Crooked Herring by L C Tyler

It seemed such a long time since hapless crime writer Ethelred Tressider and his chocolate loving literary agent Elsie Thirkettle found themselves entangled in criminal doings, and I had begun to think that I might never see them again.

I was delight when I found that they had returned, in Crooked Herring, but when I opened the book the very first page told me that things had changed, and that this might be a last farewell.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but if it is it’s a fabulous final act.

Crooked_HerringEthelred was sceptical when another – rather more successful – crime writer told him that he feared that he might have murdered someone on New Year’s Eve.

Henry Holiday explained that he couldn’t remember exactly what had happened on New Year’s Eve, because he had partied rather too hard. But he was sure that he had killed another crime writer – Crispin Vynall.

He couldn’t – or wouldn’t – explain how, why or where. He wanted Ethelred to apply his understanding of crime and his investigative skills to find out. Ethelred was flattered to have been chosen from so many other possible candidates in the CWA, and so he didn’t stop to think why Henry had chosen him.

After all, Elsie pointed out, solving the case would win him such kudos, and some great reviews.

She wasn’t at his side for this investigation – and it wasn’t entirely clear whether that was her decision or his – but she did offer advice in numerous phone calls and an occasional lunch meeting.

Her actions and her input were documented in extracts from her diary. That was a significant change. Elsie was a little more ruthless that I remembered, and Ethelred a little more his own man.

As Ethelred investigated he became entangled with the wife of the supposed victim, he learned about sock-puppets and the manipulation of Amazon reviews,  he learned even more about certain members of the CWA. And then he found himself in serious trouble.

Could – or would – Elsie save him?

Or could this really be the end?

It’s definitely the end of something – and there’s a jaw-dropping surprise at the end of this book –  but it may not the end of everything.

Time will tell.

The plotting is very, very clever. There were times when I thought I knew – and sometimes I did but there were as many times when I was wonderfully surprised. The way that Amazon Reviews and the CWA were used was fabulous. And the balance of plot, wit and character was very well done.

The details are lovely, and the whole is a wonderful entertainment. Clever crime writing and wonderful wit!

This book stands alone, it’s my favourite to date; but if you like the sound of this one you really should read all five Ethelred and Elsie books.

I can recommend them all.

Herring on the Nile by L C Tyler

Hooray for the return of Ethelred and Elsie!

I anticipated a clever mystery and a fine entertainment, and that’s just what I got.

Ethelred is a middle-aged crime writer, scraping a living by writing three different series under three different aliases. Or rather he was. Ethelred has received an unexpected inheritance. He has a new lady friend too. And those facts might just be linked…

He books a Nile cruise: a holiday with his new love and a research trip for a new novel. But then he is jilted.

Elsie, his literary agent, is quick to invite herself along for the trip instead. But it is a decision she lives to regret.

There are threats, murder, kidnapping, and terrorism. There are misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and much confusion. And there are twists aplenty.

Yes, there’s plenty of plot. And a fine cast of characters to play it out.

And there’s more: intelligence, wit and lovely details. Too many wonderful things to pick out, but I must commend Ethelred for continuing to provide answers to the interview questions from local newspapers at Elsie’s behest. They reflected his changing circumstances, they reflected his life as a writer, and they were an absolute joy.

The similarity of the title of this book to a certain novel by Agatha Christie is not a coincidence. There are echoes of that story in this book, but there are differences too. it is a fine tribute, but a fine book in its own right too. Not a pastiche, but a modern novel following in a fine tradition.

I had a lovely time travelling with Ethelred and Elsie, and I’m hoping to meet them again in the future.

Crime Fiction: The A to Z

When I set out on Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet I promised myself two things.

The first was that I would read nothing just for the sake of filling a slot, that I would only read books that I would have picked up sooner or later anyway.

I’ve managed that, though I did have to bend the rules a little for the difficult letter X and I had to throw in an emergency short story when the book I’d picked for letter Y let me down.

