First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Silver Pigs

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

This week I’m featuring The Silver Pigs by Lindsay Davis, a book that I started reading last night. Whilst this is a new-to-me series, The Silver Pigs was first published in 1989 and there are now 20 books in the series. Lindsey Davis also writes the Favia Alba Mystery series. She has won many literary awards, and was honorary president of the Classical Association from 1997 to 1998.

It begins:

When the girl came rushing up the steps, I decided she was wearing far too many clothes.

It was late summer. Rome frizzled like a pancake on a griddleplate. People unlaced their shoes but had to keep them on; not even an elephant could cross the street unshod. People flopped on stools in shadowed doorways, bare knees apart, naked to the waist – and in the backstreets of Aventine Sector where I lived, that was just the women.

This is historical crime fiction, the first of the Marcus Didius Falco novels. Set in Rome in 70AD, Vespasian is the new Roman emperor and Falco is a private informer, or private eye. In this first book he and his partner Helena Justina rescue a young girl in trouble. He is then catapulted into a dangerous game involving stolen imperial ingots, a dark political plot and, most hazardous of all, a senator’s daughter connected to the traitors Falco has sworn to expose.

My copy has an introduction by Lindsey Davis in which she tells of how she began to write historical fiction, setting a typical private eye figure in Rome two thousand years ago. It has maps and a Dramatis Personae.

And I do like the cover.

 

First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

One of the books I’ll be reading soon is Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter by Diana Athill OBE. From what I’ve read so far it promises to be very interesting. Born in 1917 Diana Athill helped Andre Deutsch establish his publishing company and worked as a literary editor for many years. She is also a novelist and has published several memoirs.

Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter begins:

‘Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits’: I have forgotten who it is who is supposed to have said that, but it is a good description of a state quite often observed in a retirement home, and considered pitiable. Disconcertingly, I recently realized that I myself (not very often, just now and then) might say those very words if somebody asked me what I was doing. It is not a welcome thought, but less dreadful than it might be because I now know from experience that the state is not necessarily pitiable at all. It is even pleasant – or it can be. That probably depends on the nature of the person sitting. To me it has been, because the thinking turns out to be about events in the past which were enjoyable, and when the mind relaxes itself it is those same events which float in and out of it.

Blurb:

What matters in the end? In the final years of life, which memories stand out? Writing from her retirement home in Highgate, London, as she approaches her 100th year, Diana Athill reflects on what it is like to be in her nineties, and on the moments in her life which have risen to the surface and sustain her in her later years.

She recalls in sparkling detail the exact layout of the garden of her childhood, a vast and beautiful park attached to a large house, and writes with humour, clarity and honesty about her experiences of the First and Second World Wars, and her trips to Europe as a young woman. In the remarkable title chapter, Athill describes her pregnancy at the age of forty-three, losing the baby and almost losing her life, and her gratitude on discovering that she had survived.

With vivid memories of the past mingled with candid, wise and often very funny reflections on the experience of being very old, Alive, Alive Oh! reminds us of the joy and richness to be found at every stage of life.

Teaser Tuesday newTeaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. ! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

My teaser is from page 29:

It annoys me when someone describes this country in the late 1940s and 1950s as being dreary, an opinion usually based on the continuation of rationing for some years after the war’s end. People who see it like that can’t have lived through the war. Those of us still alive who did so see it differently.

It’s a short book – just 168 pages – but she seems to have packed so much into it.

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Runaway

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Runaway by Peter May is one of the books I’m thinking of reading this month. I’ve read some of his other books, the Lewis Trilogy and Entry Island and thoroughly enjoyed them, real page-turners. So I’m hoping that Runaway will be just as good.

It begins with a Prologue:

London

He wakes in a cold sweat from a dream pervaded by darkness and blood. And after a lifetime of being someone else in another land, he wonders who he is now. This man, who, he knows, is fading all too soon. A life squandered for a love lost. A life that seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

and moves on to Chapter One in 2015:

Glasgow

Jack stepped down from the bus almost at the end of Battlefield Road and raised his head towards the darkening sky with a sense of foreboding. He took in the brooding silhouette of the smoke-stained Victoria Infirmary that climbed the hill above the field of battle where Mary, Queen of Scots, was once defeated by James VI, and felt as if someone had just walked over his grave.

Now, reading this, I am keen to read on. Flicking through the book I can see that it alternates between 1965 and 2015.

The back cover reveals that in 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year’s end three returned, and returned damaged. In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.

 What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Dictator

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon. I’m currently reading Dictator by Robert Harris, the third in his Cicero trilogy.

Dictator

It begins:

I remember the cries of Caesar’s war-horns chasing us over the darkened fields of Latium – their yearning, keening howls, like animals on heat – and how when they stopped there was only the slither of our shoes on the icy road and the urgent panting of our breath.

It was not enough for the immortal gods that Cicero should be spat at and reviled by his fellow citizens; not enough that in the middle of the night he be driven from the hearths and altars of his family and ancestors; not enough even that as we fled from Rome on foot he should look back and see his house in flames. To all these torments they deemed it necessary to add one further refinement: that he should be forced to hear his enemy’s army striking camp on the Field of Mars.

Blurb:

‘Laws are silent in times of war.’
Cicero

There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure and Cicero’s life is in ruins. Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles.

His comeback requires wit, skill and courage – and for a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome. But politics is never static and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.

Riveting and tumultuous, DICTATOR encompasses some of the most epic events in human history yet is also an intimate portrait of a brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful yet ultimately brave man – a hero for his time and for ours. This is an unforgettable tour de force from a master storyteller.

