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Welcome to Lodge Books, a small, second hand bookshop located on South Back Lane in Bridlington's Old Town.
Having spent some 30 years working in a variety of accounting environments and having packed my son off to university, the opportunity arose to realise a long held ambition to open a book shop, and in what better place to do so than Bridlington. The aim is to provide a good range of second hand books to satisfy the reading habits of local residents, regular visitors to the town and newcomers alike. In addition, I am looking forward to featuring the works of local authors with the hope of introducing them to a wider readership and offering readers the opportunity to try something new.
I don’t often read autobiographies, and especially avoid those by so-called celebrities. However I have in the past enjoyed the books of James Herriott and Gervase Phinn, set of course in God’s Own Country. It seemed reasonable to assume then that I wouldn’t go far wrong with a book passed on to me by a friend, namely Mike Pannett’s Just The Job Lad, telling tales of life and crime in North Yorkshire’s Ryedale district – where some of my ancestors come from as it happens, so lots of familiar places.
After ten years in the Metropolitan Police, Mike is now a rural beat officer (and wildlife officer) based at Malton, and in this collection of tales he is called upon to investigate drug dealers who are operating on his patch, and deal with an anti-hunt demonstration that threatens to halt a train that is bringing the local MP to town. In addition, at home, he has a leaky roof and an ever-present builder to contend with, whilst trying to study for his sergeant’s exams.
This book didn’t disappoint and I shall certainly go on to read more of Mike’s tales – bought a few of them for my Dad’s birthday later this month, so they will be passed on when he’s done!
I have been aware of Yorkshire-born crime writer Peter Robinson and his Detective Inspector Banks for a time and this week I was drawn to that section of bookshelf in the shop. I picked off A Necessary End, the third of his novels. The setting is a fictional Yorkshire market town but there are enough references to well known towns and places in the county to make this seem familiar and comfortable.
In this particular story an anti-nuclear demonstration gets out of hand and we are left with a dead policeman and a large number of potential suspects. Superintendent Dick Burgess (from the Gene Hunt school of policing) is drafted in from the Met to lead the investigation, which very soon leads to ‘Maggie’s Farm’, an isolated house high on the daleside. Inspector Banks prefers a more softly, softly approach (or Softly, Softly, if you can remember that far back) and is soon uneasy about Burgess’s methods and his all too hasty assumptions. Banks has to carry out his own enquiries to ensure that the killer is found and to rescue the reputation of the force.
This is a well written crime drama, but one which for me was ultimately not very satisfying. Partly I think because I didn’t find any of the characters appealing or interesting, least of all DI Banks, I’m afraid, and that seems like the key to a good read.
I have mixed feelings about Louise Levene’s A Vision of Loveliness. It starts out quite funny, and clever, but the comedy soon becomes darker and the excellent period atmosphere of the seedy, sleazy, sad world of London’s West End in the 1960s becomes ever so slightly depressing.
In this book we encounter Jane James who has been living with her aunt and uncle in Norbury, south of the river, since the death of her parents when she was a child. But she somehow feels she was born to better things than the dingy bedroom and indifference on offer at Aunt Doreen’s, and her job as a junior saleslady in a cashmere shop in Piccadilly. By chance she comes across Suzy St. John, a girl-about-town who appears to have the life for which Jane has been rehearsing for so long. Jane’s new best friend takes her out of Norbury and introduces her to a new world in glamorous shoes, clothes and jewellery, all paid for in kind rather than with actual money; the seedy world of part-time modelling and full-time man-trapping.
This is dark comedy but also quite sad; nevertheless a clever social satire.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is Helen Simonson’s first novel, and if you like the novels of Alexander McCall Smith then you will probably like this, not least because of its ‘faith in the powers of courtesy and kindness’.
In the south coast village of Edgecombe St Mary, Major Ernest Pettigrew is leading the quiet life, following the death of his wife, trying to keep at bay the meddling villagers and his ambitious, overbearing son. After the death of his brother, he finds companionship with village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali, a widow; they are drawn together by a mutual love of books and the loss of their partners. However they are soon forced to deal with interfering relatives and gossiping neighbours, against a background of the golf club dance, the local duck shoot and questions of inheritance and family expectations. True love rarely runs smoothly.
This is a pleasant enough summer read, exploring cultural barriers in matters of the heart, and family obligations and traditions.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is set in Nazi Germany and is an unusual novel, not least because the story is narrated by Death. It is described as ‘a small story about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery’.
Liesel is nine years old and is being taken, with her brother, to a foster family in a small town near Munich, but her brother does not survive the journey – the first time that Death visits the book thief, for that is what she has now become as she steals a book from the graveyard. She is taken to live with Hans and Rosa Huberman in Himmel Street and here her wartime story unfolds among the street’s inhabitants, such as: Rudy Steiner, who wants to be Jesse Owens; Frau Diller, who expects all to ‘Heil Hitler’ when entering and leaving her shop; and Max Vandenburg, the Jew who is hidden in their cellar. It is with Max that Liesel shares her passion for books and the words therein. It is the mayor’s wife who indulges her need to steal them.
