Despite having grown up watching the Inspector Morse TV series with John Thaw and Kevin Whately I realised I’ve never actually read any of the books. As it’s actually hot enough in the UK to feel like a proper summer it tends to mean I end up reading more and nine times out of ten it’s a detective novel so it felt like a good time to see how the books compare. My parents ave the complete set so I decided to start at the beginning and so read The Last Bus to Woodstock, which was first published in 1975.
I’m not sure how popular the Inspector Morse series is outside of the UK, or even in the UK, any more as there hasn’t been a new episode in over 15 years and it’s pretty much only shown on the digital ITV channels as repeats, though it is available on the ITV player if you live in the UK and want to watch some. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a detective series based on these books by Colin Dexter. It’s based in Oxford and the main characters, Morse and sergeant Lewis, tend to end up with the more unusual murders. The kind that need some different ideas and only really make sense when explained at the end. They’re fairly quiet, as far as murder mysteries can be, and there’s lots of visits to pubs and conversations rather than fast paced action sequences and violence.
Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series will probably know that Paul Kidby was the illustrator for the covers of the later Discworld books. Since 2002 he’s been the artist who’s done the covers and art in various books related to the series. The Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book is full of line art versions of some of his art. In total there are 77 pages to colour in, 78 if you include the title page and 16 pages of the original full colour art for the line art versions in the book.
This colouring book has images from various stories, along with excerpts from the books themselves on a lot of the pages next to the full page images and surrounded by their own art too so you have the link to the Terry Pratchett works there too. It’s been around for a couple of years, it was first published in 2016, but somehow I’ve missed it. I think it came out just after I’d bought a few too many colouring books and was taking a break but it’s in my collection now.
I’ve already reviewed the first two Death in Paradise books based on the characters from the BBC TV series and by the show’s creator Robert Thorogood. This third book, Death Knocks Twice, was published last year and I’ve been meaning to read it but not quite got round to it until recently.
If you haven’t heard of the TV series this is based on it’s a similar style to Agatha Christie stories in that there’s a murder that seems impossible, often a locked room is involved, and a group of detectives in Saint Marie police station, a fictional Caribbean island, have to work out how it happened. The lead is a British detective in Richard Poole who has some unusual ways to solve the case. This time it’s a murder that looks like a suicide with no obvious motive. As the story unfolds pretty much every member of the family that lives in the estate where the murder happened becomes the main suspect so it keeps you guessing to the end.
I’m not sure how popular George Gently as a TV series has been outside the UK but it was a fairly popular series that finished last year. It’s a detective show set in the 60s which revolves around Inspector George Gently (played by Martin Shaw) and his sergeant Bacchus (who isn’t in the books). I’ve loved the show and didn’t realise it was even based on a series of books until recently and, when I saw one in the library, I had to read one and see how it compared.
It seems like a lot of TV shows are based on books and it’s very rare for me to actually like both versions. There are often so many differences that one or the other stands out as better to me, whether it was the first version I saw or not. The main difference here, that I can see from one book anyway, is the lack of Bacchus (played by Lee Ingleby). I had read before finding this book that the character of George Gently himself was very different but I found that I could imagine the TV version when reading this. Maybe because this book is around the twentieth book in the series of forty six (if I’m remembering that number correctly) so he may have mellowed compared to what I’ve read on the character.
This review is about the book, I just thought that it would be worth doing a bit of an introduction including the TV show as that’s how I found the book in the first place and I think it may be the more well known incarnation.
Title: The Killing of Polly Carter
Author: Robert Thorogood
Publisher, date published: Harlequin Mira, 2015
The Killing of Polly Carter is the second book by Robert Thorogood and the second of the series of books based on the BBC detective series Death in Paradise. If you’ve seen the Tv show before you’ll be familiar with the characters, it’s based on the original group, and the setting in the Caribbean with the fictional island of St Marie. If you haven’t it has the feel of a modern day Agatha Christie set in a hot country with the same gentle style and unexpected twists in the story before the murderer is exposed at the end in a very Poirot-esque way by gathering all of the suspects together and going through them one by one.
It does have some light comedy and the TV series is a light one that most of the family can enjoy, maybe not the youngest members as they may either not understand or not like the actual murders or genre, but I’d say teens and up would be able to enjoy it depending on what they like. This book definitely goes for the same audience, fans of Agatha Christie style detective stories of all ages.