————————————————

I read in The Guardian that this last part of the trilogy marks the culmination of 12 years work. The trilogy as a whole has transported me back into the first century BC when Rome was engulfed in intrigue, conspiracies and civil war as the Roman Republic began to collapse and move into dictatorship and empire.  I’m loving the whole experience. Just as when I was reading the first two books, Imperium and Lustrum, I can’t wait to get back to it each time I have to stop reading.

First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Ghosts of Altona

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I started reading The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell yesterday.

It begins:

The sky that day, he would later remember, had been the colour of pewter. When he thought back on it, that was what he would remember, the lack of colour in the sky, the lack of colour in everything. And he hadn’t noticed at the time.

Winter had been half-hearted that day.

‘So why, exactly, are we talking to this guy more than any other neighbours?’ asked Anna Wolff as she and Fabel got out of the unmarked police BMW. ‘Schalthoff has no record … never been so much as a suspect for anything and has no dodgy connections that we can find. I just don’t get why you get a vibe from him. What is it – some kind of hunch?

This book won the 2015 Bloody Scotland Crime Novel of the Year. It’s the first book by Craig Russell’s that I’ve noticed. How could I have missed the others? This is his seventh Jan Fabel book!

Blurb:

Jan Fabel is a changed man. Head of the Polizei Hamburg’s Murder Commission, Fabel has dealt with the dead for nearly two decades, but when a routine enquiry becomes a life-threatening – and life-altering – experience, he finds himself on much closer terms with death than ever before.

Fabel’s first case at the Murder Commission comes back to haunt him: Monika Krone’s body is found at last, fifteen years after she went missing. Monika – ethereally beautiful, intelligent, cruel – was the centre of a group of students obsessed with the gothic. Fabel re-opens the case. What happened that night, when Monika left a party and disappeared into thin air?

Meanwhile, Hamburg’s most dangerous serial rapist has escaped from high-security prison. Fabel is convinced he had outside help, but from whom? His suspicions that the escape is connected to the discovery of Monika’s body seem to lead to nothing when there are no sightings of the fugitive, but little can he imagine the real purpose for which this monster has been unleashed.

When men involved with Monika start turning up dead, the crime scenes full of gothic symbolism, Fabel realizes he is looking for a killer with both a hunger for vengeance and a terrifying taste for the macabre. A true gothic demon is stalking the streets of Hamburg…

I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far. What do you think – have you read any of Craig Russell’s books? Would you read on?

My Tuesday Post: After the Fire

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

The book I’ve chosen this week is After the Fire by Jane Casey.  I read this in June and have not got round to writing about it yet.

It begins:

There were 224 residents of Murchison House on the Maudling Estate in north London, and on a cold grey late November day  not one of them was expecting to die. Some were hoping to die. some were waiting to die. but no one actually expected to die that day.

This is the sixth book in the Maeve Kerrigan series. It stands well on it’s own, although there are references to past events and storylines that appear in the earlier books.

The Maudling Estate and some of the minor characters featured in the 5th book, The Kill.

Blurb:
After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in an 11th floor flat. But it’s the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?
As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide…

Would you read on? I did and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

Here’s a teaser from 32% on my Kindle (rather more than 2 sentences!):

I felt the familiar rush, the moment a shape began to emerge from the darkness that surrounded the case. A pattern. A connection. A witness and a suspect.

A killer with a face and a name.

Maybe.

First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph: Go Set a Watchman

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee which is published today. It begins:

Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied her joy rose.

Jean Louise Finch always made this journey by air, but she decided to go by train from New York to Maycomb Junction on her fifth annual trip home. For one thing, she had the life scared out of her the last time she was on a plane: the pilot had elected to fly through a tornado. For another, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair.

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it a couple of years ago but I’m still not sure I want to read Go Set a Watchman, so I downloaded a sample on my Kindle to have a look at the beginning.

What do you think? Are you going to read it?

First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I read Old Filth by Jane Gardam in 2008 and loved it, without realising at that time that there were more books about Old Filth QC (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong). So I was delighted to find there are two more.

I’ve recently read the second book, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and I’m currently reading the third, Last Friends – nearly finished it actually.

 

It begins:

The Titans were gone. They had clashed their last. Sir Edward Feathers, affectionately known as Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), and Sir Terence Veneering, the two greatest exponents of English and International Law in the engineering and construction industry and the current experts upon the Ethics of Pollution, were dead. Their well-worn armour had fallen from them with hardly a clatter and the quiet Dorset village to which they had retired within a very few years of each other (accidentally, for they had hated one another for over fifty years) mourned their passing and wondered who would be distinguished enough to buy their houses.

My reviews of  Last Friends and The Man in the Wooden Hat will follow shortly.

First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Intros

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I’m currently reading The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards, described on the back cover as

‘the extraordinary story of British detective fiction between the two World Wars, and the fascinating people who wrote it. A gripping real-life detective story, this book investigates how Agatha Christie and her colleagues in the mysterious Detection Club transformed crime fiction. Their work cast new light on unsolved murders, whilst hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets, and their complex and sometimes bizarre private lives.

First Chapter:

Chapter I, The Ritual in the Dark

On a summer evening in 1937, a group of men and women gathered in the darkness to perform a macabre ceremony. They had invited a special guest to witness their ceremony. She was visiting London from New Zealand and a thrill of excitement ran through her as the appointed time drew near. She loved drama, and at home she worked in the theatre. Now she felt as tense as when the curtain was about to rise. To be a guest at this dinner was a special honour. What would happen next she could not imagine.

