Today, I’m taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, which the theme for today is our favourite short stories/novellas. Onto the post!
Today, I’m reviewing the first half of the wonderful Mystery and Mayhem anthology, written by a collection of UK authors and published by Egmont. I reviewed the second part of this collection on Book Murmuration a few weeks ago and Louise reviewed this half here last week.
Onto the reviews!
God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge
While I found this quite different in tone, and much darker, than the other stories within the anthology, I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of Ben; who is assistant to one of two pernickety painters tasked with painting the ‘God’s Eye’ view of London, and what happens when one of them is fatally poisoned. I liked Ben as a character and his unselfish motive for solving for solving the mystery, as well as how the mystery itself unfolds.
The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss
This is a sublime story set in the Georgian era, which shows that Helen Moss can write an expertly researched page turner regardless of length or the historical era it’s set in. It focues on a seemingly-rich family who are hosting a dinner to impress their elder daughter’s suitor, until he’s poisoned by their prize pineapple! Their servant Quality Fruit and younger daughter Catherine set about investigating. I absolutely adored them as a detective duo, and I thought the mystery was really intriguing. The historical setting was one I’d never seen before, but it felt realistic and the world was well built. The writing style is easy to read and hugely enjoyable; the last line especially made laugh. Finally, I loved the reveal of the culprit as I definetly didn’t expect the story to go in that direction.
The Murder of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn
The last story in the Poison Plots section tells the tale of shop girl turned detective Angelica as she becomes embroiled in solving the murder of her former boss: hairdresser Monsieur Pierre. Angelica is a gloriously clever heroine, and I also liked that we got told she becomes a famous detective later in life. This is super fun to read as it’s such a melodramatic, madcap mystery (I guessed culprit, but I still had a lot of fun following along till the end). I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of watching Death in Paradise, excpet with child detectives! This has made me want to pick up the Violet books at some point in the future.
Safe–Keeping by Sally Nicholls
As a huge fan of most of Sally Nicholls’s books, I found it interesting to see her turn her hand to the mystery genre. This is a Boys’ Own style story which feautures three office boys trying to solve the mystery of a necklace which has disappeared from the office safe. The narrator is great and has a very distinctive voice. The dialogue and tone appeared realistic for the time, and I also enjoyed the friendship between the three boys. I found the solution of the msytery quite obvious, but I did like the way the detectives came to the comclusion.
The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine
In this offshoot from the Sinclair’s Mysteries, we see one member of the gang solve a mystery in a theatre. I love a good theatre mystery (especially the Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton!) and this one was no exception. Woodfine’s prose is as flawless as ever, and I enjoyed seeing things from Lil’s perspective as we tend to follow Sophie during the main series. Finally, I didn’t guess who stole the pearls, and this has really whet my appetite for the 4th and final Sinclair’s book, which came out last week.
The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens
In Stevens’s first foray into a contemporary setting, she proves that she’s just as excellent at creating a modern tone and setting as she is historical. She also manages to retain the Agatha Christie/Enid Blyton vibes that are so prominent in her Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries. This story is about Jamie, whose family own a hotel, as he tries to work out where the woman who checked in while he was manning reception alone, has disappeared to without a trace and why. Jamie was super endearing (I also adored his dog) and I thought he was a fabulous detective. Finally, I love how clever and complex the solution to this pacy, exciting mystery is, and I’d actually love to see more stories, or even books, in this setting.
Thank you so much for reading! What’s your favourite of these stories? Do you like any of these authors’ standalones? Are you a fan of mysteries in general?
See you soon with a new post,
Today, I’m excited to welcome my wonderful friend Louise to do a review of the second half of the marvellous Mystery and Mayhem anthology. I reviewed part one on Louise’s blog a couple of days ago, and I’m planning to to review this half in the next week or so too 😊
Newspaper owner Whyte wants a ‘Gods Eye’ view of London. Rival artists Solomon Cork and William Pother are commissioned, although they hate each other so much they refuse to fly in the air balloon together. With Cork flies his young employee Billy. Then Cork falls out of the balloon, and Billy’s friend Susan is arrested on suspicion of poisoning.
I love the trail of clues in this mystery. It was intriguing enough to keep me reading, and had the perfect balance of believable and out-of-the-ordinary. The set-up gives us just enough people to suspect, and gives Billy reason to care for Susan. Set in the 1800s, it comes across how exciting early flight was. People dream of new possibilities as the skies become accessible to humans for the first time.
The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss
It is the 1700s. Ten years ago, a child arrived in England in a crate of pineapples. He came from the plantations, but was kept as a playmate for Lord Catchpole’s daughters. He was named for the words on the side of the crate, Quality First.
Now Lord Catchpole’s eldest daughter Eliza is engaged against her will to Lord Ponsonby. The pineapple cuttings taken when Quality First was a small child now bare fruit, and Lord Catchpole is engaged in fierce rivalry with his neighbours for the best pineapples. When a pineapple explodes, and a worm bites Lord Ponsonby on the nose, the race is on to find out who put the worm in the pineapple before servant Sam is punished.
Beautifully written. I love Moss’s prose. Her descriptions are so subtle, and often conveyed with action rather than statement. The setting is brought to life through the focus of Lord Catchpole’s obsession with the exotic. As import became wider, new goods arrived in the UK and people became obsessed with the ‘foreign’. Moss shows how what people wanted often wasn’t the real thing, but a very British idea of what another country was.
This was one of the few stories which wasn’t a murder mystery, and shows how widely the term can be applied.
The Murder Of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn
When Monsieur Pierre is murdered, Angelica ‘Jelly’ Beck vows to find out who did it. Was it Lady Osborne, who visited the same evening, or rival shopkeeper Monsieur Leonard?
I found this a little slow-going, but liked Angelica. We are told at the start of the story that she goes on to become a master detective, and the idea that she learned her skills in childhood must be exciting for young readers.
Safe-Keeping by Sally Nicholls
A necklace is stolen from solicitor Mr Mathieson’s safe, and Mr Contrad is arrested. Young empolyees Billy, Arnold and Stanley set out to find the truth, inspired by the heroes of their favourite ‘tec’ stories.
The trio of young protaganists reminded me of Katherine Woodfine’s group of young detectives. I LOVE the Sinclair mysteries, so this is positive. I liked how this story was less about the actions which happened, and more about who had the biggest motive.
The Mystery Of The Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine
Kitty Shaw’s pearls are stolen from her dressing room. She won’t go on stage without them, to the horror of the theatre producers. Why would anybody steal Kitty’s pearls?
Did I mention, I love the Sinclair Mysteries? This story is set in the same world. Instead of being told by Sophie, as in the novels, it is narrated by Lil. It was lovely to be back in a familiar world, and to hear Lil’s voice in first person. The set-up is great – a group of people are introduced, and it became apparent that someone’s actions and reactions were a little out-of-sync. A little suspicious.
The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens
James Kahn is left on reception one evening in his father’s hotel. He knows he checked Stella Smith in. Knows she wrote her name and went upstairs. In the morning, her name is gone, her room spotless and nobody believes James.
Could Stella Smith be runaway Andrea Sandford? If so, what happened? Did she simply disappear? And why are the other guests so keen for him to forget he saw her?
Unlike most of the stories in the book, it isn’t clear whether there has been a murder or any sort of incident until near the end. I love this format. Robin Stevens is masterful as what she reveals when, and I was hooked. It also had my favourite overall line, about adults: ‘they’ve been around too long, and that means they can’t see what has really happened because they’ve seen too much other stuff already’. Brilliant observation.
Thank you so much to Louise for these fabulous reviews! What did you think of this anthology, if you’ve read it?