Murder Book Club

This Group is full.There is a waiting list if you would like to join it.

December 2019 Newsletter

There are thirteen members of Beeston U3A’s Murder Book Club which, in itself, sounds like the plot of a Poirot novel by Agatha Christie. Despite discussing violent death, dissection of bodies, euthanasia and all things macabre we are a jolly crowd who do not take these books too seriously; apart from one or two of you and you know who you are!

We are aware that many U3A members also have the secret, or not so secret, vice of enjoying murder. Unfortunately, we cannot take any further readers as we are bursting at the seams in the “snug” of the Crown Inn. Instead, we thought we would pass on some recommendations to those of you who like to read crime at home.

Firstly, two series of novels we have enjoyed as a group:

The Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. The first of these is called “Crossing Places.” Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist based in Norfolk who uncovers, along with ancient bones, modern murders. The cast is unusual: a mixture of university lecturers, a “randy” police officer and local druids. A good fun read and highly accessible. If you enjoy the first then there are at least another twelve to keep you exploring the fascinating mix of archaeology and crime.

The second series takes place in Galloway, Scotland. This is Aline Templeton’s series based around her main character Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming or Big Marge as she is known behind her back. The first novel is “Cold in the Earth” and there are many more, in the series, with ingenious plots, to keep you gripped. This is farming country and the first book looks at the horrific effect foot and mouth has on the local community. Marjory is, herself, married to a local farmer and the tension between the farmers and police puts her position in the local community at risk. As with the books by Elly Griffiths the relationships develop convincingly over the series.

One stand-alone novel to recommend, which has received the highest ranking of all ten books we have looked at so far this year (17/20), is “Rubbernecker” by Belinda Bauer. This came via another book club and was considered to be an extremely well written novel with several crimes within its pages. Even non-crime aficionados cannot fail but to appreciate the skill behind the writing of this one although subsequent crime novels by Belinda Bauer are not so impressive.

We now look forward to our choices for 2020.

Helen Stewart

September 2019 Newsletter

Rather than concentrate on the books we have covered since our last contribution to the newsletter, I would like to use this occasion to thank Sergio for his many years of hospitality at the White Lion. Also, to wish him and his family all the very best in the future.

From the moment we started The Murder Book Club, we have held our meetings at The White Lion pub in Beeston. Sergio was extremely accommodating. He would allow us to move the furniture; he turned down the pub “music” so we could hear each other speak and he would produce food for us. In fact, his £8.00 buffet was probably the best value in Beeston. Who could forget the Pastéis de Nata, the Portuguese cakes, he would sell at the bar or make for Christmas?

He struggled to keep his pub open during the disruption of the tram lines being built outside. It was thought that he might have given up then. It was whilst asking about hosting a poetry evening at the White Lion in 2020 that he dropped the bombshell; he would willingly do so as long as he was still there. He explained that it was all hard work and that his children were growing up and he hardly saw them so a decision about quitting was to be taken at the end of the year. Unfortunately, that decision came sooner than was expected.

Thank you Sergio for your hospitality. Thank you for the delicious tapas. Thank you for the fascinating discussions about politics. We shall all miss you.

Future meetings of the Murder Book Club will be held at the Crown Inn in their “snug”. My thanks to Margot for arranging that with the landlord. There are a couple of spaces available for members who enjoy reading crime novels.

Helen Stewart

March 2019 Newsletter

What have the ancient city of Edinburgh, the county of Norfolk, Paris and the island of Sicily have in common? Answer: loads of murders! We have continued to plumb the depths of this genre with much passion verging, at times, on hysteria. Our favourite book of 2018 was the first in the Doctor Ruth Galloway series by Ellie Griffiths followed closely by Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels.

In December a few members attended a morning session at Beeston Library on “Murder In England”. This was not of the fictitious kind but looked at facts and figures relating to “true crime”. This enlightening morning was followed by a jovial Murder Group Christmas lunch at The Frustrated Chef.

Our enthusiasm has, once again, been engaged with the latest programme for 2019; it is astonishing just how varied and prolific the murder genre continues to be.

Helen Stewart

June 2018 Newsletter

May: The Doctor Ruth Galloway series by Ellie Griffiths (The Crossing Places)

June: The Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George (A Great Deliverance)

July: The Crowner John mysteries by Bernard Knight (The Sanctuary Seeker)

August: The Joe Faraday series by Graham Hurley (Turnstone)

Why do so many murders happen in Scotland? For the last two months our books have been set in modern-day Edinburgh and in Edinburgh of the 19th century. What have they in common? Well, horrific murder, of course.

