As one might expect, December was a terrible month for reading! I only managed four books and even that was a challenge! (One was only 48 pages!)
I'll have the overall book wrap post soon, but here are my takes on the December reads.
"Murder at the Theatre Royale" by Ada Moncrieff
Daphne King is the agony aunt writer "Dear Susan" at a London paper in 1935, despite her help in cracking previous criminal cases in the past, the credit going to one of her colleagues. But when he is off for the holiday, Daphne gets a chance to do a feature piece on the comeback of a stage director, in London with his production of "A Christmas Carol" and she jumps at the chance to do something more substantial.
And so, it is on several days before Christmas when she begins her interview for the piece. And, it is later that day that the actor playing Scrooge is found, murdered on stage. Being in the right place at the right time and having already been introduced as a friendly journalist to the cast and crew, she's in the position to use her investigative reporting skills to crack the case.
This is an enjoyable, light read. While not written during the "classic period" of British crime fiction it is set during the 30s, which is a fun period and I love just about anything set in the theatre. Clues are well presented to the reader and despite that, I still didn't guess the ending, so that's definitely a plus.
Ada Moncrieff is no Susan Hill, Elly Griffiths, Louise Penny or even Agatha Christie. But "Murder at the Theatre Royale" is a fun read and if you are looking for a good theatre mystery set at Christmas, it's worth considering.
"The Santa Klaus Murder" by Mavis Doriel Hay
Sir George Marbury is welcoming his family to the manor house for the holidays -- his widowed daughter Hilda and her daughter, Carol; son George and his family; daughters Edith and Eleanor and their husbands and daughter Jennifer, who still lives at home. Also in attendance are the secretary, Miss Portisham; Jennifer's still un-revealed fiance Philip Chariton and Oliver Witcombe, the man Sir George hopes will marry Jennifer, along with Sir George's sister and a number of servants.
There's always an obvious victim and in the first few chapters, recounting of the events by several of the characters, it is clear that Sir George's days are numbered. There were many reasons a number of the party might want him dead (mostly related to his will) and suspects are plentiful. When his body is found in his study after a celebration in which Santa Klaus appeared with gifts for the grandchildren, it becomes the task of Colonel Halstock to unravel the mystery.
This is part of the British Library Crime Classics series and was written in 1938. It bears all the hallmarks of the classic country house murder -- loads of suspects, an unlikable victim, an obvious suspect (and we all know that rarely does the obvious suspect do the deed) and a will that may -- or may not -- reveal motive.
The first few chapters were a bit confusing to follow -- each written by a different participant with their observations of the day. (We later find they were written and presented to Col. Halstock to aid in his investigation). But once the Colonel continues the narrative and begins his investigation, it turns into a rather engaging and puzzling mystery.
It's a longer book than some and was a slower read. (Less reading time didn't help!) But it also was a worthwhile one and (once again) another good Christmas mystery to consider.
"A Note of Explanation" by Vita Sackville-West
This is such a short book -- only 48 pages. And oh, so charming!
Queen Mary, as many know, has a remarkable dolls house which one can visit at Windsor Castle. Within the house is a collection of very tiny books, written by a remarkable selection of renowned writers. Sackville-West was asked to write one as well.
The original book was very tiny but fortunately, this copy is about 8x10. It's enchanting as it follows the "ghost" of the dolls house, telling her story. She has met up with such characters as Bluebeard, Scheherazade (whom she thought long-winded and a bore) and the Emperor of "The Nightingale." And now, she is here, residing in the castle. When the curator comes each day, he might find a dining table with leftovers or an unmade bed!
This edition is illustrated with wonderful deco-style pictures by Kate Bayley of our ghost enjoying her reminiscences of the past. They are exquisite. If you think of Essie Davis' portrayal of Miss Fisher in the mystery series, you have a very good idea of the style of this charming character.
It's a delight in every way.
"Lady in Waiting" by Anne Glenconner
Those who have followed a number of royal events on TV may well have seen Lady Anne Glenconner as a commentator on various PBS and other programs. She served as one of Queen Elizabeth's coronation ladies in waiting, as well as a Maid of Honor at her wedding to Prince Philip. She later spent 25+ years as Lady in Waiting to her dear friend Princess Margaret, whom she met as a child in Norfolk, close to the royal Sandringham estate.
