1st of Autumn

It’s the first day of autumn, the first of September, and the dew is thick on the grass, the hawthorn berries glow like firelight in the hedgerows, and I am squirrelling away books for a winter’s reading.

Over the summer, there have been a couple of country crime reads. The first was The Murder Road, by Stephen Booth. It’s the latest in a long series of Derbyshire-based novels, and this one begins promisingly with a lorry-driver stuck under a rural railway bridge. Longstanding fans of the series will probably enjoy it, but I found myself thinking that no one has bored the pants off me explaining that they took the B2079 as far as Squiddleton before turning onto the A637… since about 2007. In a post-satnav world, everyone does what they’re told without making cunning vehicular diversions or meandering cross-country. To put it another way, if someone had bought Mr Booth a satnav for Christmas, about half the book would be gone.

Then there was the latest collection from Martin Edwards, Serpents in Eden. Bless his little cotton socks, the man can do wrong. He can even wear nylon socks as far as I’m concerned. It’s a mixed bag, but with some gems, and he’s sent me hurtling off in search of H C Bailey, (Henry Christopher, who knew?) who was new to me. I will be tracking down his Mr Fortune series. There were one or two tales that left me thinking “hmm, forgotten for a reason”, but failing short stories can be skipped over with a clear conscience. (The longer the book, the guiltier I feel for not finishing it.)

Finally I’m going to stretch category boundaries massively to include a “country spy” story, which doesn’t even count as a genre because spy stories are always urban, but Mick Herron has squeezed a good bit of Oxfordshire countryside into his second in the Slow Horses series, Dead Lions. The humour is bone dry, the plots as twisty as the ivy threatening to bring down my garden wall, and everyone who’s ever had a dull pointless job will identify with his characters. The next one’s out in paperback in October. Late to the party on this, but huge fan.

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