The second was that I would mix things up, and choose some familiar and some less familiar books.

And so my list is made up of:

  • Persephone books for H and X, and a classic short story by a Persephone author for G.
  •  A Virago Modern Classic, and a winner of the CWA Gold Dagger to boot,  for K.
  •  A wonderful anthology of new writers at W.
  •  Victorian crime for S and Victoriana for U. I would have liked to read more of both, but I ran out of time and letters.
  •  Crime fiction in translation at L and V.
  •  A Cornish book, set in very familiar countryside, at B.
  •  Agatha Christie re-reads at A and F. A for Agatha seemed to be the perfect place to start, and once I had re-read one book a number of others called me.
  •  Neglected woman authors, who were published in numbered green Penguins, at E, M, P and R. If I have learned one thing through the alphabet, it is always to look carefully at green Penguins as there are some real gems there.
  •  Male authors from the middle of the last century, who aren’t as lauded as some but really should be, at I, N and Q.
  •  A lovely range of contemporary crime fiction at C, D, J, O, T and Z.
  •  And that excellent, emergency short story at Y.

Mission accomplished, I think!

Here’s the A to Z in full.

A is for Agatha The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
B is for Bolitho Framed in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho
C is for Crombie Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie
D is for Darkside Darkside by Belinda Bauer
E is for Ethel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White
F is for Five Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
G is for Glaspell A Jury of her Peers by Susan Glaspell (short story)
H is for Holding The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
I is for Innes Death at the President’s Lodging by Michael Innes
J is for Jane The Burning by Jane Casey
K is for Kelly The Spoilt Kill by Mary Kelly
L is for Läckberg
The Stone-Cutter by Camilla Läckberg
M is for Mary Death and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt
N is for Not Not to be Taken by Anthony Berkley
O is for Other The Other Half Lives by Sophie Hannah
P is for Potts The Man with the Cane by Jean Potts
Q is for Question A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake
R is for Roth Shadow of a Lady by Holly Roth
S is for Study A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan-Doyle
T is for Tyler The Herring in the Library (and others) by L C Tyler
U is for Unburied The Unburied by Charles Palliser
V is for Van der Vlugt Shadow Sister by Simone Van Der Vlugt
W is for Written Written in Blood: a Honno Anthology
X is for Expendable The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes
Y is for You You are a Gongedip by Sophie Hannah (short story)
Z is for Zouradi The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

And that really is the end of the alphabet.

So where does my crime fiction reading go now? Well, I have The Quarry by Johan Theorin, A Herring on the Nile by LC Tyler, Now You See Me by S J Bolton, and two books by Erin Kelly in my library pile. My own green Penguins and my Agatha Christie collection are calling too, Plus those authors I discovered, and rediscovered, along the way and want to read again. And recommendations I picked up from others along the way ….

No end of possibilities …

Crime Fiction Alphabet: T is for Tyler

I know that I first read about L C Tyler on a blog, but I really can’t remember which one. Which is a pity, because I really would like to thank whoever it was that inspired me to order that first book: I loved it, I loved the three that followed, and now I am eagerly awaiting a fifth book.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice was the book that started it all.

It introduced me to two quite wonderful characters:

Ethelred Tresidder: a middle-aged crime writer, just about scraping a living by writing under three diverse aliases, who is maybe on the brink of a mid-life crisis.

Elsie Thirkettle: Ethelred’s agent, and a formidable woman driven by ambition, curiosity and, most of all, chocolate.

Elsie persuaded Ethelred to investigate his ex wife’s disappearance, hoping that it would provide inspiration for a new novel. But soon she wondered if Ethelred knew more about that disappearance than he had let on ….

A lovely scenario on which a fine mystery is built, told with warmth and wit, and enriched by a wonderful agent-author relationship.

And then there was A Very Persistent Illusion. It was that rare and very special thing, a second novel just as good as the author’s first but completely different.

It is the story of a commitment-phobic young man, whose attempts to escape a girlfriend sets off a chain of events that will force him to look at his past and maybe change his future.

