Have I told you about one of my little hobbies? I scour charity shops for detective fiction titles. It all started a few years ago, when my sister-in-law gave us a handful of Brother Cadfael novels. She'd been picking them up in her local charity shops and having finished with them, passed them on to us, as she knew we'd enjoyed watching the series on TV with Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.
Well that was the beginning of a little hobby that has given me oodles of pleasure ever since. You see, after we 'd read the books she gave us, we were so hooked on Ellis Peters, that we wanted to read the rest.
Now obviously the easiest thing would be to pop online and order them from Amazon, but somehow that would be just too simple. There's a thrill in the chase that you don't get when you order online - thank goodness, - but for some reason, with detective fiction, I prefer to hunt them down myself. Oh and of course it's not a bad way of saving money and doing good all at the same time.
So I decided to carry on searching for them in the local charity shops, and thus the hobby was born.
Now the great thing about popular detective fiction, is that they sell in huge numbers, and people seem quite happy to give them away when they've read them. This means that the average High Street charity shop is more than likely to have a good selection to choose from.
But just picking up any old book isn't what I was after. No, instead I chose an author, or a series of books and set about collecting the whole lot. (I suspect there are total aficionados out there, who'll collect them in the chronological order of publication, but I'm not that restrictive).
So I started with the Brother Cadfael novels, which wasn't too difficult to complete. Then I moved on to the Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter. These were even easier to find, but such a good read that I didn't mind at all. I've never had the heart to give them away again because even though I can pretty much remember 'who did it' in all the stories, they'll still reward a re-reading.
After that I had a go at finding the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. These weren't too difficult to find either and I'm so glad I did buy them, because you'd be amazed how different the written stories are to most of the versions you see on TV. I'd never really bothered with Agatha Christie until then, but I'm a bit of a convert now.
Of course there was the year that I went after all of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels. Well that was a good year. His books, more than any of the others, I feel are much better read that watched. The TV series, despite the undoubted talents of John Hannah and the delicious Ken Stott, simple don't do justice to the stories that Rankin created. If you haven't already read them - is there anyone? - pop down to Oxfam this afternoon and get started.
I did see someone selling the entire Rebus collection on eBay one day, and it would have been cheaper than buying them second hand in the shops, but do you know, I just felt like that would be cheating, and it would definitely have spoilt the fun, so I kept on with my little jaunts into town until I finally completed the set. I can't tell you the emotions I felt when I discovered the very last one that I was missing, suffice to say it was a mix of elation at completing the series and sadness at the thought that I'd have to find a new author to collect.
Looking back, I do think it might have been a better idea to collect them all before reading them, or at least collecting them in order, so I could read them in order, but that would be like giving me a box of chocolates and asking me to keep them a year before I could eat them - just impossible.
I had a bit of a break after Rebus, but then back in the summer I decided I'd read Caroline Graham's Inspector Barnaby books - the ones that inspired the TV series, Midsomer Murders. I've always enjoyed the combination of whodunnit and black humour in the TV programmes and thought I might like the books. But my word, what a pain it is finding them. There's no shortage of charity shops in our local town to look in, but it's taking me an age to find any of her books. I had to resort to the library a couple of months ago, just to have a read, but even there, they're rarer than rubies.
And then on Saturday afternoon when I had a stroll into town with no great plan, just in need of a change of scene for an hour or two, what should I discover in the last charity shop visit of the day? You guessed it, not one, but two Inspector Barnaby books; Faithful Unto Death and The Killings At Badger's Drift. I snapped them up and came home as happy as Larry.
I happen to think there are few greater pleasures than being tucked up in a nice warm bed on a cold winter's night, with a good detective crime book, and here I am now, with two to keep me going for a few days while the snow keeps us indoors - such luck.
Of course I haven't got the whole series yet, so I'll no doubt be out and about again before long, searching for the missing volumes, but that's all part of the fun. If by any chance you're sitting on a few Caroline Graham books that you don't want any longer, please take pity on me and others like me, and take them to your charity shop - they'll find a good home.