Glenconner's autobiography takes us deeply into her personal life as well as her time serving Princess Margaret in a lively and rather fascinating book on how the other half lives. It clearly shows that money can buy you many homes, estates, even the island of Mustique, and facilitate fascinating travels. But it doesn't replace the terrors of a husband whose temper was legendary, the tragic death of one child, the addiction of another and a near-fatal accident to a third.
Beginning with her early life at the estate of Holkham, she describes a fairly joyful upbringing, followed by awkward teen years. It was especially interesting to read about her mother's creation of Holkham Pottery and Anne became her sales rep, traveling around the UK and to America hawking pottery to stores like Saks. We follow her through her debutante season, wearing a gorn made of a rescued WWII parachute, and her fascinating journey as an attendant during the coronation.
Her own family life, with her volatile husband, Colin, is equally fascinating, if a bit disturbing. Colin and Anne bought and settled the Caribbean island of Mustique, which became a playground for the obscenely wealthy and the parties she describes almost defy description.
But as the title says, she was a Lady in Waiting -- to Princess Margaret and it is her times with this royal that form a large and intriguing part of her story. Those who have seen "The Crown" know one side of Princess Margaret. Glenconner's interpretation is far more in-depth and poignant.
If one is intrigued by the royal life or that of the upper classes, "Lady In Waiting" is a book well worth your time.
There is nothing better than settling in with a book on winter days like these!
Reading 4 books in December is a feat all in it's own. Some of these sound like books I might enjoy.
Our bookclub read "Lady In Waiting". What a lively discussion. I was the facilitator of that discussion so provided additional information about the main characters in the book and pictures of Mustique printed more recently. We all agreed she was a product of her time and living with the crazy loon of a husband who treated her so badly was typical of women who endured infidelity and emotional abuse because the society expected it from men and expected women to tolerate it for "the sake of the children" or to maintain the family's good name. It made us all count our blessings - even those of us who are divorced, because at least our exes didn't flounder around in the aisle of an airplane during a fit of schizophrenia or whatever his undiagnosed ailment was.
The Vita book is a surprise.
Four enjoyable books is a better list than 10 if some of those 10 weren't worth the time of day. These all sound wonderful Jeanie. That Lady in Waiting book sounds fantastic. I've actually looked at the book writeup on Amazon, but wasn't sure whether it was worth the read or not. Thanks for the info on it; it does sound like it's a good read. And holiday mysteries are always fun, especially those set in "vintage" times. And sometimes a decent light book is just the thing, especially around the holidays. I wish you happy reading in 2023. And thanks for these book reviews-you know I always enjoy them. hugs-Erika
Thanks for introducing these books Jeanie
Four books sounds good to me. I think that’s around my total in December, too, but I don’t really count. I hope you enjoy many more in 2023. I see that you are a fan of the Thursday Murder Club as one of the commenters suggested (you reported on the second volume last May). She’s a bit behind — the third book was published something like a year ago.
best… mae at maefood..blogspot.com
You did well just getting four books in. I do this thing where I don't review anything in December, but read and read up to the last page, finishing the books on January 1.
It works for me psychologically to make headway on my yearly reading goal.
These all sound interesting. I didn't read as much last month but I finally started a new mystery last night. Thanks for sharing! Happy new year!
Great job on the book reviews Jeanie and I do like those illustrations.
Jeanie, I don't know what's come over me, but this past year I'm struggling with reading books. The month you read four books, well, I started four books but have finished none. Now I have two more to add to the in-progress pile! We'll see what gets finished in January! 😁
Jeanie, you did better than me in the reading department for December. Lady In Waiting sounds like a book I would enjoy. I always look forward to your book reviews!
You had a busy month so it's understandable you read fewer books! December was my best reading month - I read 17, which I'll be posting about tomorrow. But we had those 5 days in Mexico, 2 4+ hour plane rides, and 4 3+ hour car rides. I read a lot on planes/in the car since I am fortunate to not get car sick and I read 4 books while we were in Mexico as that vacation was all about relaxing! I was still shocked to find I read 17, though!!
These all sound interesting. I wish my eyes were what they used to be. It's made me prefer videos/TV/movies. But I can tell we enjoy similar types of books. If my mind didn't wander so much I would listen to more audio books--lol! :)
They do sound good. Nice reviews, Jannie.
