The other day I was enthusing about Harry Bingham's latest Fiona Griffiths novel, The Dead House, and having some spare Audible credits I thought I'd go back to the start of the series and hope to find out a bit more about the unusual, likeable, strange woman who is the central character. It was clear from The Dead House that Fiona was drawn to dead people and felt very safe and comfortable in their presence, but quite why this should have been was a mystery. Things become clearer in Talking to the Dead, in which Fiona, still a relatively new recruit to the police, is helping to investigate the murder of a prostitute and her six year old daughter. A credit card found at the house indicates that a very unpleasant gang of wealthy traffickers is involved, and the case takes Fiona on a very challenging expedition from her hometown Cardiff to a seemingly deserted lighthouse on the far west coast of Wales where... Well, you'll have to read it to find out. But Fiona's back story is spelled out here, and the mystery of her attraction to the dead is somewhat cleared up by the explanation of the unusual, but real, psychological syndrome from which she suffered in her late teens.
On the strength of the two I've read so far, I highly recommend this excellent series. It's quite remarkable that such a fascinating and convincing female character should be the creation of a male author. I shall definitely be catching up with the rest of the series. This one was extremely well read by Siriol Jenkins.
I've also been listening to Sophie Hannah's second Poirot novel, Closed Casket. I have to admit that I wasn't exactly bowled over by her first attempt, The Monogram Murders, but I enjoyed this one much more. Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, it passed some enjoyable hours. Set in Ireland, it's a proper country house mystery, so, as you'd expect, there's a limited cast of suspects and numerous possible motives.
The house is question is a mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, belonging to the wealthy Lady Athelinda Playford, a widow who writes successful detective novels. Also living there are her son, Viscount Harry Playford, his neurotic wife Dorothy, and his older sister Claudia, whose fiancé, pathologist Randall Kimpton, is a long-term visitor. Then there's Lady Playford's secretary, Joseph Scotcher, a delicate invalid dying from Bright's Disease, and his devoted nurse Sophie Bourlay. Hercule Poirot and his friend, Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool, have also been invited though they are puzzled as to why they've been included in the house party and assume that Lady P is expecting trouble. And trouble soon rears its head. At dinner on the first night, Lady P announces that she has changed her will, disinheriting her children and leaving her huge estate to Joseph Scotcher. Outrage ensues, and great confusion - why leave it all to someone who has only a few weeks to live? Only hours later, Scotcher is discovered to have been murdered, though the method proves to be not at all what it seems.
Sophie Hannah's non-Poirot crime novels are notable for their habit of setting up an apparently inexplicable situation at the start and then finally revealing the explanation at the end. They are always tremendous fun, but the denouement is invariably almost impossible to swallow. This one is no different in that respect, but no less enjoyable for that. Although inspired by Christie, the novel would never be mistaken for one of Dame Agatha's own, and indeed Poirot has little to do in the early part of the story, though he comes into his own in a long and typical revelation section at the end. I had a lot of fun with this despite its highly improbable ending.
Many thanks again to Audible for enabling me to have so many hours of listening pleasure.