As The Evenings Draw In, R.I.P. VIII Begins…

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“Stories can make us look back over our shoulders and question every creak and groan on a dark, quiet night. Stories can cause our hearts to race with ever-increasing tension as we forgo sleep to rush towards a surprising conclusion. Stories can make us suspicious of every character as we challenge the protagonist to be the first to solve the crime. Stories can make us sleep with the lights on, make us pull the covers just a little bit tighter, and can make every shadow seem more menacing than they ever have before….

…. there is something delicious about the ability of the printed word to give us a fright. At no time of the year is this more of a delight than when Summer heat turns to Autumn chill as the days become ever darker.”

The annual invitation from Stainless Steel Droppings to read ….

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

…. is not to be resisted, and I have a wonderful pool of books on hand ….

The Skull and the Nightingale by Michael Irwin

“When Richard Fenwick returns to London, his wealthy godfather, James Gilbert, has an unexpected proposition. Gilbert has led a sedate life in Worcestershire, but feels the urge to experience, even vicariously, the extremes of human feeling: love, passion, and something much more sinister …”

My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart (for Mary Stewart Reading Week)

“Nothing ever happened to Camilla Haven — until a stranger approached her in a crowded Athens café, handed her the keys to a black car parked by the curb, and whispered, “A matter of life and death.”….”

Hell! Said the Duchess by Michael Arlen

“A female killer stalks the streets of London, sleeping with young men before slashing their throats and mutilating their bodies. The crimes have baffled the police and enraged Londoners, who demand the murderer’s arrest. Mary, Duchess of Dove, a gentle young widow who is beloved by all who know her, seems an unlikely suspect, but the clues all point to her ….”

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

“Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution ….”

The Unforgiving by Charlotte Cory

“The distinguished architect Edward Glass has been recently widowed – with great inconvenience to himself. He impulsively marries Mrs Elizabeth Cathcart, a young widow he knows almost nothing about ….”

The Bones of Paris by Laurie R King

“The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modelling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle …”

He Arrived at Dusk by Ruby Ferguson

“From the moment William Mertoun arrives to catalogue the library at Colonel Barr’s old mansion on the desolate Northumbrian moors, he senses something is terribly wrong. Barr’s brother Ian has just died, mysteriously and violently, and the Colonel himself is hidden away in a locked room, to which his sinister nurse denies all access ….”

The Family Thief by Annabel Markova

“As Iolanthe and Carol grow up, Iolanthe begins to wonder how well she ever knew her foster sister, and soon her loyalties are tested to destruction in order to save her parents’ marriage, and the family itself ….”

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

“In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent séance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another ….”

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

” Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which they became bound. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened ….”

And I’ve pulled out my Virago ghost story anthologies too …

Now tell me, do you have seasonal reading plans?

Clearing the Decks: The Final Round of Introductions … for now …

I am creating a home library of the books that I think I can let go after reading, or maybe let go without reading at all for my Clearing the Decks Project

The project began last year with one hundred books. By the end of the year forty books had left the premises last year, and so I’m adding forty more for 2012.

I’m introducing the books ten at a time, and so here are the final ten to make up the hundred I’m going to draw on.

Do let me know if I have a book that you’ve loved and I’ll try to make it a priority. Or a book that you’ve hated and I should think twice about.

The Chinese Shawl by Patricia Wentworth

Tanis Lyle was one of those passionate women who always get their own way. Her cousin Laura hated her. Most women did. But men found her irresistible and she used them mercilessly. So when Tanis was found murdered there seemed to be any number of suspects on hand. But Miss Silver had her own suspicions . . .

A mystery author from ‘my period’ I had yet to try, so when this one turned up on a charity shop sale table I picked it up.

The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

Langston Braverman returns to Haddington, Indiana (pop. 3,062) after walking out on an academic career that has equipped her for little but lording it over other people. Amos Townsend is trying to minister to a congregation that would prefer simple affirmations to his esoteric brand of theology.
What draws these difficult—if not impossible—people together are two wounded little girls who call themselves Immaculata and Epiphany. They are the daughters of Langston’s childhood friend and the witnesses to her murder. And their need for love is so urgent that neither Langston nor Amos can resist it, though they do their best to resist each other.

I think I bought this at the lovely Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road back in the days when I worked just around the corner in Cranbourn Street. Which means I’ve had it for a very long time. I’ve started a couple of times and I’ve liked it but not been sufficiently engaged to keep reading. So next time it’s finish or ditch!

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

Two 19th century stage illusionists, the aristocratic Rupert Angier and the working-class Alfred Borden, engage in a bitter and deadly feud; the effects are still being felt by their respective families a hundred years later. Working in the gaslight-and-velvet world of Victorian music halls, they prowl edgily in the background of each other’s shadowy life, driven to the extremes by a deadly combination of obsessive secrecy and insatiable curiosity. At the heart of the row is an amazing illusion they both perform during their stage acts. The secret of the magic is simple, and the reader is in on it almost from the start, but to the antagonists the real mystery lies deeper. Both have something more to hide than the mere workings of a trick.