I have a lot of books on my list to be read in 2023. More than I have had in awhile and I am excited about that. Happy New Year!
I did not read a book in December. These books you have reviewed seem great to read too. My list is getting longer
Is the number of books really that important? Isn't it more important that you read - plain and simple - and enjoy it? And it seems that you enjoyed these four books and that is what really counts, at least in my book. I always enjoy your reviews, Jeanie.
I would have enjoyed reading "Lady in Waiting". Mystery books have long ceased to be entertainment or escapism for me.
These all look like good reads. However, I don't read books, especially fiction. I prefer to read articles, always non-fiction.
YOu must be a fast reader to get all those books read plus enjoy all the Christmas stuff you took part in or organized. I was lucky to finish the one book I had to read for book club.
all look like books I would read, I have read 2 so far this month, but now busy with other things at the moment, so books put to one side.
Thanks for sharing your December reads, Jeanie, but while I enjoyed the synopsis the only one I might consider is the last one. This year, my goal is to read more nonfiction and also continue with historical fiction.
Santa Klaus? I thought you write it Clause?
I bought 4 new books (plus one on the kindle) - just when read them? (turn off TV/internet, I know...)
Great variety and reviews. I do tend to read more mysteries, thanks for sharing these books, they are new to me. Take care, enjoy your day!
A good mix of books for December. I especially love the pictures from Vita S W books. How wonderful they are.
I don't think you should focus on the number of books read, Jeanie. As long as you read and never lose the desire to read, and love, relish and cherish books, that's what counts!
Four books is a lot for December! I barely got four done last month myself, book post on Sunday coming. Lady in Waiting looks interesting.
I like the Art Deco period of classic mysteries and love the illustrations you shared. Princess Margaret always seemed like kind of a rebel for a royal in the 50's. The biography sounds interesting.
You still managed to read a lot of books Jeanie, I think I probably average 2 or 3 a month. Lady in Waiting would be a book I would like to read, thanks for the lovely review.
Have a wonderful New Year.
Your reviews always intrigue me to read more murder mysteries. I believe I would read all and enjoy them, maybe skip The Santa Klaus Murder. OK, more to add to my list now.
Happy New Year to you and your Rick!
An intriguing list of books - they all sound good to me.
Four books in December is impressive Jeanie, you did three more than me! Your list of books looks good, I have so many books on my list, I'm going to try reading more this year. I started my current book last Saturday and hope to finish it by Sunday.
All four sound like delightful reads for December. I'm particularly intrigued with A Note of Explanation because I love the Miss Fisher mysteries. This one sounds cute, and I also like that it's short because I'm not going to have quite as much time to read the next couple of months! Thanks for the wonderful reviews.
Looks like some good reads here.
Hope you had Happy Holidays:)
Glenconner's book sounds interesting. I find Margaret an intriguing character. It can't have been easy to grow up in the shadow of Elizabeth. (Kind of like the pressures Harry seems to be experiencing, I suppose!)
I wonder if Sackville-West ever intended that book to be published and read, or was it just for the royal dollhouse?
Like I always say, it's more important that you enjoy the reading experience than how many books you manage to read. And it sounds like Decembers books were very enjoyable reads. I especially like the sound of "A Note of Explanation" and might check that one out myself if I can find an accessible to me version of it.
I love the illustrations to the Vita Sackville West book - they remind me of the wonderful illustrator Erte. I read a book once about Vita Sackville West's mother - the most awful woman - so Vita must have had a very difficult early life indeed. Knole is surprisingly near the railway station from London. I've walked through the beautiful deer park and estate, but never made it into the house. Your mention of the book has reminded me that I want to try again! Thanks!
Four books in December sounds like a good accomplishment to me. Thank you for sharing about these. Lovely evening to you.
I think I'd enjoy Lady In Waiting, as I'm fascinated with all things royal. I watched the Netflix series, Harry and Meghan, and really enjoyed it.
Good reviews for all, the first will be read first.
Good reviews for all, the first will be read first.
Many thanks for your reviews.
I think Lady in Waiting will be on my reading list :)
All the best Jan
I love Queen Mary’s miniature house and all the perfect tiny details! Thanks for the book reviews and recommendations.
Post a Comment