Mr Bazalgette’s Agent is the first British detective novel to feature a professional female detective. Written by Leonard Merrick and published in July 1888, Mr Bazalgette’s Agent slipped into obscurity partly because the author disliked the book and set about buying and destroying all the copies he could lay his hands on. However, despite the occasional use of words that we now find offensive, history has been kinder to the story and the book is now regarded as a novel of some worth.
Mr Bazalgette’s Agent chronicles the adventures of twenty-eight-year-old Miriam Lea. Unemployed, Miss Lea responds to an advertisement placed by Mr Alfred Bazalgette’s private detective agency. She secures a position with the agency and her first task is to find Mr Jasper Vining, a banker’s clerk, who has absconded with a large sum of money. The trail leads to Europe and the diamond mines of South Africa, familiar territories to the author, Leonard Merrick.
Leonard Merrick was born in London in February 1864 as Leonard Miller. His family were prosperous and young Leonard enjoyed a privileged education. In his late teens Leonard Miller changed his name to Merrick when he embarked on a career as an actor. The profession did not satisfy him so he turned to writing. His first novel, Mr Bazalgette’s Agent, was not a critical or commercial success. Even so, he persevered eventually achieving success and the accolade ‘the novelist’s novelist’, offered by J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. Despite receiving rewards and accolades, Leonard Merrick was admired more by his fellow writers than by the public, which is something many authors of today can identify with.
The Miracle Stork by Ronesa Aveela
Ronesa Aveela’s The Christmas Thief was one of my favourite books of 2015, so I was keen to get my hands on The Miracle Stork, an illustrated story about traditions and customs, though the delights of the book extend well beyond its initial premise.
The Miracle Stork is about the spring time tradition of the martenitsi, a tradition that is very popular in Bulgaria and with Bulgarians to this day. But you don’t have to be Bulgarian to enjoy this book and it’s story. Indeed, The Miracle Stork covers the wider concept of celebrating your own customs and embracing who you are.
As well as a delightful story, the book also contains a series of beautiful, colourful illustrations, a section on making the martenitsi and penda, and an activity section for younger readers. This is truly a magical book containing a subtle but important message; more than that it is a book of quality brimming with joy.
Book Review – Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
The book that launched a highly successful career, Madam, Will You Talk? contains all the classic ingredients of a Mary Stewart mystery – a sympathetic narrator, a strong sense of place, beautifully descriptive writing and a story that keeps you turning the pages.
A sense of time is captured with references to the Second World War, which is central to the story, and with the characters lighting up cigarettes on every other page! And although the story is firmly fixed in time and place, it is timeless in many respects and is as fresh today as the day it was first published.
Highly recommended to all fans of romantic mysteries.
Book Review – Light Love Rituals by Ronesa Aveela
This is a beautiful book in terms of content and presentation. Light Love Rituals is divided into seasons, which makes for easy reading and understanding. The depth of the authors’ research is outstanding, though this is no dry, academic treatise, instead it is a book that grabs and holds your attention on every page.
Highlights of the book include the views of a fictional family, the Did You Know? text boxes and the beautiful illustrations. Also, there is a recipe section crammed with tasty dishes. I have tried some of these recipes and intend to try more!
Our lives are full of traditions and rituals – many of them pagan – and these traditions and rituals are so ingrained that we take them for granted. By reading about Bulgaria’s traditions you will not only learn more about a fascinating country and its culture but also open your eyes to the traditions that offer a rhythm to our modern lives.
Light Love Rituals is an enchanting book, a delight.
Where Echoes Live (A Sharon McCone Mystery Book 11) by Marcia Muller
In some respects this is the pivotal book in the Sharon McCone series because it introduces Hy Ripinsky to the roster of characters. As usual in a Marcia Muller story the mystery element of the plot is well researched and intriguing and all the various strands are neatly pulled together and lead to a satisfying conclusion.
If I have a criticism of the book it is with the relationship strand of the story. For 90% of the book Sharon’s feelings for the two men who are after her affections is developed well, then I feel the resolution of this strand is rushed and tacked on at the end in a coda. In the coda the reader is told what happens rather than being in on the action first hand. This creates a distance between the reader and the characters, which is a shame because the relationship aspect of the story is a vital emotional ingredient of the book. Maybe the crumbling of one relationship and the building of another was too much to include within the framework of a mystery story.
Despite my reservations I still find Sharon McCone the most interesting female sleuth in fiction. She is a complex character with depth, a strong character in many respects, yet underscored with an element of likeable vulnerability.