Thirteen Members (and a Giraffe – sorry Pam’s a little superstitious!) were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the various book titles received from those unable to attend this meeting. Brenda opened the meeting and after wishing everyone a Happy New Year explained the thoughts behind the discussion format for this evening’s meeting as this was to be a “first” for us discussing 11 titles in one meeting and hopefully with Members reading several of the titles over the previous few weeks proving an interesting one!!
A Christmas Return : Several members had a go at this one … generally finding it enjoyable, an ideal length with enough background information without getting boring or repetitive, it was an easy read, lots of admiration for Maria for her strength and surviving her abusive marriage, and being likened to an episode of Miss Marple. Thumbs up for this one!
A Christmas Promise : A few members read this one which for some found to be a little superficial, predictable, trite. It was felt the characters were shallow and stereotypical. For one member the dialogue was irritating (notably the dropping of the “H’s” and estuary English phrases – well it was set in London ??!! For them, the plot was shallow, and a difficult read but others said it was very readable and a relief to find that the missing donkey was not a murder victim but had merely been taken off to appear in a Nativity. Phew! Although who didn’t enjoy this book and found it a bit too predictable with there being a donkey for the Rag & Bone cart, the murdered Rag & Bone man being called Balthazar and of course a gold box (but no Frankincense and Myrrh). Well it was Christmas! Enjoyed by a couple of members but disliked by two others
A Christmas Message : A couple of members read and generally did not enjoy this one. Too much talk in riddles from one member and the other calling it: “theological, philosophical, sociological, pontifical on the meaning of life” So this one was not liked then! Thumbs down here !
A Christmas Guest : Three members tackled this one. One commenting simple but faultless, another finding it rather slow! And another saying “very Miss Marple” enjoying the way Mariah Ellison’s character was explored and developed. Although able to guess Bedelia’s role straight away it did not for them detract from the story. Hoorah for Grandmama, surprising herself turning detective and proving extremely good at it. Quiet Thumbs Up for this one.
A Christmas Secret : Several members read this book and all enjoyed it especially as not only wanting to know who the killer was didn’t guess it until nearly at the end, a good story that was not predictable and as one member said progressed slowly and surely and then suddenly erupted! Full of interesting details of village life centred around the vicarage and church. A Thumbs Up for this one
The Christmas Visitors : A couple of members read and reported on this title saying it proved an easy read, where characters and Victorian England were well described leading to a mystery within a mystery which the likeable Henry Rathbone, friend to Judah, a judge, one of 3 Dreghorn brothers, solved, much to his personal distress, the wrongful imprisonment previously of Ashton Gower and the consequent slandering of the Dreghorn family and then sadly the circumstances of the death of Judah, actually captured the spirit of Christmas and goodwill with the whole family then penniless giving up the Manor and moving into the vicarage and re-thinking their lives. A pleasant story.
A Christmas Garland : Lots of us read this particular title with all but one member thoroughly enjoying and saying it was their favourite by a mile. A brilliant read, well written, believable with a flowing text keeping everyone guessing to the end but knowing and feeling it would all turn out well. But one member did find it was too philosophical with loose ends. Characters, settings and circumstances were described well and a plot that flew along convinced that Tallis was innocent but unable to predict how. Excellent building of tension throughout. One member who did not know much about the English/Indian uprising found it interesting as well as shocking. But a gripping “fabulous” cracking read was the general consensus here. Coming through as the front runner favourite so far A DEFINITE THUMBS UP!!
A Christmas Beginning : a couple of members reported on this title. “It was described as being a charming tale of love and hope played out against a background of deceit and death – “is sure to warm your heart during the winter season.” Members agreed that it had a warm feeling about it especially as the character Superintendent Runcorn of the Metropolitan Police headed to Anglesey to free his head only to find thoughts of Melisande Ewart the woman who stole his heart the previous year was also there. Whilst there he was then involved in solving the murder of the vicar’s sister Olivia which Melisande’s brother John had been accused of. By solving this crime winning back the heart of his one true love. Aaahh!!
A Christmas Escape : A couple of members reported on this story saying that it was an easy read, nice story right length, nothing offensive, with recently widowed and lonely Charles Lattery looking to revive his depressed spirits heading to the Mediterranean Island of Stromboli with a constant erupting volcano where a group of British tourists plan to spend the holiday. Whilst there one of the guests is found dead, a murder disguised as an accident Charles realises the suspect pool is very limited and seeks to find a motive. One member summing up saying that the story was delightful and cosy with its charming characters that mirror 19th century manners and attitudes with an artistic cleverness in the brief descriptions of her characters which many authors fail to achieve without excruciating detail that would needlessly slow the narrative. Well enjoyed and definitely another Thumbs Up here.
A New York Christmas : Several members read this title which is set in New York in 1904 finding it an enjoyable story reading about the upper classes and the race and slave element of that time and where new American money and old English aristocracy collided. Jemima Pitt is there to chaperone her friend Delphinia (Phinnie)who has crossed the ocean to marry one of New York’s richest men Brent Albright, but Jemima, whose father was the Head of Special Branch in London, discovers a secret about Maria Cardew, Phinnie’s mother, that could destroy the future of her friend who she is there to protect. The story was philosophical and predictable and perhaps “twee” at times but had a need to keep reading it to see what eventually happens. Enjoyable and easy read.
A Christmas Odyssey : A couple of members read this title with one reporting that they enjoyed the story of the missing wayward son of upper class James Wentworth set in Victorian London with Sir Henry Rathbone’s help with the investigation taking it to the seedy underworld but another member did not really enjoy the details of this part of the story. It was a story of faith, hope, love and redemption emerging from the depths of Victorian society in 1864. So a mixed review for this one.