Many congratulations to Martin Edwards who is to be the next President of  the Detection Club when Simon Brett, the current President retires in November. I really cannot think of a better choice than Martin, a well-deserved honour indeed!

First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Tuesday: Parker Pyne

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter ∼ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I’ve been looking at some of Agatha Christie’s short stories and wondering which to read first. One of the collections I own is The Complete Parker Pyne: Private Eye. It looks a good place to start.

In the Author’s Foreword Agatha Christie tells how she came to write these stories:

One day, having lunch at a Corner House, I was enraptured by a conversation on statistics going on at a table behind me. I turned my head and caught a vague glimpse of a bald head, glasses and a beaming smile – I caught sight that is, of Mr Parker Pyne. I had never thought about statistics before (and indeed seldom think about them now!) but the enthusiasm with which they were being discussed awakened my interest. I was just considering a new series of short stories and then and there I decided on the general treatment and scope, and in due course enjoyed writing them.

I like the details she gives – the Corner Houses, smarter and grander than tea shops and noted for their art deco style first appeared in 1909 and  remained until 1977. And I love the fact that she was eavesdropping on the conversation going on behind her and the insight this gives into how she got ideas for her stories.

The stories were all written in the 1930s and first appeared in various UK and US magazines. The first story in this collection is The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife and it begins:

Four grunts, an indignant voice asking why nobody could leave a hat alone, a slammed door, and Mr Packington had departed to catch the eight forty-five to the city. Mrs Packington sat on at the breakfast table. Her face was flushed, her lips were pursed, and the only reason she was not crying was that at the last minute anger had taken the place of grief, ‘I won’t stand it,’ said Mrs Packington. ‘I won’t stand it!’ She remained for some moments brooding , and then murmured: ‘The minx. Nasty sly little cat! How can George be such a fool!’

First Chapter First Paragraph: Appointment with Death

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie, one of the few novels of hers that I haven’t read. It’s one of the earlier Poirot books, first published in 1938. It begins:

‘You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’

The question floated out into the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into  the darkness towards the Dead Sea.

Hercule Poirot paused a minute with his hand on the window catch. Frowning, he shut it decisively, thereby excluding any injurious night air! Hercule Poirot had been brought up to believe that all outside air was best left outside, and that night air was especially dangerous to the health.

Of course, this has me wondering who ‘she’ is, why she has to be killed and who is talking.

I don’t remember reading before about Poirot’s upbringing – intriguing to think of him as a child!

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My book this week is a library book that I’m thinking about reading soon. It’s The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, translated from the French by Sian Reynolds.

It begins:

A trail of tiny crumbs led from the kitchen into the bedroom, as far as the spotless sheets where the old woman lay dead, her mouth open. Commissaire Adamsberg looked down at the crumbs in silence, pacing to and fro, wondering what kind of Tom Thumb – or what ogre in this case – might have dropped them there. He was in a small, dark, ground-floor apartment, with just three rooms, in the eighteenth arrondissement, in northern Paris.

Blurb:

‘People will die,’ says the panic-stricken woman outside police headquarters.

She refuses to speak to anyone besides Commissaire Adamsberg. Her daughter has seen a vision: ghostly horsemen who target the most nefarious characters in Normandy. Since the middle ages there have been stories of murderers, rapists, those with serious crimes on their conscience, meeting a grisly end following a visitation by the riders.

Soon after the young woman’s vision a notoriously vicious and cruel man disappears. Although the case is far outside his jurisdiction, Adamsberg agrees to investigate the strange happenings in a village terrorised by wild rumours and ancient feuds.

What do you think? Would you keep on reading?

First Chapter – First Paragraph

It will be a while before I can write a book review post as I’m in the middle of reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers and it’s quite long – and complicated. So in the meantime here is a First Chapter – First Paragraph post.

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, a book I’ve borrowed from the library.

 

It begins:

Oh, no no no, thought Clare Morrow as she walked towards the closed doors.

She could see shadows, shapes, like wraiths moving back and forth, back and forth across the frosted glass. Appearing and disappearing. Distorted, but still moving.

Still the dead one lay moaning.

The words had been going through her head all day, appearing and disappearing. A poem, half remembered. Words floating to the surface, then going under. The body of the poem beyond her grasp.

The title of this one caught my eye on the library van’s shelves and reading the opening paragraphs I decided to borrow it – mainly because the poem Clare can’t quite remember is one of my favourites. It’s Not Waving, but Drowning by Stevie Smith and I wondered what relevance it has to this book. There will be a body, I expect.

What do you think? Would you carry on reading?

A Trick of the Light is the 7th in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series and I’m hoping it will stand well on its own as I haven’t read the first six books even though I’ve seen them recommended on other book blogs.

If you’ve read Louise Penny’s books do you think they do stand well on their own – or should they really be read in sequence? Am I missing something by beginning with book 7?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Zig Zag Girl

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is: The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths, a book I have just finished reading.

It begins:

 ‘Looks as if someone’s sliced her into three,’ said Solomon Carter, the police surgeon chattily. ‘We’re just missing the middle bit.’

I must not be sick, thought Edgar Stephens. That’s what he wants. Stay calm and professional at all times. You’re the policeman, after all.

What do you think? Would you read on?

I did. I’m a squeamish reader and don’t like anything too graphically gory and you might think this opening would put me off. But it didn’t – for one thing, it doesn’t go into detail about how the body got cut into three. Well, yes later down the page there’s mention of ‘clotted blood and smell of decaying flesh‘, but that’s it, it’s all secondhand, no scenes where the murderer is described doing the terrible act, no dwelling on what he/she was doing to the other person.

