O CALEDONIA by Elspeth Barker (W&N £8.99, 224 pp)
by Elspeth Barker (W&N £8.99, 224 pp)
Here’s an exquisitely written literary treasure. Unloved by her mother, Janet is a plain child, always losing things, tripping over, nose-stuck-in-a-book, hates dolls, babies and her tiresome siblings.
Home is a wind-swept Scottish castle where Janet roams about the woods with her tame jackdaw, fantasising about knights in shining armour. She tries befriending a dotty aunt who eats only tomatoes and lurks about the castle. Sent to a girls’ boarding school, Janet avoids hockey and girlie chat and is nicknamed ‘Idiot jester Brainbox’.
A day-dreamer and outsider, Janet is my absolute favourite heroine — her dark, Gothic goings-on had me in stitches. Alas, sob, an unrequited teenage infatuation will be her undoing.
TO ALL THE LIVING
by Monica Felton (Imperial War Museum £8.99, 312 pp)
During World War II thousands of homesick young women worked at top-secret munitions factories.
It was dangerous, exhausting, poorly paid and meant living far from home in squalid billets, Felton’s own work at the Ministry of Supply inspired her unique novel.
‘This isn’t a holiday camp,’ sneers a factory officer as bewildered, clueless recruits arrive to discover that duties involve pouring gun powder into shells, bombs and mines, the unmentioned risks being explosions, fatal TNT poisoning, arms dyed yellow and skin rashes. Felton’s revolutionary book highlights the indisputable importance of these unsung war workers.
MURDER BY PROXY by Anne Morice (Dean Street £10.99, 198 pp)
MURDER BY PROXY
by Anne Morice (Dean Street £10.99, 198 pp)
Think Miss Marple in high heels and lipstick and you have narrator and super-sleuth Tessa. An actress and amateur detective, her no-nonsense approach impresses her terrified friend, Anne, convinced that someone is trying to kill her.
We plunge into classic whodunnit territory — pretty English village, feuding neighbours, adultery etc — until two shocking murders occur and beady-eyed Tessa is hot on the killer’s trail.
Admittedly my main suspect was bumped off, and I found it hard to follow Tessa’s uncanny powers of deduction. But, as crime fiction goes, this goes with much fizz and panache.
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