Title: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
Author: Agatha Christie
Year Written: 1934
Publisher, Year Published: Fontana, 1984
My detective book summer has continued with another crime novel from Agatha Christie, though this time not a Poirot mystery. Why Didn’t they Ask Evans? Is about Bobby Jones, who witnesses someone die, though he is unaware at the time it’s a murder as he thinks he fell off a cliff, but as it’s an Agatha Christie it couldn’t be that simple. It is set in the early twentieth century, I can’t remember a date being mentioned but as it was originally written in 1934 I would assume around then, and is a quiet country setting as with a lot of her books, that hides a story of murder with twists and turns.
This book has been sat in my parents bookshelf so I thought, having enjoyed the other Agatha Christies I’ve read recently, I’d give it a go. It was adapted into a Miss Marple story fairly recently for TV so it may be familiar if you watch the ITV dramas but it’s not originally one of that series. I have to say I didn’t remember the storyline from the TV series so it was like reading it without any previous knowledge which was a bit of a change from the others.
Title: A Meditation on Murder
Author: Robert Thorogood
Publisher, Date: Harlequin MIRA, 2015
Until a recent trip to the library I didn’t even know that there were books based on the Death in Paradise TV show from the BBC. As it’s one I love and I’m on a bit of a detective novels kick at the moment I thought I’d give it a go. It’s also the perfect book for the recent heat here in the UK, with its setting of Saint-Marie, a fictional island in the Caribbean. After a bit of a look online it turns out A Meditation on Murder was the first Death in Paradise novel so it’s a great one to start with.
I was interested, going into this, to see how close it comes to the actual TV series and characters, also which of the characters it was written about as there have been a few combinations over the series. Being written by the creator of the show, Robert Thorogood, I was hoping it would be close and, to me, it doesn’t disappoint.
Another Agatha Christie book, this is from a series of ten that Penguin published that she chose herself as favourites. I already reviewed Death on the Nile, another from this series, and this has the same green cover that the Penguin Crime books do. It’s The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie, a book of twelve short stories about Hercule Poirot. Each one is inspired by one of the Labours of Hercules, the classic book about the Greek myths of Hercules.
This edition was published in 1955 (it’s the reprint, he original Penguin was in 1953) but as it’s one of the more well known Agatha Christie books and part of the Poirot series it has been published many times over the years. Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie’s more famous characters and there are TV adaptations of all of the stories, though I don’t remember all of these being made. Each of the stories is short, ranging from around 15 to 30 pages, and covers a wide range of mysteries from dog kidnapping to murder.
I don’t know why but in the past when I’ve tried to read Agatha Christie books I haven’t got on with then, despite loving the TV and movie adaptations I’d seen, or maybe because of them. However, I started reading some of the ones my parents have last summer and have loved reading them so I thought I’d try one of the ones I know better from TV now that the weather has improved and is better for sitting outside reading.
Hallowe’en Party is a Poirot story, I think he’s probably the most well known of Agatha Christie’s characters though I don’t know how well known her books are outside of the UK. It also has another recurring main character from the Poirot series in Ariadne Oliver, a crime novelist who comes up with unlikely answers to solve the crimes and is pretty much the opposite of the quiet, methodical Poirot when it comes to questioning. The book revolves around the murder of a young girl at a Halloween party whete Ariadne is a guest and so she brings Poirot in.
Title: Five on Brexit Island
Author: Bruno Vincent
Year written: 2016
Publisher and year: Quercus, 2016
ISBN Number: 978-1-78648-384-3
I think I first heard of this book on a livestreams the Yogscast did in December and wanted to get it since then so, as I was already making a Paperchase order, it ended up in my bag. It’s £7.99 from Paperchase (though I found it for under £4 on Amazon) and a hardback which surprised me as most of the Famous Five books I grew up with are paperback. It’s the latest in the Famous Five for grown ups series, at least I’ve seen it called that even if it’s not the official name, and it’s Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent.
I’m not sure how much of a thing the Famous Five, or Enid Blyton in general, is outside of the UK and if it’s even something that people still read here but I grew up reading them. It’s a very British series of books, I think Enid Blyton books are in general, where four children and their dog Timmy go for adventures. I think they’re fairly tame by today’s standards for adventure stories, they’re set in the fifties I think or maybe the sixties, and they always seem to find a friendly farmer who gives them free food and drink. One of them, a girl called George has an island off the coast of England, the kind with a nice ruin and plenty of secret tunnels and caves for adventure, which is where this story is set.