Blurb from the inside flap:

Brighton, 1950 – a post-war world of rationing, austerity, pea-souper fogs and seedy seaside resorts. When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, DI Edgar Stephens recalls a magic trick that he saw as a boy. The illusion is called the Zig Zag Girl and its inventor, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of his. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, formed to use stage trickery to confuse the enemy.

Edgar tracks down Max and asks for his help. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Max is reluctant to get involved but the changes his mind when the dead girl turns out to be his former stage assistant. Another death follows, again gruesomely staged to resemble a magic trick, the Sword Cabinet.

Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies back in their army days and the antics of the Magic Men.

When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, he knows that they are all in danger. The Wolf Trap is the deadliest illusion of all, but who will be the next victim?

I’ve read some of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, crime novels, which I have enjoyed despite wishing they weren’t written in the present tense. So it was with relief that I came to The Zig Zag Girl and found it’s written in the past tense.

I enjoyed it in several ways – for its characters, particularly Edgar Stephens and its setting, recalling the atmosphere of the 1950s and how times were changing. The theatrical elements are fascinating – life on the variety circuit was not all glitz and glamour; and the activities of the  Magic Men unit during the war had of course an immense effect on all their lives. I worked out quite early on who the murderer was – but not why, which only dawned on me at the end of the book.

I don’t know if this is going to be the start of a new series – I’d read more if it is.

First Chapter: The Secret Keeper

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, a book from my TBR Pile Challenge 2015.

It begins:

Rural England, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a summer’s day at the start of the nineteen sixties. The house is unassuming: half-timbered with white paint peeling gently on the western side and clematis scrambling up the plaster. The chimney pots are steaming and you know, just by looking, that there’s something on the stove top beneath. It’s something the way the vegetable patch has been laid out, just so, at the back of the house; the proud gleam of the leadlight windows; the careful patching of the roofing tiles.

A rustic fence hems the house and a wooden gate sparates the tame garden from the meadows on either side, the copse beyond. Through the knotted trees a stream trickles lightly over stones, flitting between sunlight and shadow as it has done for centuries; but it can’t be heard from here. It’s too far away. The house is quite alone, sitting at the end of a long dusty driveway, invisible from the country lane whose name it shares.

I’m immediately attracted to this book from these two opening paragraphs, setting the scene. I can easily paint a picture of it in my mind – I can see it! You know that in such an idyllic setting something is about to happen to upset everything; at least that is what I am anticipating  and I know from the title that there is at least one secret someone is keeping .

I also know from the description on the back cover that this is a book that switches from the 1930s, to the 1960s and the present day, which often works well for me, and that there are not only mysteries and secrets but also murder and enduring love.

Will I like it? LibraryThing thinks I probably will like The Secret Keeper (prediction confidence: very high) – we’ll see.

First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is:

Isa and May by Margaret Forster. It begins:

The hardest thing to tell Isa and May was where, and how, I met Ian. I thought seriously about lying. I could claim I’d met him at a party, which would have satisfied May but maybe not Isa. Isa is the sort of morally upright person who can sense a lie at once. She would have wanted to know who had given this party, where it had been held, and a load of other questions hinting at her suspicions. So I told the truth, but not the whole truth. I said I’d met him at the airport. I didn’t say I’d tried to pick him up. The meeting place was scandalous enough for them.

My copy is a library book and I borrowed it because I’ve read a few of Margaret Forster’s books and enjoyed them. Isa and May are the narrator’s grandmothers.

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Cauldstane

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is Cauldstane by Linda Gillard. It begins:

Sometimes I think I can still hear – very faintly – the strains of a harpsichord. Impossible, of course. There’s been no harpsichord at Cauldstane for over a year now. Meredith’s has never been replaced. Never will be replaced.

As the cover shows Cauldstane is set in a castle – a Scottish castle, a remote and decaying 16th century castle, the family home of the MacNabs. Ghostwriter Jenny Ryan is commissioned to write the memoirs of the current Laird, Sholto MacNab. There are secrets, sins to be revealed – and an ancient curse.

If you want to know more about Linda Gillard’s books here is the link to her website.

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Time’s Echo

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne, historical timeslip fiction.

It begins:

I feel no fear, not yet. I am just astounded to find myself in the air, looking down the murky rush of the river. It is as if time itself has paused, and I am somehow suspended between the sky and the wate, between the past and the present, between then and now. Between disbelief and horror.

It is All Hallows’ Eve, and I am going to die.

Time’s Echo mixes time as Grace Trewe is drawn into Hawise Aske’s life, four and a half centuries earlier in York, 1577. I saw this book in the library and although I hadn’t heard of Pamela Hartshorne I thought the title was interesting, and from the description on the back cover and the opening paragraphs, I thought it was worth borrowing.  From what I’ve read so far I’m hoping it will be an enjoyable book.

First Chapter First Paragraph: A Change of Climate

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Today’s choice is A Change of Climate by Hilary Mantel, a book I’ve borrowed from my local library. It begins:

1970

SAD CASES, GOOD SOULS

One day when Kit was ten years old, a visitor cut her wrists in the kitchen. She was just beginning on this cold, difficult form of death when Kit came in to get a glass of milk.

The woman Joan was sixty years old, and wore a polyester dress from a charity shop. A housewifely type, she had chosen to drip her blood into the kitchen sink. When Kit touched her on the elbow, she threw the knife on to the draining board and attempted with her good hand to cover Kit’s eyes.

By this stage in her life Kit was not much surprised by anything. As she ducked under the woman’s arm she thought that’s our bread-knife, if you don’t mind; but she said, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that Joan, why don’t you come away from the sink, why don’t you sit down on this chair and I’ll get a first-aid kit?’

