Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February: Part 2

In Diamond Solitaire, Peter Diamond, having lost his job as a policeman, proceeds to lose his job as a security guard at Harrods.  A little Japanese girl is found hiding in the furniture section after hours.  She doesn't speak and no one can find out who she is.  No one claims her.  

It's decided that she's autistic.  She's placed in a school for autistic children in London.  She haunts Peter.  He decides to devote himself to finding out who she is.  She begins to trust him and to draw.  The drawings are clues to where she came from.

The clues lead to an international pharmaceutical company and the development of a drug for treating Alzheimer's and which may also help maintain youthful brain function.  It turns out that the little girl's mother is a chemist who had worked on the drug.

Peter is helped by a very famous sumo wrestler who foots the bill for Peter's investigation.  He also plays a large, if you'll excuse the pun, part in an exciting rescue.

I like The Cazalet series very much, but this third book was aptly named.  I had difficulty reminding myself which character the chapter was about or which character was talking.  Confusion concerns mostly the young women in the family:  Zoe, Louise, Angela, Clary, and Polly.  They're all unlucky in love.

If you've read the series in order, you've watched the girls grow up and move out into the world.  Zoe's husband Rupert is MIA in World War II.  She's in limbo, not a wife and not a widow.  Louise marries Michael, a painter who is too devoted to his manipulative mother.  Clary and Polly are dipping their toes into romance and life in London.  Angela, after an unfortunate affair with a co-worker and an unwanted pregnancy, has given up.

Don't count on Elizabeth Jane Howard to deliver a happy ending, just interesting characters and slices of life in England before, during, and after the war.

It just so happened that while I was reading Confusion (see above), I was also reading Mrs. Milburn's Diaries.  I love reading diaries written by normal civilians during World War II.  Mrs. Jack Milburn (Clara) kept her diaries from 1939 through 1945.  She and her husband lived near Coventry, England.  Their only son, Alan John, was captured at Dunkirk and spent the next six years in German prisoner of war camps.  News of him was sporadic, although he and his mother exchanged letters, often much delayed.

Clara was active in the war effort, the Land Girls and the Women's Institute.  She was proud of their cars and volunteered to drive people from place to place, patients to doctors and hospitals, etc.  She also gardened and kept chickens.  A photograph of a watercolor she did of Coventry Cathedral shows that she was an accomplished artist as well.

She had a housekeeper, Kate, who cooked and cleaned and kept things in order.

Alan came home on May 10, 1945, and the diaries end.  Judy Milburn, the woman Alan married, adds information about what happened to everyone after the war.

I enjoyed reading these diaries.  It still overwhelms me when I read the number of people killed, soldiers and civilians, the amount of planes and bombs.  And it happened within living memory.

As diaries of World War II go, my favorites are still the diaries of Nella Last.  Her personality came through more in her writings.

Does anyone know of any World War II diaries by American women?

Murder at the Motor Show was first published in 1935.  Mr. Nigel Pershore, a wealthy gentleman, goes to an auto show and drops dead.  The coroner can't find a cause of death, except that his healthy heart suddenly stopped.  The autopsy reveals, however, that he had arsenic in his body, but not enough to kill him.

The police investigate and are sure they have the killer.  It must be the man's niece, who stands to inherit the bulk of his fortune.  Or is it his nephew, who will inherit even more because he knows something that the others don't know.  But maybe it's the man whose mortgage will be satisfied by Pershore's death.  Maybe it's not any of those.  Who is the mysterious woman who visits Nigel Pershore?

The book starts slowly, in my opinion, with too much detailed information about the innovative cars at the show.  Dr. Priestly, the detective of the series, doesn't intervene until late in the book.  I've only read one other Rhode book, The Claverton Affair.  I think I need to read a few more before I decide whether or not I like this series.    

Who knew that going to a car show could be so dangerous?!


  1. All of these sound good. I did read Diamond Solitaire and liked it a lot. The books that are about WWII (fiction and non-fiction) sound very interesting. That is a period I like to read about. I haven't read any books by John Rhode. It seems he wrote a lot of books.

    1. I like WWII books, too, possibly because it's a time that's just out of reach for me. I've seen ration books that were my parents'. My father was in the Detached Service, I assume because he was older and had a family. History is always more interesting if you have a personal connection.

  2. Calling a book Confusion is taking a risk! Glad it turned out ok though. Can't think of any diaries at the moment but if I do I will let you know!

    1. Yes, it is! I really like this series, but there are a lot of characters to keep track of. I was going to take a break after book three, but I've decided to go on to book four.

  3. It looks like you're on a roll at the moment with good books. The only one I've read is Confusion, I'm on the last Cazalet book Casting Off at the moment and I'm finding it quite sad, but I can't imagine them all just coming to a stop, I wish she had written more of them.

    1. I was dismayed that I read so few books in the second half of February, but they were decent books. I decided to go right on with book four of the Cazalet Chronicles and am already almost halfway through.

  4. They all sound really good, Joan! I think I'd like the diaries too. I'll have to look for some. I have the first one in the LM Montgomery diaries and its good. She's a teen in the first one. Never read any of the Cazalets but saw the TV series and enjoyed it. Read a couple other Howard books though and enjoyed them.

    1. I've kept a diary since 5th grade, off and on. I don't think there'd be a whole lot of interest in mine, but I love to read those of other people. I think I'd like L.M. Montgomery's, so I'll see if I can find those. I just finished the last of the Cazalet Chronicles. I've been following their lives for so long that I think I'm going through withdrawal!