This seems to me to be an important book, unsettling and thought-provoking, whilst being ambitious and clever, despite a simplicity of language – now also a major film I understand.
If you love reading and bemoan the lost art of letter writing then The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a book you are sure to enjoy.
In 1946 Juliet Ashton is a writer who, having written a wartime newspaper column, is wondering what to write next, when out of the blue she receives a letter from a gentleman on Guernsey who has acquired a book that once belonged to her. Juliet begins to correspond with him, and about him, and learns of the reading group set up during the German occupation of the island. In a desire to learn more of this unusual society she begins to correspond with other members and almost inevitably journeys to meet them. She now knows what she wants to write about.
The author Mary Ann Shaffer became interested in Guernsey during a visit to London in 1980 and later, when encouraged to write a novel, she chose the island as her setting. Unfortunately she became ill during the latter stages of the writing process and her niece, Annie Barrows, helped her finish the book.
Reminiscent of 84 Charing Cross Road, this is a delightful book and is set to be another favourite of mine.
I have just read a couple of M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries, namely Death of a Gossip and Death of an Outsider, and thoroughly enjoyed them both.
Set in the far north west of Scotland, the first story introduces the reader to the Lochdubh police constable, who generally has a fairly easy life dealing with the occasional drunk and the odd poacher, although Hamish is not averse to a little of the latter himself – but only what he can eat. However, amongst the latest attendees at the local fishing school is society widow and gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters, who wastes no time in ruffling feathers. But no one, not even Hamish, expects her strangled body to be fished out of the river. With a school of suspects who aren’t willing to talk, Hamish may well be in over his head.
The second tale sees Hamish transferred to the dreary outpost of Cnothan to cover for the absent local sergeant. Before long the most hated man in the town, Mr Mainwaring, has been dumped in a tank filled with crustaceans, but all that remains are his bones – in the meantime the lobsters have been shipped off to Britain’s best restaurants! Being an outsider himself, and having a difficult detective chief inspector to deal with, who wants the murder hushed up, Hamish is desperate to solve the case and go back home to Lochdubh.
Looking for escapism and a bit of black comedy, then look no further.
If I had a pound for every time a customer has recommended the author Lee Child to me I would be… well I’d have a few quid in my pocket. Suffice to say, it seemed like I should try him out, so I picked One Shot off the shelf to see what all the fuss was about, and was introduced to Jack Reacher.
Reacher lives off the grid and seems to miraculously appear where and when his services are most needed, like some comic book superhero. He is an ex-military cop and is the one person that James Barr, accused of multiple murders, wants on his side. Yet nobody knows why, least of all Reacher who had investigated a case involving Barr fourteen years previously. For the local cops the case is clear cut, all the evidence (and there is plenty of it) points to Barr, but his sister refuses to believe that her brother is a killer, despite the fact that Reacher knows different. However it soon becomes clear that somebody doesn’t want Reacher around, and that’s when he becomes interested!
Another great read this week – I didn’t want to put it down. If you are looking for an action hero then Reacher is your man. Although I can’t quite see Tom Cruise in the role (Reacher is 6' 5" tall) – it seems there is a 2012 movie, based on this book as it happens.
The next book on my reading pile was The Snack Thief, an Inspector Montalbano mystery by Italian author Andrea Camilleri. Coincidentally, just as I started reading it I noticed on BBC4 the start of a series of television adaptations of the novels, and the first one was ‘The Snack Thief’!
The stories are set on Sicily and feature Inspector Montalbano, ‘a cross between Columbo and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, with the added culinary idiosyncrasies of an Italian Maigret’. This particular investigation follows the murders of an elderly man who is stabbed to death in a lift, and a crewman of an Italian fishing trawler who is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat. Montalbano alone thinks there is a link between the two deaths, and with the disappearance of a sometime prostitute called Karima, whose son is thought to have stolen other children’s snacks. However the inspector uncovers evidence of government corruption and international intrigue, putting the boy’s and his own life in danger.
I really enjoyed this book: quirky characters, witty and just great storytelling. I have to say that the book is better than the TV version, but the actor who plays Montalbano is brilliant, and so it is still well worth a watch, provided you don’t mind sub-titles.
Week 26, which means we are half way through our reading year. And this week’s offering is Treasures of Time, which won the first National Book Award for Fiction, by Penelope Lively (Booker Prize winning author of Moon Tiger in 1987). Clearly this author has an award-winning pedigree, but I’m not quite sure what to make of this one.
The story centres on the deceased Hugh Paxton, a famous archaeologist, about whom the BBC is making a documentary. However, digging around in the past disturbs the present as well, despite Paxton’s flighty widow Laura and sombre daughter Kate trying to keep the past in its place. And then there is Kate’s fiancé Tom, who initially seems to be along for the ride but then appears to become the most prominent character in the story. A story that purports to explore the relationship between the lives that we live and the lives we think we live.
Perhaps not to be recommended to lovers of pacier fiction such as crime, thrillers or adventures, but nevertheless well written, clever and witty.
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