I haven’t read much more than this but these opening paragraphs have made me want to know more about the ‘Good Souls‘ and the ‘Sad Cases‘.

Hilary Mantel’s work is so diverse with books ranging from  personal memoir and short stories to historical fiction and essays. A Change of Climate is one of her early books, first published in 1994, described on the back cover as ‘a literary family saga’ and ‘a first rate thriller’

At the end of the book there is an About the Author section, which I’ve just glanced over. In answer to one of the interviewer’s questions about the theme of the book, Hilary Mantel replied that there is a central secret, an enormous destructive secret. I didn’t want to spoil the book for myself so I didn’t read any more of her answers. I’ll read the book to find out what that secret is.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Burial of Ghosts

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Today’s pick is a book that I mentioned in my post the other day on New Additions at BooksPlease. It’s Burial of Ghosts by Ann Cleeves.

It begins:

My nightmares feature knives and blades and blood. I don’t do falling down holes or being chased through deserted streets. And though I usually dream in black and white, the blood is very red, glossy, and it slides out from the rest of the scene, which is flat and dull. The worst thing is that when I wake, I realise it wasn’t a dream at all.

I’m in Blyth. It’s market day and I’m there to shop for Jess. There’s a stall where she buys all her fruit and veg – she knows the bloke who runs it and he always gives her a good deal. It’s mid-morning , with lots of people about. It’s not long before Christmas and everyone’s in the mood when they have to buy, even if the stuff’s crap, otherwise they feel they’re not prepared. A foggy, drizzly day, and cold with it. There’s a raw east wind which cuts into the skin. But it doesn’t draw blood. Not like the scissors I buy in Woolworths. I ask the assistant to take them out of the plastic packet to check they’re sharp. I run my thumb across the blade and there’s a small read line and then tiny, perfectly round red drops like jewels. I fumble with the money when I pay, not because of the cut, which is already healing, but because my hands are freezing.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Burial of Ghosts is a standalone book. It’s not a new book as it was first published in 2003 It’s now available in a new Pan paperback edition, which was published in September 2013.

Note: I see ITV are trailing series four of Vera when the first episode will be an adaptation of Harbour Street, the sixth and latest Vera Stanhope book. I really must read that one soon.

First Chapter First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Today’s pick is a book that I’m currently reading from my TBR books, Playing With Fire by Peter Robinson, a DCI Banks book (incidentally a new series of DCI Banks started last night on ITV1 – I haven’t watched it yet).

Chapter 1 begins:

‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, burn’d on the water,’ Banks whispered. As he spoke, his breath formed plumes of mist in the chill January air.

Detective Inspector Annie Cabot, standing beside him, must have heard because she said, ‘You what? Come again.’

‘A quotation,’ said Banks. ‘From Anthony and Cleopatra.’

‘You don’t usually go around quoting Shakespeare like a copper in a book,’ Annie commented.

Banks and Annie are watching as two narrow boats are burning on a dead-end stretch of the Eastvale canal – inside they find the remains of two dead bodies. Was this an accident or murder?

First Chapter: The Observations

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is a book I’ll be reading soon. It’s The Observations by Jane Harris and Chapter 1 ‘I Find a New Place‘ begins:

I had reason to leave Glasgow, this would have been about three or four years ago, and I had been on the Great Road about five hours when I seen a track to the left and a sign that said ‘Castle Haivers’. Now there’s a coincidence I thought to myself, because here I was on my way across Scratchland to have a look at Edinburgh castle and perhaps get a job there and who knows marry a young nobleman or prince. I was only 15 with a head full of sugar and I had a notion to work in a grand establishment.

Jane Harris was born in Belfast and grew up in Scotland before moving to England in her 20s.  The Observations, her first book is set in Scotland in 1863. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 and the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009. Her second novel Gillespie and I, which I read just over two years ago, was shortlisted for the National Book Awards in 2011 and the Scottish Book Awards in 2012.

I enjoyed Gillespie and I, a book that lingered in my mind long after I’d finished reading it, so I’m hoping I’ll have a similar reaction to this book.

First Chapter: Shakespeare the Biography by Peter Ackroyd

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

In my last post I mentioned Peter Ackroyd’s biography of William Shakespeare when deciding which book to read next. As soon as I began the first chapter I knew that this is the next non fiction book I’ll be reading.

The first paragraph is:

William Shakespeare is popularly supposed to have been born on 23 April 1564, or St George’s Day. The date may in fact have been 21 April or 22 April, but the coincidence of the national festival is at least appropriate.

But it is the second paragraph that caught my attention, after all Shakespeare’s birthday or supposed birthday was not a surprise to me. The second paragraph, however, gives me information I hadn’t known before:

When he emerged from the womb into the world of time, with the assistance of a midwife, an infant of the sixteenth century was washed and then ‘swaddled’ by being wrapped tightly in soft cloth. Then he was carried downstairs in order to be presented to the father. After this ritual greeting, he was taken back to the birth-chamber, still warm and dark where he was lain beside the mother. She was meant to ‘draw to her all the diseases from the child’, before her infant was put in a cradle. A small portion of butter and honey was usually placed in the baby’s mouth. It was the custom in Warwickshire to give the suckling child hare’s brains reduced to jelly. ( page 3)

Ackroyd is not of course saying that this is what happened when Shakespeare was born, merely that this was the ritual at the time and he refers to David Cressy’s book, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England as the source of his information. But it is fascinating, nonetheless to think of the infant William wrapped in swaddling clothes and sucking hare’s brain jelly! Butter and honey sounds far more delectable. And how different from birth today.