Jane took us through the Rebus series by Ian Rankin and we looked at the first book “Noughts and Crosses”. Most members of the group are Rebus fans but we all agreed that the first book was really not the best and that Rankin’s later ones are so much better. Paddy then took us through the Inspector McLevy series written by David Ashton which was loved by some and disliked by others. What was fascinating was that they were originally written for the radio and were adapted to book form later. Our thanks to both Jane and Paddy for their lead on these sessions. I think I shall avoid going to Edinburgh for a while.

Helen Stewart

March 2018 Newsletter

The books for the forthcoming months are:
March: The Rebus series by Ian Rankin (Knots and Crosses being the 1st book)
April: The Inspector McLevy Mysteries by David Ashton ( The Shadow of the Serpent)
May: The Doctor Ruth Galloway series by Ellie Griffiths (The Crossing Places)
June: The Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George (A Great Deliverance)

As a group we have been introduced to some very different thrillers over the last months. Some of which have been very violent but these have been contrasted with quite gentle murder books – if one can ever say that murder is gentle! We do use criteria to rate them but, over the three years, there have only been two outstanding books: Dissolution by C. J. Sansom and the Resnick series by John Harvey both of which have scored a near perfect 20. They are quite contrasting crime books with Sansom’s set in the world of Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and Resnick set in Nottingham in the 70’s and 80’s. Why did we like these in particular? Sansom’s books are skilfully written and we all felt that they had increased our understanding of the historical period in which they are set. The setting also rated highly in our admiration for John Harvey as we could walk through Nottingham with his detective, Resnick. They are also well researched and written. Maybe we shall find some crime books in our forthcoming programme to rival them.

My thanks to everyone who has now led the monthly meeting. Also, my thanks to Sergio of the White Lion who has put up with us. We are, unfortunately full, and cannot take any new members until existing participants leave. There is, however, the chance to be placed on a waiting list.

Helen Stewart

December 2017 Newsletter

If a stranger came across our group meeting at The White Lion on the afternoon of the first Wednesday of the month they would think us to be such a happy crowd. Would they be appalled to know that we are, in fact, discussing murder, kidnap, violence and all things associated with the dark side of mankind?

So, why do we read about crime? Here are some more opinions from members of the group: “I enjoy the puzzle of trying to second guess any clues. I do like to read about the hero/detective who rescues the situation – especially if they are tall, dark and charismatic (A Jack Reacher look alike!) I think I like the ones who question authority when I reflect on some of my favourites.”

“Why do I read murder books? The suspense, getting into the mind of the detective.”

“I like murder Mystery books because they are exciting and outside my normal day to day life. They are an escape into an interesting, fascinating world of detectives and forensic science.”

“A flippant answer to why I like reading murder books would be that I don’t like housework or gardening! I enjoy a story that moves on purposefully, without endless description , usually with a satisfactory ending. As many are set in different times and different countries one absorbs general knowledge painlessly almost without noticing.

“I blame/thank my mother for my love of murder and mystery books as she was an avid murder book devourer herself. Mum started me on the John Creasey books Gideons Day Gideons Week and Gideons Month etc and I have been reading since then. What is important to is that the perpetrator or baddie gets his come uppance – if the book ends with the police knowing who did it but being unable to prove it then I am very disappointed – the Methodist in me needs justice – whether that’s legal justice or some other form doesn’t matter.”

“Why do I read murder books ? The simple answer of course is that I enjoy them. It is not the actual murder per se but the process of investigation and deduction that I really enjoy. For example, some of my favourite and much read books are John Le Carre’s George Smiley novels. Since my early teens I have done cryptic crosswords, arithmetic puzzles etc. This is probably why I enjoy the books. ”

“I like murder/ mystery books because of the plots ( sometimes very convoluted!) and trying to work out ‘who did it’ and the page turning (hopefully) suspense to reach the conclusion.”

To satisfy our different interests even within the one genre we have looked at The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, The Camille Trilogy by Pierre le Maitre, The Ed McBain 87th Precinct Series, the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler, and The Enzo Macleod series by Peter May. A big “Thank you” to everyone who led us in these sessions.

Helen Stewart

June 2017 Newsletter

Jeffrey Deaver, John Harvey, Barbara Nadel, Martin O’Brien and Nicci French have been the writers we have looked at since the start of 2017. My thanks go to Jim, to Di, to Elizabeth and to Helen Hubert for taking us through the crime series (Lincoln Rhyme, Resnick, Inspector Ikmen, Jacquot and Frieda Klein) so expertly.

