Over My Dead Body, by Jeffrey Archer
This is a workmanlike product from this well-known & prolific author, who has been a controversial figure in his time in the British political sphere; he has also published, very probably without a trace of shame or irony, three volumes of Prison Diaries, from his time languishing at his, no doubt, revered monarch’s ‘pleasure’. This is an undemanding read, but no less enjoyable for that; it is the fourth entry in the William Warwick series: another one, Next in Line, previewed here, should have been published last autumn . The story begins with an episode including a questionable death, which serves to introduce the plot, where Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick of the Metropolitan Police is sailing to New York for a week’s holiday with his wife, Beth, keeper of pictures at the Fitzmolean Museum. When he returns, he is put in charge of a cold-case squad: somewhat uninspiring perhaps, but he also has a mission: to prove that a devious art-loving criminal, Miles Faulkner, did not die in Switzerland, but is still alive. He is, indeed, still alive, and with a new identity, after plastic surgery, but he proves too clever for easy apprehension; he also has a very devious barrister supporting him. Warwick has a very clever ally though: Inspector Ross Hogan, ex-SAS and former undercover officer. The story is set in 1988, but we don’t ascertain that until well into the narrative. The paperback I read was published in 2022  by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd., London, ISBN 978-0-0084-7431-7.
On the Bright Side, by Hendrik Groen
The subtitle of this lovely, poignant book is The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, and as the discerning reader might surmise, he is a Dutch gentleman, and a resident of a care home in north Amsterdam. At the time of writing, he was eighty-five years old and, in fact, this book is a sequel to his previous book of an identical nature: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old. Of course, here we are dependent upon the accuracy of the translation, by Hester Velmans, and her English is a mixture of mostly British spelling [excluding realize] with some American terms: chomp, stomp, airplane, and sputter. That notwithstanding, the diary entries, which include most, but not quite all days in 2015, cover a range of experiences & emotions, the latter of which most people who are advanced in years [albeit perhaps not quite as advanced as the author] will readily identify with; the most difficult being, in addition to the variety of degrees of acceptance of the inevitable by his friends & fellow care home inhabitants, coming to terms with the loss of a close friend. There is plenty of humour here; it isn’t just a repetitive list of days of tedium; a core of the still most mentally, if not realistically physically active occupants of the home form the Old-But-Not-Dead-Yet Club, to give their remaining days, if they can’t hope for years, some spice [I think the book’s rear cover slips into hyperbole, describing this as “octogenarian anarchy”], so they organise regular outings, including meals out at a variety of international cuisine restaurants. If this helps younger people understand the reality of life in old age, it is highly recommended. The paperback I read was published in 2018 by Penguin Books [2017, Meulenhoff, Netherlands], ISBN 978-1-4059-3030-7.
A Funny Life, by Michael McIntyre
This book is the second volume of autobiography by a comedian most British people [he is hardly known in the USA] regard as ‘Marmite’ [ditto this concept in the USA]: they either love him or have no time for him. Not being most British people, I don’t conform to either assessment. His early life must have been covered in the earlier volume, entitled Life & Laughing, so here, after a rambling prologue, in which he describes the rationale behind the first volume, he begins with the birth of his first son, Lucas, and how, endearingly, he is devoted to his wife, Kitty. After that, he progresses pretty much chronologically through his career to [almost] date, and the embarrassing self-inflicted setbacks he has survived, as well as the successes which have made him a rich man. This career is largely the result of the endlessly enthusiastic support & promotion he received from his force-of-nature agent, Addison Cresswell, who died suddenly from a heart attack in 2013, tragically at Christmas. Since then, he has built on that support and helped to create some very successful TV programmes, as well as breaking records for live performances. My impression is that he is a genuinely funny man, but [self-confessed] very vulnerable & needy at times, as well as suffering from self-doubt; but many actors & performers share these attributes, of course. This is easy reading, and I wish him well. The paperback I read was published in 2022 , by Pan Books [Macmillan], London, ISBN 978-1-5290-6369-1.
Betrayal in The Cotswolds, by Rebecca Tope
I have read possibly a couple of earlier instalments in this Cotswold Mysteries series [there are plenty of them!], but I can only assume that I haven’t reviewed them because my overall impression was the same as it is after reading this one: the pace is slow, the jeopardy almost non-existent; so, engendering the same sort of feeling one might get, not having any particular aspiration to live there, from reading the many glossy magazine features about this somewhat ‘olde-world’ film-set region of the country—fine if one is rich, but rather vacuous at the same time. Thea Slocombe is a house-sitter, when she isn’t helping her second husband, Drew [she is also his second wife] with their ecologically friendly undertaking business. She is also an amateur sleuth, whom the local police seem happy to accommodate—even to encourage. When she witnesses a fatal hit-and-run incident right outside the house in which she has that day taken up residence, it launches her on another investigation. The house’s current occupant is away on business in Germany, but he is part of a large family, and his ownership of the house is disputed. The perpetrator is eventually unmasked, but the five days over which the action takes place seem like much longer. This is easy reading, so not unenjoyable, but her relationship with the police does seem somewhat implausible. The paperback I read was published in 2023  by Allison & Busby, London, ISBN 978-0-7490-2869-5.