Friday, September 7, 2018

Death on Cyprus by MM Kaye

Hello, folks! First, I want to assure you all that the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain observed. Vintage Novels has not been abandoned; it just had a brief hiatus while I took August to focus on preparing my upcoming novel A Wind from the Wilderness for publication, to say nothing of trying to take some well-deserved rest.

There has, however, been a change in my reading schedule lately - between trying to binge some more recent novels for market research, and gulping my way through double the amount of non-fiction as I normally read, the time I've had to devote to vintage/classic literature has been somewhat curtailed of late. This is sad, but unavoidable for a busy author of historical fantasy fiction.

One vintage novel I did have the opportunity to read lately was MM Kaye's whodunit Death on Cyprus. I've read a couple of Kaye's books previously - when I was small I remember being enchanted by The Ordinary Princess, and I read Death in the Andamans a few years back.

Written and set in the 1950s, Death in Cyprus follows Amanda Derington on a holiday in (astonishingly enough) Cyprus. The trip is marred by the sudden death of a travelling companion - apparently suicide. But as Amanda learns more about the deceased, and the tensions seething among the small community of English expats on the island, the more she suspects foul play.

Then more lives are lost, one of them very nearly her own...

If I was to describe this novel in a few words, I'd probably call it "Mary Stewart, but not quite so good." Some people are just the peerless masters of their specific genre. Death in Cyprus is very much the same kind of romantic suspense story (in exotic locations) that Mary Stewart did so very well. Kaye's description of the island is beautifully vivid, although her historical comments are a little uninformed (I'm fairly certain Berengaria was never left waiting in Cyprus for very long, for instance) and her characters aren't as smart and formidable as Stewart's. Then, while both Stewart and Kaye employed similar romantic tropes (especially with their mysterious, take-charge heroes), Stewart's heroines tend to hold their ground better - no Stewart hero would get away with calling the heroine an "infuriated kitten".

Still, although they are writing very similar books, it might not be fair to compare the two authors too closely. Death in Cyprus was an evocative, sun-drenched mystery of the kind that you read in order to feel as if you've been on holiday in the same sort of place, with a lot of larger-than-life characters - Miss Moon, the old English lady living in a shabby old villa in a succession of eccentric colour-coded jewel collections, one for each day of the week, was particularly fun. Unravelling the mystery involves unravelling the secret past connections between all the different characters, which gives the book a lot of soap-opera appeal as what we know constantly shifts.

Death in Cyprus is an enjoyably fluffy whodunit for anyone who enjoys Agatha Christie or Mary Stewart - intentionally set in the halcyon days before civil war broke out between the Greeks and Turks. Have you read any of Kaye's books?

Find Death in Cyprus on Amazon or The Book Depository.


  1. Interesting!

    I recall reading one of Kaye's thrillers some time back -- _Death in Zanzibar_, I think -- enjoyed it.

    I blush to admit that the only books by Stewart I've read were the Arthurian stories. What would be a good place to start with her romantic suspense?


  2. For Mary Stewart, I would highly recommend THE IVY TREE or NINE COACHES WAITING, which are my favourites! I enjoy them much more than her Arthurian stories.

  3. Yay you're back! Have had to 'survive' on your thankfully plentiful twitter posts :D
    I did think it might've been due to your writing; hope it was both a productive and restful time off the blog.

  4. Thanks, Tesh! It's nice to feel missed. And yes, it was a very productive rest - I always find that it's better to completely drop your bundle for a short time than to keep pushing when you're tired.

    I've been scarfing a lot of Dorothy Sayers lately, so I have some good reviews coming down the pipeline!

  5. I have been missing you as well, Suzannah! I read all of M.M. Kaye's mysteries when I was young and just loved them, although I agree that the wonderful Mary is better. I would like to read Kaye's books again, so I hope that they are available as ebooks.

    Dorothy Sayers is a big favourite, as well.

  6. Hey, Viola! I'm glad to be back. I'm glad I'm not the only one who prefers Mary Stewart!

    All M M Kaye's books appear to be available on Amazon, and you might also be able to find them on Open Library as well!

  7. Welcome back! I'm very excited about Wind from the Wilderness:)

  8. Hi Melanie! Thanks so much - I've had a lot of positive feedback on the story, and I can't wait to share it with the world!

  9. Andrew of the House of LaceySeptember 15, 2018 at 11:33 AM

    Hi Suzannah! Wonderful to hear that reports of your death WERE merely greatly
    I haven't read much of MM Kaye, but The Ordinary Princess is still one of my
    favourite inspiration/reflection stories. Have you ever read Kaye's book, Trade Wind? Historical fiction set in Zanzibar during the middle of the nineteenth century. I found it a little slow, but it was still a well-written story, I thought, with simply delicious description. Pirates, politics, slaves, romance, and Sultanate intrigue...

  10. I really should re-read THE ORDINARY PRINCESS sometime - I LOVED it as a kid. I have heard of TRADE WIND but never read it. It sounds like fun!

  11. I read Kaye’s murder mysteries as a teenager, so I have a soft spot for them. Stewart’s heroines are spunkier, but Kaye does atmosphere and sense of place very well. If you want a Kaye heroine with a bit more agency and gumption, I’d suggest Copper of Death in the Andamans or Sarah Parrish in Death in Kashmir.

  12. Rabia, I've read DEATH IN THE ANDAMANS and enjoyed it! I might have to try DEATH IN KASHMIR next :)

  13. I wish I could agree that I enjoyed Mary Stewart novels as much as MM Kaye's. Because then there would be so many more to enjoy. Unfortunately I've never found any writer in this genre and time period to write such witty and evocative novels as MM Kaye's romance mysteries. Mary Stewart's characters don't have a hint of that classic dry British wit that is so enjoyable. If anyone knows of any author that does please list them!