I loved the film and I was curious about the book, which I had heard was quite different. So I picked up a copy on ReadItswapIt.

Wicked by Gregory MacGuire

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

There was a time when this book was everywhere; I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so when I spotted a copy in a charity shop I picked it up.

Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King

Filippo Brunelleschi’s design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of over 140 feet exceeds St Paul’s in London and St Peter’s in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington DC, making it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. The story of its creation and its brilliant but “hot-tempered” creator is told in Ross King’s delightful Brunelleschi’s Dome.

I read a historical novel set in Florence – I think it was one of Sarah Dunant’s – and it made me want to read about the real history. I asked on for recommendation LibraryThing, this book was mentioned, and so I acquired this copy. I forget where it came from.

Last Train from Liguria by Christine Dwyer-Hickey

In 1933, Bella Stuart leaves her quiet London life to move to Italy to tutor the child of a beautiful Jewish heiress and an elderly Italian aristocrat. Living at the family’s summer home, Bella’s reserve softens as she comes to love her young charge, and find friendship with Maestro Edward, his enigmatic music teacher. But as the decade draws to an end and fascism tightens its grip on Europe, the fact that Alec is Jewish places his life in grave danger. Bella and Edward take the boy on a terrifying train journey out of Italy – one they have no reason to believe any of them will survive…

I bought this new – the synopsis made me think of wonderful books by Kate O’Brien and Maura Laverty, which has to be a good thing.

Madame Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers by Antonia Quirke

‘Madame Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers’ is the story of how a young female film critic’s love-life is affected and nearly ruined by her obsession with male movie stars. As her increasingly hapless hunt for the right man unfolds and her television and newspaper career unravels, our heroine finally begins to understand that difficult truth: that life is not like the movies. Entwined with the narrative of her real-life love affairs is a kaleidoscope of digressions on great screen actors — her dream-life with Gerard Depardieu, a personal ad seeking out Tom Cruise, a disastrous climactic encounter with Jeff Bridges. It’s a helter skelter ride through love and the movies which reads like a screwball comedy. And the screwball is our heroine, who seems to know everything about movies and the human heart, and nothing about anything else.

An impulse buy in a charity shop – the title intrigued me, I had to take a look, and once I’d looked I had to bring the book home.

The King’s Daughter by Christie Dickason

As First Daughter of England, Elizabeth seems to live a life of privilege and luxury. Yet she is imprisoned by duty; a helpless pawn in the political machinations of her father, James I. She trusts only her beloved brother Henry until she is sent a slave-girl, Tallie, who becomes her unlikely advisor. As their friendship grows, the innocent Elizabeth must learn to listen to dangerous truths about her louche father and his volatile court. Can she risk playing their games of secrecy and subterfuge in order to forge her path to love and freedom? Tragically robbed of Henry in mysterious circumstances, Elizabeth must summon all her resilience and courage to determine her own future. As a stream of suitors are invited to court, her father’s unpredictability and the unstable political climate threaten to destroy her one chance for happiness and perhaps even her life.

I’d seen this in the library, I meant to borrow it one day, but then I saw a copy in a charity shop and I couldn’t resist.

Visibility by Boris Starling

London, 1952. As the fog rolls in, the chase begins… A stranger’s approach offering highly sensitive information seemed routine to an ex-spy turned policeman. But when a body turns up instead of state secrets, Detective Inspector Herbert Smith finds himself in a race against time to solve the murder. For he is not the only one after the dead man’s secret. It seems the CIA, KGB and MI-5 are all vying to get to the truth first and some are prepared to kill for it. As the Great Smog descends on London, bringing chaos and death, Herbert finds himself facing one of the greatest evils of the twentieth century. At stake is the biggest prize of all: the key to life itself.

I think I picked this one up in Waterstone’s on a day trip to Truro.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore

Wedlock is the remarkable story of the Countess of Strathmore and her marriage to Andrew Robinson Stoney. Mary Eleanor Bowes was one of Britain’s richest young heiresses. She married the Count of Strathmore who died young, and pregnant with her lover’s child, Mary became engaged to George Gray. Then in swooped Andrew Robinson Stoney. Mary was bowled over and married him within the week. But nothing was as it seemed. Stoney was broke, and his pursuit of the wealthy Countess a calculated ploy. Once married to Mary, he embarked on years of ill-treatment, seizing her lands, beating her, terrorising servants, introducing prostitutes to the family home, kidnapping his own sister. But finally after many years, a servant helped Mary to escape. She began a high-profile divorce case that was the scandal of the day and was successful. But then Andrew kidnapped her and undertook a week-long rampage of terror and cruelty until the law finally caught up with him.

I must confess that I saw this in the library, thought I must borrow it when I had some space on my ticket, and then I realised that I had a copy at home.  Another book from Waterstone’s in Truro I think.

Any thoughts on this batch?

It brings me up to one hundred books again, so now I must update the project page.

And I’m going to report every ten books. Quarterly reporting didn’t work last year, and I’ve noticed that I have three projects involving one hundred books –  Clearing The Decks, Filling The Gaps and A Century of Books – so I’m going to take stock on each one every ten books.

At least, that’s the idea…