Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
A twisty little thriller set in Oxford. Dee is a nanny in the dysfunctional household of the newly appointed Master of an Oxford College. Felicity, her young charge, is haunted, selectively mute, and deeply troubled. Dee wins her trust, but events spiral out of control when Felicity goes missing. Where is she, and who is telling the truth? A compulsively readable book. I was swept along as the story unfurled: secrets were revealed, and mysteries were solved as I was propelled towards the unsettling ending. Thanks for the recommendation, kat, I will certainly be reading more Lucy Atkins in the future!
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
Are you dreaming of warmer climes? After weeks of rain, I know I am. The perfect tonic is This Rough Magic, a rip-roaring adventure story set on Corfu in the 60s. Mary Stewart books always follow a familiar template: plucky young heroine, handsome (but dastardly) baddies and breath-taking scenery. This one has all the thrills you’d expect passionate clinches, smuggling, fast cars, and zippy boats. There’s even a friendly dolphin. It was a bit of slow starter, but worth sticking with if only for the pure, unfettered escapism.
Queen High by C J Carey
The sequel to Widowland, the clever re-imagining of history if we hadn’t won the war. Instead, an ‘alliance’ is agreed with Nazi Germany, with England firmly held in the yoke of a controlling, brutal ‘protectorate’. Widowland ended on rather a cliff-hanger, so I was eager to start Queen High. We’re reunited with our likeable heroine, Rose Ransom, who works in the cultural ministry. In this alternative reality, all women are divided into a strict caste system, and Rose is tasked with re-writing classic books and poetry, cleansing them of any subversive messages. Every page is taught with danger and tension, especially when Rose meets Wallace Simpson, who has some juicy secrets to share. This series – and I’m sure there’ll be another book – is a cross between Fatherland and The Handmaid’s Tale. A bit disturbing, but eminently readable.
A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
Another highly enjoyable outing for Miss Marple. With theatrical flourish, a murder is scheduled in the small ads of the local paper in Chipping Cleghorn. Local curiosity is piqued, and our cast duly gathers in the drawing room at the appointed hour. What follows is a faultless whodunit that kept me gripped till the very last page. I’m new to reading Miss Marple books, and what surprises me most is how fresh and modern they feel. Well, perhaps except for Miss Marple’s reputation as ‘the super Pussy of all old Pussies’. That hasn’t aged well.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
A heart-warming story of female friendship, set in 1930s Kentucky. Alice is an English rose, completely out of place, and struggling to make a go of her marriage to Bennet. She’s homesick and lonely but finds solace in by joining a new band of lady librarians on horseback. Together the women venture into the wild landscape, visiting isolated families in the mountains and sharing the joy of reading. Adventures are had, and lifelong friendships are forged. A nice bit of light historical escapism.
The Heart of the House by Naomi Jacobs
The Heart of the House (1950) is a brilliant read. It’s a real love letter to Yorkshire, and features some beautifully drawn scenes and characters. There’s a bit of gossipy village life and some fascinating details of life in the pub trade in the early twentieth century, plus just the right level of narrative energy to keep the pages turning nicely. Out of print sadly, but there are second hand copies on Ebay.