I am still old fashioned enough to like a ‘proper’ book – card covers, paper pages, maybe a nice dust cover with a picture on the front, perhaps a bit thumbed. My good lady, though, has moved on from all that and uses one of these electronic ‘Kindle’ books onto which she downloads all manner of reading from old favourites and classics to stuff she just ‘might fancy’, especially in the murder mystery line. To this end Kindle is supported by a wonderful project named Gutenburg which is set up to commit all out-of-print books to Kindle format. You can get pretty much any book which is old enough for the copyright to have lapsed, for free, onto your Kindle.
I was sitting there minding my own business the other day when she asked whether I had 5 minutes spare. Would I like to read “this” she asked, you might like it. It turned out to be a couple of part chapters heavily featuring a Thames barge. Our hero had been subject to an attempted murder and dumped in the river, but he is revived by the cold water and struggles back to the surface only to be nearly mown down by a barge under tow in a string of barges, he is clonked by the leeboard but grabs on and struggles aboard. The sequence is obviously written by someone who knows barges and is pure delight. He clambers down into the aft cabin where he is eventually discovered by the Skipper and Mate who clean him up, get some tea and gin down his neck and put him to bed in a bunk. By the time he wakes up they are in the Estuary and as the story goes on he spends some time with them becalmed off Margate out by the Goodwins before being landed, reasonably fit, in Folkestone.
The book is “A Silent Witness”, one of R Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke Mysteries. My wife tells me that our hero is a locum doctor who has seen, unawares, an aspect of a murder victim’s corpse which, was he to put two and two together, might let him discover the murderer’s identity AND know that the corpse shown to doctors was not the man they had thought they were examining. I know – all nice and complicated, but if you want to read the whole thing I’ll let you go on Gutenburg yourselves and download it to your Kindles. I just liked the barge-y bits as my wife knew I would. Thanks Liz for passing that one to me. Good hunting.