A very difficult story to sum up, quite different from anything else I had ever read, so I’ll just say that intriguing characters, clever plotting and fine writing made it oh so readable, and that I definitely recommend reading.

After that I was intrigued to see what would come next.

It was the return of Ethelred and Elsie in Ten Little Herrings. I loved them just as much as I had the first time, and I loved the story that found them caught up in a modern country house mystery with echoes of the golden age and a touch of the surreal. It really was so clever and so entertaining.

And I was pleased that the cover of the book bore the slogan “An Elsie and Ethelred Mystery.” It definitely suggested that there would be more chances to meet the duo I had grown to love.

And that brings me to a book I haven’t written about before. I read The Herring in the Library when I was having a break from blogging last summer. It was another gem, I always meant to come back to come back to it, and now I am.

The story opens with Elsie and Ethelred playing Cluedo. The postman arrives, bringing Ethelred an invitation to dine with an old school friend he saw recently for the first time in years: Sir Robert Muntham of Muntham Court.

Elsie’s curiosity was piqued, and she persuaded Ethelred to take her as his guest. It was a strange evening, and it ended with the host dead in his locked study.

As the title suggests, this mystery with its roots in the golden age. There’s the aforementioned locked door, there’s a secret passage, there’s a lovely variety of suspects, and there’s a plot that twists and turns beautifully.

But it’s a golden age mystery in a very modern world. Not a pastiche but a modern novel by an author who has taken inspiration from the finest writing of another age, and used that inspiration to create something that is entirely his own.

And there’s more!

Ethelred is writing a new novel: a historical mystery, featuring Chaucer’s sidekick Master Thomas, investigating a crime that has striking similarities with Sir Robert’s death. Maybe it will cast light on that death…

As ever, there’s warmth, wit and wonderful writing to hold everything together.

It all ends in a fabulous denouement, with a such a clever twist.

It’s a while since I read the book, so some of the details have slipped my mind, but I do remember that it was a joy to read and that it more than lived up to expectations that the author’s previous novels had sent sky-high.

And one of the greatest joys was meeting Elsie and Ethelred again.

They will be back again very soon in Herring on the Nile. Let me share the blurb to see if I can entice you :

“In an effort to rejuvenate his flagging career, crime novelist Ethelred Tressider decides to set his new book in Egypt and embarks on a ‘research trip’ with his literary agent, Elsie Thirkettle, in tow. No sooner has their cruise on the Nile begun, however, than an attempt is made on Ethelred’s life. When the boat’s engine explodes and a passenger is found bloodily murdered, suspicion falls on everyone aboard – including a third-rate private eye, two individuals who may or may not be undercover police, and Ethelred himself. As the boat drifts out of control, though, it seems that events are being controlled by a party far more radical than anyone could have guessed.”

Now doesn’t that sound like a journey not to be missed?


The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

And so next week U is for … ?

Bookish Thoughts on Boxing Day

In our house, Boxing Day is a day for fun, relaxing, and a little contemplation.

And I’ve had a little fun contemplating this year’s reading, with the help of a set of questions that I borrowed from Verity, who borrowed from Stacy, who found it at The Perpetual Page Turner …

Best Book of 2010

I read many wonderful books this year, but if I have to pick out just one it must be Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley. Daphne du Maurier wrote an introduction to her friend’s book, and she can convey its charms much better than I ever could:

“”‘Love in the Sun’ will make other writers feel ashamed. And, curiously enough, old-fashioned too. It is a revelation in the art of writing and may be one of the pioneers in a new renaissance which shall and must take place in our time if the novel is to survive at all. While we struggle to produce our complicated plots, all sex and psychology, fondly imagining we are drawing modern life while really we are as démodé as jazz and mah jong, Leo Walmsley gives the reader a true story, classic in its simplicity, of a man and a girl who possessed nothing in life but love for each other and faith in the future, and because of these things, were courageous and happy…”

Worst Book of 2010

Luckily I didn’t read anything this year that was bad enough for me to give it the label “worst book.”