First Chapter: Instructions for a Heatwave

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I’ve just started to read Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I loved an earlier book by her, The Hand That First Held Mine, and so far this one looks just as good.

It begins:

The heat, the heat. It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from her bed and down the stairs. It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs. The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filling the space, pushing Gretta down onto the floor, against the side of the table.

Only she would choose to bake bread in such weather.

I like this opening, setting the scene and establishing the heat as a physical presence, a character to be reckoned with. This is July 1976 and London is in the grip of a heatwave. (It was not just London, because I remember it very well where I was living in Cheshire in the north-west.) Gretta’s husband pops out of the house to buy a newspaper – but he doesn’t come back – this is a story of a family in crisis.

I’m drawn into this book right from the beginning – what do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter First Paragraph: Julius

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

One of the books I’m currently reading is Julius by Daphne du Maurier. The first chapter is called Childhood (1860-1872). It begins:

 His first instinct was to stretch out his hands to the sky. The white clouds seemed so near to him, surely they were easy to hold and to caress, strange-moving, things belonging to the wide blue space of heaven.

They floated just above his head, they almost brushed his eyelids as they passed, and he only had to grasp the long curling fringe of them with his fingers and they would belong to him instead, becoming part of him for ever. Something in him whispered that he must clutch at the clouds and bring them down from the sky. So he held out his hands to them and they did not come. He cried out to them and they did not come. They passed away from him as though they had never been, indifferent and aloof; like wreaths of white smoke they were carried away by the wind, born of nothing, dissolving into nothing, a momentary breath that vanished in the air.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

I did and I’m finding it quite captivating. The ‘he’ in these first two paragraphs is Julius and right from his birth you can see him reaching out for things beyond his grasp.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph First chapterTuesday Intros, to share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

The Cabinet Room, 10 Downing Street, London, 4.30pm, 9 May 1940

Churchill was last to arrive. He knocked once, sharply, and entered. Through the tall windows the warm spring day was fading, shadows lengthening on Horse Guards Parade. Margesson, the Conservative Chief Whip, sat with Prime Minister Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax at the far end of the long, coffin-shaped table which dominated the Cabinet Room. As Churchill approached them Margesson, formally dressed as ever in immaculate black morning coat stood up.

‘Winston.’

Churchill nodded at the Chief Whip, looking him sternly in the eye. Margesson, who was Chamberlain’s creature, had made life difficult for him when he had stood out against party policy over India and Germany in the years before the war.He turned to Chamberlain and Halifax, the Prime Minister’s right-hand man in the government’s appeasement of Germany. ‘Neville. Edward.’ Both men looked back; no sign today of Chamberlain’s habitual half-sneer, nor of the snappy arrogance which had alienated the House of Commons during yesterday’s debate over the military defeat of Norway. Ninety Conservatives had voted with the Opposition or abstained; Chamberlain had left the chamber followed by shouts of ‘Go!’ The Prime Minister’s eyes were red from lack of sleep or perhaps even tears – though it was hard to image Neville Chamberlain weeping. Last night the word around a feverish House of Commons was that his leadership would not survive.

This is the opening of Dominion by C J Sansom, a novel about what might have happened, an alternative history, if Germany had been triumphant in the Second World War. All events that take place in this book after 5 p.m. on 9 May 1940 are imaginary.

I’ve read and enjoyed Sansom’s earlier books, the five Matthew Shardlake historical mysteries and Winter in Madrid, historical fiction set in Spain in 1940, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read Dominion, his latest book, described on the book jacket as ‘a vivid, haunting re-imagining of 1950s Britain’ and ‘a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story.’

I like the opening paragraphs I’m still not sure because ‘re-imaginings’ don’t exactly appeal to me. I prefer historical fiction to be historical and fiction to be fiction, not  an alternative version of history. But when I saw a copy on the library shelves I was tempted to at least look at it and brought it home to see if it’s any good. After all it’s written by C J Sansom, so it can’t be bad, can it?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Sea Change

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, to share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she is reading or thinking about reading soon.

The Sea Change

This week I’m featuring a book that was published in May this year. It is The Sea Change, a debut novel by Joanna Rossiter.

It begins with a Prologue, set in Kanyakumari India, in 1971 where Alice is thousands of miles away from home the day after her wedding:

It is there before we know about it. Being Born. A Persian rug, unrolling. Our wave, heavy like death.

‘Up! Up!’ a voice shouts from outside the guesthouse. It doesn’t belong to James. ‘It’s coming!’

Where is he?

Stone. Bone. think hard and then harder. That’s how it hits the shore. It takes the beach in one breathtaking gulp, palm trees dominoing down and fishing boats scattering as easily as the seeds of a dandelion. Streets fuse into the flesh of the water, like new limbs, new skin, until it morphs into a moving city. Trucks and tuk-tuks roll over and over like shorts in a washer: houses are picked up whole. Then, with sea-soaked hands, the water sets itself alight. flames – blinding and orange – buoy themselves forward on black, black, mirrorless liquid.

I’ve quoted more than the first paragraph because the words drew my eyes on down the page with such dramatic images of the destructive power of the sea and our powerlessness as it sweeps across the landscape. I can visualise it so easily. And where is James?

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, to share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she is reading or thinking about reading soon.

This week I’m featuring a book that I’ve known about for many years, but have never read until now. It is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and although I haven’t finished it yet it’s promising to be one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. Although she had written some long short stories before this was her first novel (and only novel!) and published in 1960 it became an immediate best seller.

It begins:

When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right ; when he stood or walked the back of his hand was at right-angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.

