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Saturday, 28 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Gin and Murder

Gin and Murder is the first one of a series of books. They are less well known than many of her works: though they are horse related, the horses are less of an key element to the books. They are aimed at adults: in fact they are murder mystery books. Josephine is following in the steps of her mother, who was alive when this was published. This book is dedicated to her.

It was first published in 1959, though the image shown is a 1990 reprint. All 3 books are quite hard to find, though not as hard as Mystery On the Moor. The "Linford Mystery Library" editions are easier to find than the first, however they are in large print, making them quite bulky. However they are complete and unabridged, so you do not miss out on any story.

I have added it into 2 series: the series should really be called "(Chief) Inspector Flecker", as he is the character that appears throughout the whole series, and quite a key. However, because of the relative obscurity of the books, it may not be obvious to people, and therefore I am also adding a "Adult Murder Mystery" tag, which makes more sense.

The blurb reads:-

When Guy Vickers died after Commander Chadwick's cocktail party, murder was the last thing suspected by East Wintshire. Murder was something one read about in the Sunday newspapers; it just didn't happen to people like them.

But murder it was. And when Inspector Hollis of the County Police began his rather ham-handed investigations, he found plenty of motives concealed behind those conventional fa├žades.

It took a second murder to stampede the Chief Constable into sending for help from Scotland Yard, and when help came in the person of Chief Inspector James Flecker, he began to wonder whether it had been a wise move...

The horse element is somewhat lesser than her horse books. It is mainly confined to the fact that the book is set against a hunting background. Part of the book dwells on the party of the hunting franiterny, and the politics of the hunt. Apart from a couple of visits to the kennels by James Flecker, and a somewhat minimally detailed hunting day, there isn't much horse related. The majority of the story is taken up by Inspector Hollis' and later Chief Inspector James Flecker's investigations.

Although it is meant for adults, it could be read by older teenagers too. There is a small amount of swearing here and there, so it would definitely not be suitable for children. Also, one of the characters in the book drinks a lot, and therefore it makes it also unsuitable for young teenagers.
If you do not like hunting or want more horses, then perhaps this is not the book for you: then you are better off with Josephine's other (fictional) works.

The books is not too graphic: to be honest, Josephine's other adult book: A Place With Two Faces (written under the pseudonym of Josephine Mann) is more so. But then again, that is a different genre: that is a gothic terror novel. If you dont like hearing (in graphic detail) about how the person died, worry not, apart from the cause of death, there is very little detail about the two people die.

I do not know if this is a good or bad murder mystery book: to be honest, I have yet to read any other murder mystery book. Although her mother (Joanna Cannan) was famous for writing detective novels (Rue Morgue Press compare to her to other famous authors at the time, including a friend, Georgette Heyer), it is probably a decent one. Joanna Cannan herself wrote one book which is along the lines of this (having a horsey background I mean) which is Murder Included, which I will review at a later date.

The characters are well thought out, and the situation is believable. It is neither a heavy read or a light one, it falls in the middle. The action flows along nicely, though the plot is not over complicated. For me personally, I was put off in detective/murder novels because I was worried about the plot and the book being very complicated, and therefore hard to follow, worry not. This is not the case.

Still it has a decent enough ending, and everything is nicely sown up, though the ending has a slight twist in it. Enough to keep most people amused, and perhaps not for everyone, but if you can get past the lack of horses. It is enough to keep people who are perhaps interested in murder mysteries but not horses happy. Quite a good book in all, and a decent enough departure from Josephine's usual style.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Plenty Of Ponies


This week's book is Plenty Of Ponies. It was first published in 1949, making it one of Josephine's earlier books (in fact it was her third book that she published).

The blurb reads (first picture):-

'Quite frankly, I don't think much of you Esmonds' said the colonel. 'You've got some of the nicest ponies in this Pony Club, but you don't seem to take any trouble.'

The Christmas holidays promise wonderful adventures for the five Esmonds - but somehow they always end up in disgrace. They let The Turk gallop through hounds, October has run riot in Mr. Simpson's garden - and now they've brought chaos to the Pony Club rally.

However, there's still the Children's Meet, and the Esmonds are determined to redeem themselves - and give the colonel the shock of his life....

The second scan is of a Collins Pony Library edition, which does not contain a blurb. However both editions contains illustrations. The Collins Pony Library edition are credited to Anne Bullen, which are presumably the same ones as the first edition. The other one (a White Lion edition) does not credit the illustrator, but they are the same ones as in the Collins Pony Library edition (and presumably, by Anne Bullen). The cover has been done by someone else, however.

The book starts out with Professor Esmond pointing out their bad points, of which they decide to "improve their characters". However things do not go
to plan, even when hunting on Boxing Day the Master gets cross and a Colonel Howard tells them off.

This book is somewhat slightly stuffy, these days people do not think of "improving their characters". However there is a great deal of (mis)adventures to be read in this book, and this makes up for it. Granted, there aren't so many horse filled incidents until near the end, but the relationship of the children is enough to keep you occupied. Perhaps this is not the ideal book to start off with if you have not read Josephine's books before, as this is not her best work. However, it must be remembered that it is an early work of hers, and that is the reason why.

In some ways that old fashionedness sticks out, there is talk of brandy when someone is ill/has an accident, which is not used today in quite the same way (and certainly not given to children) and also of liver pills (which are not used these days either). Also there are frequent mentions of servants and gardeners, which (unless you are very rich) people don't have these days. Also when there is talk of hanging, it also dates it, as we don't have hanging anymore.

It is a book I am not particularly fond of, but if you can get past the old fashionedness of it, it is not too bad. Like All Change/The Hidden Horse, the ponies are a secondary element to this book.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Save The Ponies!

Save The Ponies is this week's book. It was first published in 1984, making this one of Josephine's later books.

The blurb reads:-

It all began when Mandy, Kate, Jeremy and Fergus met Nico and Sophia on the Greek Island where they were spending their holidays. Together they discover that a horse dealer from Athens is illegally buying up the island ponies to use them in a circus. Even Nico's beloved pony, Vrondi, is in danger.

In desperation, the children embark on a dramatic rescue attempt. They set off on a daring bare-back ride through the mountains determined on one thing - at all costs they must save the ponies!

A couple of notes: this is probably one of two pony books set in Greece; the other is Penny and Pegasus by Primrose Cumming and both authors were British. Secondly, there is an exact titled book by Gillian Baxter, however the Gillian Baxter one pre-dates this, as it was first published in 1971. If you do not own this book, please double check that you are getting the right one. Thirdly this reminds me of a book by her sister Christine called Stolen Ponies, which was published in 1957.

This book starts by Kate and Jeremy being bored, having being made to go with two people (Mandy and Fergus) who they aren't really friends with. They all decide to go for a beach walk (they are already at the island) where they meet Sophia and Nico. They tell them about a pony race happening tomorrow.

They all attend the race, which is rather crude by British standards. But the excitement makes up for it. They find some ponies to hire and it is during these rides that they find out that the ponies are being sold to a circus. But the ponies are involved in a sinister plot and that is where a plan of action comes along.

I felt that this was an ok effort. This is one of Josephine's adventure effort, it is not to bad as far as her stories goes. It is a pleasant, light red, however the unusual location gives it an added in-depth which is missing from other book. However if it is was not there it would not be as strong. The greatest strength really in this book is the detail of the difference of cultures and the way in life, as far as ponies are treated and people's attitude. But as this is supposed to be a pony book, it is a great shame.