I'm a fan of M. C. Beaton - both her Agatha Raisin books and her Hamish Macbeth series. Hamish was a good first choice to listen to. Macbeth is a constable in a small Northern Scotland town. Death of a Gentle Lady is the twenty-third book in this series. When Mrs. Gentle moves into the area, she has everyone fooled into believing she is as sweet and refined as her name sounds - everyone except Hamish Macbeth. When Mrs. Gentle's illegal cleaning woman disappears and then Mrs. Gentle herself is found dead, Hamish must solve a multitude of crimes. Scottish actor Graeme Malcolm beautifully narrates this CD.
Death of a Chimney Sweep is the twenty-sixth Hamish Macbeth mystery. This one I read. In the metropolitan areas of Scotland, homeowners have their chimneys vacuumed, but in the isolated villages of Northern Scotland itinerant sweep Pete Ray still plies his trade with his old fashioned brushes. When the new owner of a long abandoned estate is found dead, stuffed inside a chimney, Pete is suspected as the murderer. When he is found alongside the motorway, dead from a broken neck, it looks as though he was killed in an accident while trying to escape. The estate owner's wallet and some silver candlesticks are found near Pete. Open and shut case as far as Hamish's superiors are concerned - but Hamish believes otherwise.
Beaton's mysteries are light, quick reads. I enjoy them for the setting, the humour of Hamish's many foibles and his abilities in putting clues together.
How long have I read and loved Maeve Binchy's Irish novels? I always try to read her latest and Minding Frankie is that. Her last few novels are more pat than the ones she wrote twenty plus years ago, but I still enjoy reading them. She has a believable way of describing modern Irish problems though I doubt they get solved as easily as Binchy writes them. I still love the good feeling I get from reading one of her novels.
Frankie is the unborn daughter of a young woman dying of cancer. She asks former boyfriend Noel Lynch to visit her in the hospital and tells him he is the dad. He barely remembers the woman or the drunken encounter that led to the pregnancy. All she wants from him is the promise that he will take the baby and raise her and that he names her Frankie. What makes this a feel good novel is the way a neighborhood and all its inhabitants come together as a family for the little girl.
George Baker is the actor who portrayed Chief Inspector Wexford on the BBC TV series based on the books by Ruth Rendell. Sadly, I have never seen any of the TV shows. I still hope to see them someday. And even more sad, Mr. Baker died at the age of 80 last Friday. His six decade career covered a wide variety of roles including comedy, drama, soap operas and science fiction. He was once considered a candidate to play James Bond, but he is most remembered for his portrayal of Inspector Wexford.
The Vault is Ruth Rendell's twenty-third Inspector Wexford novel. It is a follow-up of The Monster in the Box. Although it could be read without having read the previous book, it does add to the understanding to read them in order.
Inspector Reg Wexford is retired now, enjoying dividing his time between Kingsmarkham and London where he enjoys going to museums, movies and the theatre with his wife. He also enjoys walking the streets of London. But he misses his life as a policeman. A chance encounter with London DS Tom Ede gives Reg the opportunity to work with the Metropolitan police as a consultant - no pay, just glory.
Orcadia House, an old cottage in St. John's Wood, has turned up four bodies under an old drain cover over the long unused coal cellar. Three of the bodies have been there for twelve or thirteen years (the ones we read about in The Monster in the Box), but the fourth - the body of a young woman - has only been there for a couple years.
Rendell gives us London and its neighborhoods through Wexford's eyes. She gives us well developed characters and mysteries that are hard to figure out. Ms. Rendell herself is 81 years old. Some thought she might retire when she 'retired' Inspector Wexford. I hope she doesn't. I hope she goes on writing as long as she can.