I’m not writing any more about it right now – not until I’ve finished it (less than 100 pages from the end) – except that it has captured my imagination completely and given me plenty to think about!

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she’s reading or thinking about reading soon.

Today I’m in the mood for reading short fiction and picked this book off my to-be-read shelves. It’s Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh, set in 1593 it tells the story of playwright, Christopher Marlowe’s last days, weaving together fact and fiction. It’s only 140 pages.

Tamburlaine

It begins:

I have four candles and one evening in which to write this account. Tomorrow I will lodge these papers with my last true friend. If I survive the day, they will light our pipes. But should I not return, he has instructions to secrete this chronicle where it will lie undiscovered for a long span, in the hope that when these pages are found, the age will be different and my words may be judged by honest eyes.

When I read the first four words I immediately thought of the Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett sketch from years ago in the Two RonniesThe Four Candles. I don’t suppose that is the response Louise Welsh would have expected, but there it is, that’s what came to my mind. But this is not a comedy as this summary from Amazon reveals:

London, 1593. A city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, strangers are unwelcome, suspicion is wholesale, severed heads grin from the spikes on Tower Bridge. Playwright, poet and spy, Christopher Marlowe walks the city’s mean streets with just three days to find the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer escaped from the pages of his most violent play. Tamburlaine Must Die is the searing adventure of a man who dares to defy both God and the state and whose murder remains a taunting mystery to the present day.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she’s reading or thinking about reading soon.

Recently I was looking through my many shelves of unread books and came across Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre, a book I started some time again and put to one side, intending to get back to it quite soon. Time has since whizzed by and now, even though I have a bookmark indicating where I got up to, I’ll have to start it again.

It begins with a Prologue:

Joey Murphy was a fisherman. He was the captain and proprietor of a small trawler that was the whole world to him, but which he knew to be merely a speck on the endlessness that was the Pacific Ocean.

He believed in God.

He believed in Jesus.

He believed in His death, resurrection and bodily ascension.

I could have stopped quoting the opening paragraphs here, but that would not really have given a clear indication of the tone of this book. It continues:

He also believed in ghosts, poltergeists, demonic possession, Satanic possession, flying saucers, alien abduction, Roswell, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle, telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, spontaneous combustion, levitation, reincarnation, out-of-body consciousness and the rapture.

There’s more, but I think this should be enough to get the picture that Joey believes in ‘stuff that makes the world seem a more interesting place.

Unlike other books by Brookmyre this is not set in Scotland, but in Los Angeles with Lt Larry Freeman of the LAPD investigating the disappearance of the crew of an oceanic research vessel who had gone missing in the Pacific along with their mini-submarine. But there is ‘a Glaswegian photographer with an indecipherable accent and a strong dislike of hypocrisy or of a terrorist who seems to have access to plutonium as well as Semtex.’ (source: Brookmyre)

First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she’s reading or thinking about reading soon.

This is a book I’ve had for some time and haven’t read yet. It’s The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. I bought this book because I’d read and loved Mary Lawson’s book, Crow Lake (link to my post on the book).

The Other Side of the Bridge begins: 

Prologue

There was a summer back when they were kids, when Arthur Dunn was thirteen or fourteen and his brother Jake was eight or nine, when for weeks on end Jake pestered Arthur to play the game he called knives. Jake had a great collection of knives at the time, everything from fancy little Swiss Army jack-knives with dozens of attachments to a big sleek hunting knife with a runnel down one side for blood. It was the hunting knife that was to be used in the game because according to Jake it was the best for throwing.

The only reason I haven’t read it yet is pressure of time  – and lots of other books that I’m dying to read. But should I read this one soon?

This is the blurb on the back cover:

Arthur and Jake are brothers, yet worlds apart. Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous man to know. When Laura arrives in their 1939s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point …

And this is what Penelope Lively wrote about it in the Guardian:

This is a fine book – an enthralling read, both straightforward and wonderfully intricate.

I think I’ll move it up the list of books-to-be-read.

First Chapter First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where she shares the first paragraph or (2) of a book she is reading or thinking about reading soon. Here’s my contribution this week:

This is the opening of The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean, from the Prologue:

Banff, 26 March 1626, 10 o’clock

The younger of the two whores rifled the man’s pockets with expert fingers. she cursed softly. Nothing.

‘Leave off, then,’ said her sister. The baillie will be here any minute.’

Mary Dawson rolled the man back over onto his face. He groaned, then retched, and she cursed once more as he vomited bile over her foot. ‘Pig’, she said, and kicked him. The wind sent a barrel careering past them down the brae to smash into a wall below. Somewhere a dog took up a demented howling.

What do you think ? — Would you keep reading? I haven’t read much further on, but I will do.

I came across this book whilst reading blogs a few weeks ago and can’t remember which one referred to this author. I was interested firstly because I like historical mysteries,and secondly because this one is set in Banff on the Moray coast where Shona Maclean lives, and where some of my husband’s family came from. It’s a place I’d like to visit one day.

First Chapter, First Paragraphs: The Unquiet Bones

Uetred thought he had discovered pig bones. He did not know or care why they were in the cesspit at the base of Bampton Castle Wall.

Then he found the skull. Uetred was a villein, bound to the land of Lord Gilbert, third Baron Talbot, lord of Bampton Castle and had slaughtered many pigs. He knew the difference between human and pig skulls.

I was browsing in the library, when the medieval style script on the spine of this book caught my eye. Taking it from the shelf I was also struck by the dramatic cover, showing a strange wooden or leather artificial foot. When I read the opening paragraphs and flicked through the pages I decided to borrow the book. It seems it’s a good choice because the library assistant said she had enjoyed it as she likes historical crime fiction – so do I. And there are more books in the series.

