Richard Hull: Excellent Intentions

40409285Title: Excellent Intension
Author: Richard Hull

Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified – but which of them is on trial? 

This novel has all the makings of a classic murder mystery, but with a twist: as Attorney-General Anstruther Blayton leads the court through prosecution and defence, Inspector Fenby carries out his investigation. All this occurs while the identity of the figure in the dock is kept tantalisingly out of reach. 

Rating: B-

“If you ask my quite unofficial opinion, plenty of people richly deserve to be murdered nowadays and far too few of them actually get bumped off.”

The book is advertised as a crime novel that’s not (quite) like the other crime novels and at first, it is very unlike others. The book starts with the trial and we learn a few things about the judge, the prosecutor and the lawyer. But nothing about the person who’s on trial. They’re only referred to as ‘the accused’ or ‘the defendant’. Then the trial opens, and the first witness gets called: the man who saw the victim taking some snuff and then collapsing. First, he is questioned by a prosecutor who likes long words and run-on sentences, then by the defence who desperately tries to confuse the witness enough to make him doubt his memory – because if the things didn’t happen the way he described it would be advantageous for the defendant.
But then the novel takes a turn. The rest of the investigation isn’t told through the trial. The story jumps back, and we see the investigation unfold in a quite traditional manner: The inspector questions the suspects and reconstructs they day of the murder to figure out when the poison could have been put in the snuff-box. This investigation takes up most of the book and doesn’t read much different than any other ‘typical’ crime novel. The only difference is that there’s no big reveal of the culprit in the library. Instead, it jumps back to the trial and that’s where we learn who was the only person who could have poisoned the snuff and how the inspector figured it out.

It’s not that I’m complaining about that. With the prosecutor and his love for wordiness (I got traumatic flashbacks to reading The Moonstone from just the few pages) the whole story would have been near-unreadable if it was all told via the trial. But the blurb (and Martin Edward’s introduction) advertised quite aggressively how different the story is told in this book when, in reality, it is told quite normally and mostly just plays around with the chronology.

Will I read more by the author? Definitely. The story itself has a fair share of wit and humour. I wouldn’t go so far as saying that it’s a parody, but it doesn’t take itself completely seriously. There’s the victim who was horrible and hated everyone so much that he even wanted his money to go to a place where it did ‘the least amount of good’ and therefore decides to leave it to the state. The remaining characters aren’t quite as exaggerated but there’s still a bumbling vicar, a hyper-competent assistant, an ominous butler and a stupid gardener.

ARC provided by NetGalley

Mini Reviews – August 2018

I don’t always get round to write long reviews for everything so:

Cover: The House of Shattered WingsAliette de Bodard – The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

It’s not me it’s you

It’s not a bad book. In fact, the prose is beautiful and I definitely want to check out more by the author.
But it has a very strong post-apocalyptic feel to it. True, it’s fantasy with angels and magic but there are regular references to the Big Event That Changed Everything. Society has pretty much collapsed and it’s survival of the strongest (or survival of those who are protected by the strongest).
I just can’t get into post-apocalyptic stuff at all. And this book won’t change it.

 

35068705

R.F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Same.

This book just combined several of my pet peeves: it starts off very YA-ish with a special child who goes to a magical school, makes a friend but also an arch-nemesis and so on. But at the same time, it also likes reminding us how Dark And Gritty everything is (LOOK! He killed the child because he didn’t want to pay for the rest of his life for injuring it!) Now I don’t mind grittiness in general. Or special children. But I guess the combination is getting on my nerves? Or the audiobook was a bad idea because if I just could skim-read the boarding school parts it might have been better? I have been assured that after about a third the book gets away from the school but I couldn’t even get that far.

 

Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett – Point of Dreams (Astreiant #3)

I’m getting addicted to this series.

I am not a big fan of mysteries where stubborn higher-ups want to stop the detective from investigating a murder because of reason/politics/whatever and they get into more and more trouble because they, of course, investigate anyway. And Point of Dreams started with exactly such a situation which is why I had a hard time getting into it at first. But Rathe got quickly distracted by other murders (lots of them) he was actually supposed to investigate and the first murder was pushed into the background.

The plot about the theatre murders was then really intriguing (and of course since this is a mystery…are perhaps all murders connected? I couldn’t possibly say). I also enjoyed how it got deeper into the magic of Astreiant and showed more of it since so far I had very little sense of how it works.

I also read Salt Magic, Skin Magic and reviewed it over at Love in Panels. (Short version: go and read it)

Maggie Robinson: Nobody’s Sweetheart Now

39970739Title: Nobody’s Sweetheart Now
Author: Maggie Robinson
Series: Lady Adelaide Mysteries #1

Lady Adelaide Compton has recently (and satisfactorily) interred her husband, Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, hero of the Somme, in the family vault in the village churchyard.

Rupert died by smashing his Hispano-Suiza on a Cotswold country road while carrying a French mademoiselle in the passenger seat. With the house now Addie’s, needed improvements in hand, and a weekend house party underway, how inconvenient of Rupert to turn up! Not in the flesh, but in – actually, as a – spirit. Rupert has to perform a few good deeds before becoming welcomed to heaven – or, more likely, thinks Addie, to hell.

Before Addie can convince herself she’s not completely lost her mind, a murder disrupts her careful seating arrangement. Which of her twelve houseguests is a killer? Her mother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Broughton? Her sister Cecilia, the born-again vegetarian? Her childhood friend and potential lover, Lord Lucas Waring? Rupert has a solid alibi as a ghost and an urge to detect.

Enter Inspector Devenand Hunter from the Yard, an Anglo-Indian who is not going to let some barmy society beauty witnessed talking to herself derail his investigation. Something very peculiar is afoot at Compton Court and he’s going to get to the bottom of it – or go as mad as its mistress trying.

Rating: B

This was delightful. I loved every single character; they are quirky but don’t turn into annoying caricatures. This made me especially happy because many of the more light-hearted mysteries overdo the quirkiness. Especially the main character’s family members are often more exhausting than amusing. Here Addies’s mother (and to an extent also Devenand’s parents) are meddling – in the time-honoured tradition of parents in cozy mysteries – but it never goes so far that I wanted to yell at them for interfering so much.

Rupert’s ghost was a fun addition to the story in the sense that I enjoyed his interactions with Addie and how his past serial cheating was dealt with. He now regrets it and explains it with the fact that after fighting in the war he couldn’t cope with the quietness of a peaceful life and was looking for new excitement. The book treads a fine line between explaining his actions without completely excusing his behaviour. However, for most of the book, his presence had very little influence on the plot. He does help with finding one clue but it wouldn’t have taken them that long to find that out without him*. Then, at the end of the book, it seems as if the author remembered that she should perhaps do something more with that ghost and he finally gets to do something – after everybody acted quite idiotic so that a situation could be created in which he had to act heroically.

The victim is a woman who is also a serial cheater and while at first, it seems as if nobody liked her and that she was an unlikeable character all-around, she also gets more depth over the course of the investigation. Similarly to Rupert, her actions aren’t excused but we are shown that there were people who cared about her.

I am very curious about how this series will continue. Will Rupert return or will Addie meet a new ghost?

 

*Well and he helps Addie to hide her dildo. No, really. Did I mention that I enjoyed this book a lot?