyed Pitt with distaste . Can’t you do something about that coat?  I suppose you can’t afford a tailor but for heaven’s sake get your wife to press it… you are married aren’t you?… Not even the prince of Wales’ tailor could have made Pitt look tidy….), each book by Anne Perry is a luminous venture into the specific tastes, values, beliefs of the class-codified life of a dirty, crowded, cold and mostly unpleasant London …

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts with an introduction by Martin Edwards read by Gordon Griffin

Remarkable introduction to a remarkable detective novel. The introduction explains that Crofts was an engineer who mapped out detailed specifications for his detective fiction much the way an engineer would draw up plans for a house or a bridge. Knowing this transforms the way we read and appreciate the work — and magnifies the intelligence behind Inspector French’s investigation of a missing husband, a disappeared nurse… and the disorder beneath a domestic peace.

Betrayed by Sharon Sala

A sister who witnessed her brother’s murder goes back to her home town after 10 years to find the killer. As usual with Sharon Sala, the main character is layered, magnetic, surrounded by friends and neighbors each of whom reflect her differently… There are also the usual divisions of wealth, of class, the separation of one person from another by virtue of their social position and place. And of course, there is the compelling and irresistible plot which draws us in, engages us and wraps us up — for a time.