We do like our crime novels to be well written. Most of us also like our books to be violent which probably says something about us as a group of individuals! An important criteria in our judgement of the books is the setting. The Resnick books rated highly because they are set, convincingly, in Nottingham and the south of France setting of Jacquot also rated a high score. We were fascinated by the politics in Turkey revealed by Barbara Nadel’s book “Arabesk” even if the plot-line was not a gripping one. Most agreed that Deaver’s “The Bone Collector” was well-plotted and contained the blood and gore we were seeking although all of us felt that the endless lists in this series were unnecessary.

The group is now full having squeezed in one more person after the Group Fair. Thankfully, we all seem to take holidays at different times which means everyone can fit into our readers’ circle.


March 2017 Newsletter

We have only had two meetings since an article was last written for the Newsletter. Since then we have been taken through the Lincoln Rhyme books by Jeffrey Deaver and the Resnick books by John Harvey.

Jim Turner gave an impassioned defence of the books of Jeffrey Deaver. Most of us agreed with him as we found the plots fascinating and the character of Lincoln Rhyme absorbing. Unfortunately, when it came to “recommendation ” most of us found that we would have to be careful when recommending the books as they would not be to everyone’s taste as some were very gruesome.

Di Fischer-Harman’s choice of the local detective, Resnick, by John Harvey however, rated as joint highest with C.J. Sansom achieving a 19/20 points in our criteria system. The main reason for liking these books seem to be the delightfully portrayed character of John Resnick himself and the way that Harvey uses Nottingham as a background to the crimes. One member even said that, as a newcomer to the area, she had learned about Nottingham through walking the streets with Resnick.

Our book next month is Arabesk by Barbara Nadel or any book in that series. This Turkish detective will be introduced to us by Elizabeth le Marchant Brock. As always, a big “thank you” to all the people who have led us, or about to lead us in our sessions.

In our last meeting, we accepted everyone who had been on our waiting list since last year’s Group Fair. It does take our numbers up to more than we had intended but the meetings are never totally full each month. It does mean that we will be starting a new waiting list at the Group Fair 2017.


December 2016 Newsletter

I think we should rename ourselves as “Murder, Mystery and Mayhem”. Why I hear you ask? To begin with we have continued with our exploration of the murder book or crime book genre. There have been some interesting outcomes with C. J. Sansom’s book “Dissolution” (the first of the Shardlake series) winning hands-down on our criteria system. It gained a staggering 19/20 at our last meeting. It is going to take something very special to overtake or even match that score. Well done Anne for picking that as your choice!

“Mystery”: where has the last year gone? We have been functioning as a group for over a year now and it hardly seems like yesterday that we started. My thanks go to all the members who have led each session by leading us in our analysis of a book from the crime genre.

“Mayhem”?: our sessions seems to have become more and more vociferous. It’s wonderful that people have such strong opinions regarding the books they read. We are also very grateful to Sergio who is very laid back about the noise we make whilst discussing our monthly book.

Please find below the books we have looked at so far. Perhaps it will help you select a future read. You will see that “The Moonstone” is unrated only because it was a difficult book to study and few actually enjoyed it – but as it is a such an important book in this genre, being the first of its kind, we felt it needed to stand alone.

Titles and Authors Rating/20
The Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers 13
The DCI Banks Novels by Peter Robinson 15
The Mistress of the Art of Death Novels by Ariana Franklin 16
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson 17
 Bruno: Chief of Police by Martin Walker 16
The Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie 13
The Three Pines Novels by Louise Penny 10
The Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich 14
The Falco novels by Lindsey Davis 17
The Tony Hill novels by Val McDermid 17
The Sister Fidelma Novels by Peter Tremayne 11
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (unrated)
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom 19

September 2016 Newsletter

The group has been established for almost a year. It is astounding how quickly the time has gone by. We have lost a few members and have gained a few in their place but a steady fifteen people still meet once a month to discuss a writer of the murder genre and their most famous protagonists. We hope to maintain the group at fifteen as that number allows everyone to join in with any discussion.

We are a diverse group who have strong opinions which are voiced assertively. People, who do not like the crime genre, may feel that our discussions must be limited. We have discovered, though, that not only is there a tremendous variety of crime books but there is also a fascinating variety of opinions regarding the type of crime individuals prefer. Some of us like the gruesome and bloody; some the more cerebral; some the more traditional “who-dunnits”. Whatever our interests there are many books to discuss and to enjoy.

