The Island of Sheep by John Buchan

Written in 1936, this is a lovely story about rich males who seem able to drop their jobs / business dealings to support the son of a friend who is being threatened by unscrupulous types.

Richard Hannay and Sandy Clanroyden have both featured in other stories by John Buchan. Here they’re helping a friend called Lombard who is trying to ensure the son of a deceased friend called Haraldsen from Scandinavia stays out of the hands of some swindlers. These people want money from Haraldsen because of an ‘agreement’ Haraldsen’s father had with men called Barralty, Troth, and Albinus. These three aren’t really criminal types but they’re joined by D’Ingraville, Martel, and Carreras who definitely are.

The action zooms along from the Cotswolds, to the Scottish Borders, and eventually to the fictional Island of Sheep in the Norlands which seems to be part of Denmark. Here the denouement occurs and not all the characters survive.

There’s plenty of hunting, shooting, and especially fishing talk. Hannay’s son Peter John and Haraldsen’s daughter Anna are central to the plot and eventually become firm friends in a brother and sister type of relationship.

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

Rex Fortescue, Adele Fortescue, and Gladys Martin all die within a few hours. Rex was poisoned by Taxine, a poisonous constituent of yew plants, Adele was poisoned by potassium cyanide, and Gladys was strangled.

Whodunit?

Miss Marple arrives at Yewtree Lodge, the home of the Fortescues where Gladys was a maid, about 2/5ths of the way through the book. Miss Marple gave instruction to Gladys about how to become a servant and not unnaturally was distressed when she read of Gladys’s death.

Inspector Neele is already on the case from Scotland Yard and is well on his way to solving the case, but Miss Marple gives him a nudge in the right direction at the appropriate time.

Of course, very few of the characters are being completely honest and in order to solve this you have to think the worst of people.

Rex Fortescue has two sons and a daughter. The two sons are away, one called Percival is returning from a business trip to the north of England and the other is returning from East Africa with his wife. Percival lives with his wife at Yewtree Lodge. The daughter, Elaine, lives at Yewtree Lodge and her fiance is staying at a nearby hotel.

Adele Fortescue is Rex Fortescue’s second wife and is thirty years younger than him. She has a lover who is staying in a nearby hotel. The sister of Rex Fortescue’s first wife also lives at Yewtree Lodge.

There is also Mary Dove, the housekeeper, who appears too efficient to be true, plus Mr and Mrs Crump the buttler and cook.

Rex Fortescue is found to have a pocket full of rye, Adele Fortescue was eating bread and honey when she died, and Gladys was gathering in the washing, all of which is in keeping with the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence.

There is also the mysterious Blackbird Mine in Africa. Rex Fortescue allegedly murdered a business partner called MacKenzie in a dispute about the mine. Mrs MacKenzie is in a nursing home close by but all trace has been lost of her two children, one male and one female. Where could they be?

Whodunit?

The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

The Odessa File was the bestseller written after The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.

In the book, Odessa are an organisation formed to protect ex-SS members and to try to implement a final solution of their own via a rocket attack on Israel. The book is set in late 1963 and 1964 and involves some real-life people including The Butcher of Riga Eduard Roschmann and the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

The suicide of an elderly German Jew in Hamburg leads to a journalist, Peter Miller, being given a diary by a police contact. Miller reads the book and is determined to find Roschmann, although the real reason for his interest is only revealed late in the book. Miller has a voluptuous girlfriend and a sports car he adores, which is almost the downfall of him. Miller races around Germany, flies to London, and visits Vienna in pursuit of leads to discovering where Roschmann is. He succeeds in finding Roschmann, but the ending is a surprise.

Interestingly, Wiesenthal helped Forsyth with his research in order to force the real-life Roschmann out into the open. Sure enough, the publicity worked and Roschmann was eventually identified and denounced by a man who had just watched The Odessa File at the cinema.

The Fox by DH Lawrence

The DH Lawrence novella about two girls, Banford and March, whose existence is terminally interrupted by the arrival of a soldier, whose grandfather lived on the farm that the girls are working five years previously before WWI began.

Banford and March had taken the farm together intending to work it all by themselves. Banford is small, thin, and delicate but is the principal investor in the farm. March is stronger and more robust and has carpentry and joinery skills.

Prior to the soldier arriving, March has the chance to shoot a fox that’s eating their fowl, but she hasn’t the nerve to pull the trigger. When the soldier arrives, he has a powerful effect on March, provoking a stirring of dormant desire…