Most Disappointing Book of 2010

There were a few that I didn’t finish, but their names escape me now. The most disappointing book that I did finish was Trespass by Rose Tremain. Not a bad book by any means, but it didn’t live up to its potential or to the high expectations that Rose Tremain’s earlier work created.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2010

The cover of Diamond Star Halo was eye-catching, but it really didn’t look like my sort of book. That title rang a bell though, a tune lodged in my head, and the next line just wouldn’t come. I only picked it up to look for an answer, but the synopsis grabbed me, I remembered that I had really liked Tiffany Murray’s previous novel, and so the book came home. It proved to be a gem.

Book Recommended Most in 2010

I was a little disappointed when I saw The Winds of Heaven listed as one of the new Persephone Books for autumn. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Monica Dickens, but I already had The Winds of Heaven and many of her other books on my shelves , and I had hoped to discover a new author or two. I read The Winds of Heaven on holiday, loved it, and saw that it fitted into the Persephone list perfectly. And I’ve been saying that ever since!

Best Series You Discovered in 2010

I met Gussie just a few weeks ago when I read The Burying Beetle, and I fell in love with the gravely ill but wonderfully alive twelve-year-old, who so loved books, films, the whole world around her. I am so pleased that Ann Kelley continues her story in three more books, and the next one has already found its way home from the library.

Favourite New Authors in 2010

It has to be a writer from the first half of the century who is only new in that she if new to me: Sheila Kaye-Smith. I read Joanna Godden in the summer, and it pushed her creator on to the “I must find all of her books” list.

Most Hilarious Read in 2010

I am not a great lover of comic writing, but there are one or two authors who combine wit with intelligence and warmth who I love dearly. L C Tyler is one of them and his most recent book, The Herring in the Library, was a delight.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010

Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, an Italian graphic novel that retold the classical story of Orpheus and Euridyce, was unsettling and utterly compelling. I read it in a single sitting.

Book Most Anticipated in 2010

Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore was the Holy Grail for knitters for a long time. Copies were so scarce and changed hands for ridiculous sums. I could only dream of finding a copy and being able to knot some wonderful designs that had been in my Ravelry queue since day one. But then a reissue was announced and I am pleased to be able to report that I now own the new, updated edition, with wonderful patterns and so much information about Aran knitting, and that it every bit as wonderful as I had expected.

Favourite Cover of a Book in 2010

I was completely captivated by the cover of The Still Point by Amy Sackville as soon as it caught my eye. Now I just have to get past that cover and read the book!

Most Memorable Character in 2010

There are a few contenders, but I think it has to be Martha. I met her in The Eye of Love a couple of years ago and I read more of her story in Martha in Paris and Martha, Eric and George this year. Martha is both ordinary and extraordinary, and completely her own woman. And the incomparable Margery Sharp tells her story with such warmth and wit that it is quite impossible to not be charmed.

Most Beautifully Written Book in 2010

The Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson was just perfect.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2010

Beside the Sea by Veronica Olmi still makes me catch my breath whenever I think about it.

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited until 2010 to Read

I fell in love with Colette’s writing years ago and read everything of hers I could lay my hands on. How did Gigi slip through the net? Why did I wait until this year to meet her? I really have no idea!

2009: A Year in the Library … and a Year in the Pub


Let’s start in the library.

J. Kaye from J. Kaye’s Book Blog hosted the 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge.

You could commit to reading 12, 25 or 50 library books in 2009. I went for the maximum, and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.