At the end of our meetings we do rate that month’s choice. Our system is as follows a) an overall impression b) an appreciation of the central protagonists c) a likeable setting and finally d) a recommendation to others to read the book and or series. So far three books have had the highest rating of 17/20. They are: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, The Falco novels by Lindsey Davis and the Tony Hill novels by Val McDermid.

For the next couple of months, we will be looking at: The Sister Fidelma novels by Peter Tremayne and then, in October the start of the crime genre, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

My thanks go to everyone who has lead us in a session and also to Sergio who has made us feel so welcome at “The White Lion”.


March 2016 Newsletter

After five meetings I think that we now know the kind of crime book we appreciate: something with violence, and a strong heroine who can “kick ass”. This was proved at the February meeting where Di Fischer-Harman took us through the Millennium novels of Stieg Larsson. We seemed to be in agreement that Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed, pierced, computer-hacker heroine was our sort of woman. Consequently, we awarded “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” our highest mark so far of 17/20.

So far we have looked at:

Detective and Author Rating
The Lord Peter Wimsey books of Dorothy L. Sayers 13/20
The D.C.I. Banks novels by Peter Robinson 15/20
The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin 16/20

We now have the following books to look forward to reading and discussing:

Date Detective/book and Author Person Leading
March 2nd Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker or another in the series Helen Hubert
April 6th The Miss Marple books of Agatha Christie Win Azzopardi
May 4th The Three Pines books of Louise Penny (Still Life) Helen Stewart

Looking at the list we do have several months of exciting reading to do. My thanks also go those members who have brought along any crime book which they are currently reading in order to recommend them to the group.

We shall continue to meet at The White Lion since winning the battle against noisy music and vacuum cleaners. Sergio now appreciates that we need a little quiet to hear each other and we also appreciated the extra cake he brought us to celebrate the New Year!


December 2015 Newsletter

The first official meeting of the Murder Book Club took place at The White Lion, Beeston on Wednesday 5th at 1.30 where thirteen members of the group turned up to discuss the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers. We were starting with a writer from the Golden Age of crime and, interestingly, the books produced some conflicting views of the series. Some people loved the characters: the aristocratic Lord Peter; the unconventional Harriet Vane; the dependable Bunter; the snobbish Helen, the Duchess of Denver and Peter’s sister-in-law and many other fascinating individuals who people these novels. The topics covered by Sayers were also worthy of comment including her exposé of the malpractice by clairvoyants in “Strong Poison” and Lord Peter’s work for the Foreign Office between the two wars. The negatives came from the contrasts between novels written today and novels written for an audience who did not benefit from film and television; the slow build-up; the complex vocabulary; the unexplained quotations in Latin. In other words, the modern reader has to work hard whilst reading these pieces of fiction and perseverance is vital. All in all, though, most members seemed to have engaged positively with the books.

For our next meeting, Christine Dornan is taking us through the DCI Banks’ books by Peter Robinson. Christine opted to lead us in this as they are set in north Yorkshire; an area that she knows well.

What was interesting, after the meeting, was the number of members to be found in the Oxfam bookshop; all looking for copies of recommended writers and books. I think the second-hand book market will do well from us. It has also been suggested that those of us who have most of these books at home can lend them out to members to read and a system is being devised to allow that to happen.

We must also thank Sergio from The White Lion for his hospitality. The venue allows us to be a little more relaxed. Some of us met up before the meeting to benefit from his delicious lunch menu of Portuguese tapas. What a delight: good food as well as lively, murderous discussion.


November 2015

Hello Fellow Crime Lovers (the literary type),

Firstly, a reminder that we meet next Wednesday afternoon at Beeston’s White Lion at 1.30. I shall be there at about 12.30 so please join me for lunch if you so wish. Please let me know if you cannot make it. Thank you to the one apology already received.

We are looking at one of the great women of crime writing: Dorothy L. Sayers. I have put together some information on her life and on the Lord Peter Wimsey novels.  Click on Dorothy Leigh Sayers and The Lord Peter Wimsey Novels. I would be pleased if you could print off your own copy for the meeting although I shall bring some spares with me in case anyone forgets. I shall also ask Steve Austin if he would kindly place any handouts on the web site under The Murder Book Club.

There was no particular book chosen to study in detail but I did recommend Strong Poison where Lord Peter first meets Harriet Vane. However, the more the range of books read the more we can discuss Sayer’s oeuvre.

Looking forward seeing everyone again,



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