My Latest Book Forage

Well my TBR pile was looking decidedly weedy this week, so it was very fortuitous that I was going to Alnwick with a friend this weekend. Alnwick of course is a very important place for vintage mystery fans, well for those fans who live in the North of England, as it is home to Barter Books, which just so happens to be one of the largest second hand book shops in England. Sometimes I have come away with a meagre haul of a book or two but today I did much better, so I thought I would share with you, my latest finds. Some are from authors I have read before but I always managed to pick up some from authors new to me.

Let me know what you think of these titles, though fingers crossed I haven’t gathered any dud reads…

This is a book I really ought to have read by now. Hoping to read this one in time for the Bodies from the Library conference in June. The two books below are by Holly Roth, an author who has been on my radar since The Reader is Warned took a look at some of her work last year.



  1. Holly Roth deserves current assessment. Her work functions on more than the mystery level. An example of this is The Sleeper: Ostensibly a Cold War spy story, but actually a parable about trust. A writer is asked to record the story of a man convicted of treason. The traitor kills himself, which seems unlikely given the man’s character, but the authorities come to believe that the suicide was a signal to the enemy: the writer and a woman acquaintance of the prisoner are soon burglarized – the enemy is looking for a message left by the traitor. A push-pull romance develops between the writer and the woman, but he cannot convince himself that the woman was not in cahoots with the traitor. She in turn, does not trust the motivations of the writer, believing him to be playing her along through the direction of US military intelligence.
    Roth does an excellent job of playing the reader, I thought. Good mystery, tete a tete romance, a chilling action sequence describing the writer shinnying down an air shaft and a very clever resolution. The nickel (for me) didn’t drop regarding what this book was really about until near the end. The McGuffin ends up being information regarding some ludicrous plan to infiltrate Red China and win the hearts and minds of the population; surely satirical. This absurd example of international gamesmanship is counterbalanced by a very simple truth played out very subtly throughout the book – at both a personal and an international level – until there is trust, there is no progress.

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  2. I like Ellin a lot, especially the stories, but have not read that one.
    Darkly is quite famous as a locked room mystery. I thought it was OK, a bit padded, but it is more up what seems to be your alley than mine.

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  3. I did Shadow of a Lady on the blog a few years ago and commented on the fact that there was no Wikipedia entry on her, nor is she on Fantastic Fiction. I agree with your first commentator – she is unjustly forgotten and much under-rated. I’ll be interested in your views on the other Roth, which I haven’t read. Also the Mary Fitt – I have read a couple by her, but not heard of this one.

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  4. I’ve read several books by Mary Fitt, including Three Sisters Flew Home; I don’t remember much about it except that I didn’t like it much – there are better books by her, such as Requiem for Robert.

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  5. I’m interested to see the good press for Holly Roth. The only one I’ve read is Too Many Doctors (1962) and I didn’t think much of it. Here’s the vital part of my criticism from my review: “Well, the title says it all. “Too Many.” Too many doctors. Too many dead doctors. Too many people who don’t know who they are. Or who aren’t who they say they are. Too many injuries and illnesses. Too many suspects. Too many motives. Too many random connections. And one “too much”–as in a plot twist that reminded me a little too much of one of Dame Agatha Christie’s well-known ploys.”

    And…I have that edition of the Peter Curtis book. I’m betting that you’ll get to it on your TBR pile before I do on mine. 🙂

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  6. Peter Curtis is the pen name for Norah Lofts who is better known for women-in-peril and Gothic romance novels. I’ve not read any of her books as Curtis, but I’ve seen the movie of The Witches which is based on her supernatural thriller The Devil’s Own, a poor man’s Wicker Man IMO with Joan Fontaine playing yet another neurotic woman who has permanent look of puzzlement on her face.

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