Here are a few reasons why I love  libraries:

  • I am lucky to have a good public library service – I can order any book in the county or in a large reserve stock for just 50p.
  • I also belong to the wonderful Morrab Library. There are only 19 private subscription libraries in the UK and this one is just a few minutes walk from home.
  • I can still visualise where my favourite books were in the library when I was a child.
  • Without libraries I wouldn’t be able to read anything like as widely as I do.
  • I pass the library as I walk home from work. A little look around the shelves after a difficult day is wonderfully theraputic!
  • I like to think I can influence what the library stocks by ordering and borrowing books. I have been known to borrow under-borrowed books that I own to help their statistics.
  • Don’t book lovers have a duty to support libraries? If we don’t we can’t assume they will still be there and then how will people who can’t afford to buy books read and how will other people discover books?
  • I first met my fiancé in the library!

I’ve  read 106 library books this year.

Some wonderful new authors and a few books that I hadn’t heard of until I saw them on the shelves.

I’ve added some to my shelves since, there are more I’d like to.

And I’ve uncovered a few put of print gems.

The full  list is here.


And so to the pub

The 2009 Pub Challenge was hosted by Michelle at

Read at least nine books published for the first time in your country in 2009. I’ve done 3 rounds – 27 books.

Here they are:




(There are a few more I’ve read but not written about yet and, I suspect, a couple I’ve missed.)

Some great books – the ones I’ve starred are la creme de la creme!

Ten Little Herrings by L C Tyler

Ten Little Herrings

L C Tyler’s first novel The Herring Seller’s Apprentice was recommended to me, and so earlier this year I ordered a copy. At first it seemed that it was a superior cosy mystery, but it soon proved to be something much more interesting – and excellent.

I was pleased to find that the author’ s second book was completely different – and every bit as good. But that realisation did make me start to wonder. What became of Ethelred and Elsie, the central characters of The Herring Seller’s Apprentice?

And so I was delighted to find that book three – Ten Little Herrings – picks up their story again.

Underachieving crime writer Ethelred Tressider had vanished. But Elsie Thirkettle, his agent, is determined not to lose her asset. He may not be that valuable an asset, but he is her asset after all!

She soon tracks him down. Agent and author are reunited in a French hotel. And then things get interesting. Two hotel guests are murdered, and Elsie and Ethelred find themselves in the middle of the modern day equivilant of a classic country house mystery.

Elsie’s urgent need for chocolate leads her into trouble, but she still sets to work detecting.

Ethelred is more laid back, pondering his life and career as Elsie charges around. His contemplations make wonderful reading, but it does seem that something is amiss. Might Ethelred be a man with something to hide?

It sounds simple maybe, but it isn’t. Ten Little Herrings never flags – detail, wit and wonderful characters make the story sing from start to finish.

Ah yes, the finish. It’s wonderful! Elsie goes for a classic denouement with all of the suspects assembled to hear the truth. But of course, it couldn’t be that simple!

And just when you think everything is wrapped up there is another twist – and the kind of twist not usually found in murder mysteries. It makes you think again about what went before and it makes possibilities for Ethelred and Elsie even more intriguing.

The cover bears the slogan “An Elsie and Ethelred Mystery”, which certainly suggests a series of more than two books.

I do hope so – future installments are eagerly awaited!

A Very Persistent Illusion by L C Tyler


I read L C Tyler’s first novel (The Herring Seller’s Apprentice) recently and I enjoyed it so much that I immediately ordered this, his second.

It has characteristics rare in second novels – it is as good as its predecessor, but completely different.

A Very Persistent Illusion is the story of Chris Sorensen. Asked to describe himself he would tell you that he is the inventor of the Sorensen-Birtwistle Revised Scale of Girl Rage which he believes will one day take its deserved place alongside other scales which measure danger. That tells you a lot!

He has a steady job and a comfortable life, and apart from the further development of his creation, his main concern is advancing his relationship with his pretty young assistant and avoiding the possibility of marriage to his girlfriend Virginia.

Chris isn’t the most attractive of characters, but fortunately he is engaging and eminently believable.

In a parallel narrative, set around three hundred years earlier, a French philosopher is considering the nature of reality and verbally jousting with an interested waiter. This would be useful to Chris, but of course he can’t hear them – and it’s doubtful that he would listen even if he could.

