In the High Peaks

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Lots of New Books in the House and End-of-Year Reading

 Merry Christmas, everyone! Our holiday has been frigid, with a depth of several inches of glare ice on the road, but we have plenty of food, have internet and streaming, and plenty of electricity and heat. My heart goes out to those in Ukraine who do not have their most basic needs met this Christmas. We will give what we can to them. But then Ken and I think, what about all the other people in this world who don't have adequate food and shelter? It's painfully unfathomable.


I'm within 15 pages of finishing Rhys Bowen's 2021 offering in the Royal Spyness series, God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen. I enjoyed this one, which was set almost entirely in a large house on the royal Sandringham Estate, the home of Georgie's husband Darcy's Aunt Ermintrude, a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary. The Queen has confided in Georgie that there is great evil afoot. (Georgie is a first cousin twice removed from King George.) The Prince of Wales has been shot at during a royal shoot, his equerry was killed mysteriously, and so much more. Aside from the murder(s) mystery, I really enjoyed the description of a 1930s upper-class English Christmas, especially the full descriptions of all the meals that were consumed. That's the cosy side of this mystery. The combination of a fun, light read with some grisly murders mixed in!

I'm also reading Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham, inspired by Katrina's mention of it in a post on her blog Pining for the West (see sidebar). Published in 1939, Christmas Holiday has been critiqued as not being among his best novels, but I'm finding it very interesting. I will say that it's only the first of Maugham's novels I've read. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later. 

Unlike most of this year when I bought almost no books at all, I have purchased quite a number of books in November and December. These TBR books include the following:   

The Last Chairlift by John Irving

Lessons by Ian McEwan

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man  Paul Newman

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre

The Private Eye: The Letters of John Le Carre

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

THEN!!!  There are the 3 new books currently on hold for me at the library! Help! Well, actually these are riches, and I will respond by reading furiously!

OH! And I'm currently in the midst of Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope for the Classics Club Spin, review due no later than January 29.


  1. Judith, I agree, it is painful to think of all the people in the world who don't have food and/or shelter or are dealing with unrest in their countries.

    I have got to try the Royal Spyness series, I say that everytime that you mention it here. I still can't decide whether to start at the beginning or jump right in somewhere later in the series.

    I always buy more books in December than usual. I don't know why.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      About the Royal Spyness Series: I've read a couple that haven't wowed me at all. The first one sets the stage, and is a bit interesting (sort of), but the best one I've read is the Twelve Clues of Christmas. I also liked the one I just finished. And I'm sure there are more good ones, but I haven't read them. In this series, after you read the first one, you can read any which one you like--I don't think it matters.
      I know why I buy more books in December! It's because I need to gift myself once a year. :)

  2. Do read Bill Fairclough's fact based spy thriller, Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone novel of six in The Burlington Files series. One day he may overtake Bond, Smiley and even Jackson Lamb!

    Intentionally misspelt, Beyond Enkription is a must read for espionage illuminati. It’s a raw noir matter of fact pacy novel. Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote it. Coincidentally, a few critics have nicknamed its protagonist “a posh Harry Palmer.”

    It is a true story about a maverick accountant, Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington in Porter Williams International (in real life Coopers & Lybrand now PwC). In the 1970s in London he infiltrated organised crime gangs, unwittingly working for MI6. After some frenetic attempts on his life he was relocated to the Bahamas where, “eyes wide open” he was recruited by the CIA and headed for shark infested waters off Haiti.

    If you’re an espionage cognoscente you’ll love this monumental book. In real life Bill Fairclough was recruited by MI6's unorthodox Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE and thereafter they worked together on and off into the 1990s. You can find out more about Pemberton’s People (who even included Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) in an article dated 31 October 2022 on The Burlington Files website.

    This epic is so real it made us wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more exhilarating. Whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder, odds on once you are immersed in it you’ll read this titanic production twice. For more detailed reviews visit the Reviews page on TheBurlingtonFiles website or see other independent reviews on your local Amazon website and check out Bill Fairclough's background on the web.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts and recommendations!

  3. I have at least one of Rhys Bowen's non Royal Spyness books waiting for the right moment. I just noticed you read Little Black Lies by Sandra Block. Back when it was new, I requested it from the library by mistake - trying to get Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton. I had actually read half of the wrong book before I suddenly thought, "Isn't this supposed to be set in the Falklands?" Then I realized but decided to finish the book anyway before I went racing back to the library!

    I got no books for Christmas but I was shelving books at the library tonight and saw there is a new John Verdon (you would like this series, if you have not read it already). The two main characters have left NYC to live in the country but mysteries keep happening to them.

    Happy 2023!

    1. And a Happy New Year to you!
      Which Royal Spyness mystery is waiting for you? And, that's funny about Little Black Lies, and the names of the authors are so similar! I will definitely check out John Verndon--thank you for the recommendation. They do sound intriguing.

  4. Now how far away is your library? You have a good list going. I have not heard of Maugham's Christmas holiday book. Hmm. You have stumped me. But now I'm quite curious about it, though Christmas is now over and 2023 is almost upon us. I too have a copy of The Last Chairlift ... whoa is that a doorstopper ... since I lived in Aspen after college ... I wanted to hear a bit what his ski saga entails. Happy New Year to you!

    1. Hi Susan,
      A very happy New Year to you, too! Maugham's Christmas Holiday is about a young man who travels to Paris for Christmas week. There is nothing Christmas-y about it--nothing. It's somewhat interesting, but it's not a book that would be high on my list of recommendations.
      My library is an hour's drive away--it's about 40 miles, and it's in the small city that's to the south of us where we do our food and other shopping. (Glens Falls, NY). It's a wonderful library, and if it doesn't have a book, it's part of a large library system, and often another library will have a book I'm looking for.
      Very lucky!

  5. I wish I had remembered to pick up a Rhys Bowen Christmas book for my December reading! I know I could've squeezed it in. I also acquired The Last Chairlift and look forward to reading it early in the new year. I appreciated your sentiments about how lucky we are to be warm and snug with books and streaming and food when so many are not. It's important to always remember and be grateful...and kind. Best wishes for a great 2023 filled with good health and plenty of good reads!

    1. Hi Jane,
      Happy New Year to you!
      I'm wondering when I'll read The Last Chairlift. I'm uncertain about how I'll attack the coming year's reading. Some planning is necessary--so many books I want to read! I'll be very interested to hear what you think of Irving's latest.

  6. Hello Judith. I am not sure how this works but I hope you read this comment. I saw somewere else that you read the Turncoat by Siegfried Lenz. I just saw the movie and I loved it but I wonder if in the book Walter and Wanda reunite? Regards,