It’s The Unquiet Bones: the first chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon by Melvin R Starr.

I was interested in the foot – is it a genuine medieval prosthetic? I discovered that it is actually an Ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe found on a female mummy at Luxor. The big toe is carved from wood and has holes for lacing it to a leather-type casing.

Now, as far as I know, this is nothing to do with The Unquiet Bones, which is set in the English village of Bampton, but I think it’s fascinating. It certainly drew my attention to the book.

First Chapter, First Paragraphs is a weekly event hosted by Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea.

Book Beginnings: Wild Swans by Jung Chang

I’m currently reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang.

It begins:

At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China. The year was 1924 and China was in chaos. Much of it, including Manchuria, where my grandmother lived, was ruled by warlords. the liaison was arranged by her father, a police official in the provincial town of Xixian in southwest Manchuria, about a hundred miles north of the Great Wall and 250 miles northeast of Peking.

Wild Swans is a family memoir – the story of three generations of woman in Jung Chang’s family – her grandmother, mother and herself. This is the 2003 edition with an introduction by Jung Chang explaining how she came to write the book. She had always dreamed of being a writer, but growing up in Mao’s China it seemed out of the question, with most writers suffering in endless police persecutions. It was only after she had been allowed to come to Britain in 1978 to study that she had the freedom to write and to write what she wanted.

So far, I’m finding it fascinating, reading about her grandmother, who was one of the last generation of Chinese woman to suffer the practice of binding feet. I knew of this practice, but hadn’t realised just how much the little girls suffered and continued to suffer throughout their lives.

As this book is so long (over 600 pages in a small font) it’s going to take me quite a while to read it. I’l probably write a few posts on my progress.

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.

Opening Lines: The Distant Hours

I  thought I’d read – The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, at least I thought from the title that I had read it. But when I read some reviews of it on LibraryThing  it didn’t sound at all familiar.  Then I couldn’t find the book on my fiction bookshelves and I thought maybe I’d given it away, thinking I’d read it, when I haven’t – panic! Eventually, I found it in a bookcase full of non-fiction – apart from this and a few other novels that I’d put there whilst tidying up one day.

Looking at it it seems ideal for R.I.P.VII – ‘A dilapidated castle, aristocratic twins, a troubled sister and a series of dark secrets cast a whispery spell in Morton’s third book.’ (Quoted on the back cover from Marie Claire)

It begins:

Hush … Can you hear him?

The trees can. They are the first to know that he is coming.

Listen! The trees of the deep, dark wood, shivering and jittering their leaves like papery hulls of beaten silver; the sly wind, snaking through their tops, whispering that it will soon begin.

The trees know, for they are old and have seen it all before.

I can hardly wait to read it, but I have to because I’m only halfway into Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong and that is really good – I have to finish that first!

Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts this weekly meme. The idea is that you post the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s).

Opening Lines: A Room Full of Bones

First chapterDiane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts this weekly meme. The idea is that you post the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s).

I’d have read A Room Full of Bones anyway as it’s the latest Elly Griffiths’s latest Ruth Galloway Investigation and I’ve read and loved the earlier books, but the opening lines certainly set the scene and make me want to read more:

 The coffin is definitely a health and safety hazard. It fills the entrance hall, impeding the view of the stuffed Auk, a map of King’s Lynn in the 1800s and a rather dirty oil painting of Percival, Lord Smith, the founder of the museum. The coffin’s wooden sides are swollen and rotten and look likely to disgorge their contents in a singularly gruesome manner.

 Elly Griffiths’s website has more information.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts this weekly meme. The idea is that you post the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s).

A friend lent me this book, saying she’d really enjoyed it. It’s The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell and it begins:

Listen. The trees in this story are stirring, trembling, readjusting themselves. A breeze is coming in gusts off the sea, and it is almost as if the trees know, in their restlessness, in their head-tossing impatience, that something is about to happen.

The garden is empty, the patio deserted, save for some pots with geraniums and delphiniums shuddering in the wind. A bench stands on the lawn, two chairs facing politely away from it.  A bicycle is propped against the house but its pedals are stationary, the oiled chain motionless. A baby has been put out to sleep in a pram and it lies inside its stiff cocoon of blankets, eyes obligingly shut tight.  A seagull hangs suspended in the sky above and even that is silent, beak closed, wings outstretched to catch the high thermal draughts.

I can visualise the scene, feel the breeze and find myself holding my breath copying out these paragraphs from the book, waiting with bated breath to find out what is going to happen.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibilophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few) of a book she’s decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

I must be one of the minority who didn’t love The Time Traveler’s Wife (it irritated me), but still when I saw Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffennegger and read the opening paragraphs, I thought maybe I’d read it.

The first chapter is called The End and begins:

Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup. Later he would remember walking down the hospital corridor with the cup of horrible tea in his hand, alone under the fluorescent lights, retracing his steps to the room where Elspeth lay surrounded by machines. She had turned her head towards the door and her eyes were open; at first Robert thought she was conscious.

In the seconds before she died, Elspeth remembered a day last spring when she and Robert had walked along a muddy path by the Thames in Kew Gardens. There was a smell of rotted leaves; it had been raining. Robert said, ‘We should have had kids,’ and Elspeth replied, ‘Don’t be silly, sweet.’ She said it out loud, in the hospital room, but Robert wasn’t there to hear.

If you’ve read this book what do you think? I’ve looked on Amazon and the verdict is split almost 50/50 between 5/4 stars and 1/2 stars!