Back in the present, the death of Virginia’s father leads her mother to make a very indiscreet revelation about her late husband. That revelation sends Chris and Virginia off on an investigation, and it soons become clear that Virginia’s father was not the man she thought he was.

Meanwhile, and maybe more importantly, Chris’s life is slowly unravelling. Facts about his past slowly emerge and acknowledgement of that past could make or break him.

This may not sound scintillating but, trust me, it is the execution that makes this book sing. Wonderful, fully-formed and multi-layered characters who will stay with you; a plot that at first seems simple seems simple, but that you soon realise is so clever, and that will make you laugh and cry; and just the right style of writing to hold everything together.

Definitely an author to watch!

Library Loot

I have serious arrears in my library reading and I tried to resist, but there were three books this week that I just had to bring home. Here they are:


The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

“Louisa is an imaginative and curious chambermaid who, while cleaning rooms at the New Yorker Hotel, stumbles across a man living permanently in room 3327, which he has transformed into a scientific laboratory. Brought together by a shared interest in the pigeons that nest in the hotel, Louisa discovers that the mysterious guest is Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant – and most neglected – inventors of the twentieth century.”

This is my first venture into this year’s Orange prize books. It looks promising!


A Very Persistent Illusion by L C Tyler

“Inventor of the Sorensen-Birtwistle Revised Scale of Girl-Rage, Chris has a beautiful girlfriend (Virginia), two like able potential parents-in-law (Hugh and Daphne) and a classic sports car with a leather-covered gear stick. Impending matrimony and the car’s leaking roof seem to be the only clouds on the horizon. But his apparently comfortable world is turned upside down when Hugh dies suddenly and Daphne (after one Irish Cream too many) reveals some shocking information. Meanwhile…In an inn, in the Danube Valley, in the seventeenth century, a certain cantankerous philosopher seems to have some words of guidance for our modern-day hero. We join Virginia and Chris (and Rene) as they seek to uncover the truth about Hugh, themselves and the meaning of life.”

I liked L C Tyler’s first book (The Herring Seller’s Apprentice) so much that I ordered his second straight away. And I see from his biography that, like me, he has a border terrier. Definitely a good sign!


That Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Orange Prize-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, come twelve dazzling stories in which she turns her penetrating eye on the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Nigeria and the West. In ‘A Private Experience,’ a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In ‘Tomorrow Is Too Far,’ a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of ‘Imitation’ finds her comfortable life threatened when she learns that her husband back in Lagos has moved his mistress into their home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to re-examine them. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow and longing, this collection is a resounding confirmation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s prodigious storytelling powers.”

I hear great things about Purple Hibiscus or Half a Yellow Sun, but I haven’t read either yet, so my plan is to read these short stories first and then move on to the novels.


Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

And what did you find in the library this week?

See more Library Loot here.

The Herring Seller’s Apprentice by L C Tyler


Ethelred Tressider is a writer. Well actually he is three writers – he writes traditional police procedurals as Peter Fielding, historical crime as J R R Elliot and romance as Amanda Collins. The three are successful enough to ensure that they go on being published, but no more than that.

Ethelred’s writing is not going well and life has fallen into a rut, and he knows it.

But then, suddenly, things begin to happen. His ex-wife Geraldine, who left him for his best friend years ago, has gone missing, leaving the impression that her ex-husband may have been the last person to see her.

What has happened? Has she been killed? Has she killed herself. Or has she maybe set the stage for her own disappearance?

Ethelred’s chocolate loving agent Elsie Thirkettle tries to persuade him to investigate – after all, solving the mystery would do wonders for his career!

But soon she begins to wonder if her client knows more about what has happened than he telling her. Is Ethelred as innocent as he first appears?

This is a wonderful tale – cleverly constructed and well executed, with great warmth and wit. Some developments are guessable, but it spoils the journey not one bit.

That’s largely because Ethelred and Elsie are such marvellous creations. Their conversations are a joy and it was a delight to spend time with them

A wonderful traditional mystery!