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Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 3, Part 2 -- Catching up on Reviews

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards Wuthering Heights (abridged) - Emily Brontë An Amateur Corpse - Simon Brett House of Shadows  - Bernard Knight, The Medieval Murderers, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson, Bernadette Dunne Murder Most Foul...: The Collection - Derek Jacobi, Brian  Cox, Edward Hardwicke, Jack Shepherd, Patrick Malahide, Various Authors The Dupin Stories - Edgar Allan Poe, Kerry Shale Knockdown - Tim Pigott-Smith, Dick Francis Endless Night: A BBC Full-Cast Radio Drama - Lizzie Watts, Jonathan Forbes, Agatha Christie Surfeit of Lampreys: WITH Death and the Dancing Footman AND The Colour Scheme (The Ngaio Marsh Collection) - Ngaio Marsh

 

The "bingo" squares and books read:

 

  

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

The standout read among this batch of bingo books; a tour de force parcours through 50 years of British crime writing (from 1900 to 1950), with sidelights on authors and books published in the U.S., continental Europe, Argentina and Japan.  Martin Edwards is concurrently President of the Crime Writers' Association and the Detection Club, but more importantly for present purposes, he was the Detection Club's first archivist: In my first reading status update I compared this book to what it would sound like if you get a walking encyclopedia talking, and to the print equivalent of having your favorite actor reading the phone book, but what could easily have been bone-dry in another author's hands makes for a more than compelling read in Edwards's.

 

Though the "100 books" (in effect, 102) chosen to exemplify the various stages and aspects of British crime writing as it emerged in the first half of the 20th century are the primary narrative vehicle, each section of the book has a short introductory chapter, and it's these in particular that make your head spin, because they're jam-packed with references to all manner of crime fiction, from the unduly forgotten to the justly remembered -- on average, no less than 20 books per chapter (and in some chapters, over 40). In fact, it is this "cramming" that ultimately made the book a tiny fraction less than a 5-star read for me: I'd either have appreciated more space to explore some of these other books at greater leisure, too, or, as this would probably have blown the book up by the hundredfold, maybe in the end less would occasionally have been more after all.

 

That all being said, I'm doubtlessly going to refer back to Edwards's book frequently from here on out when exploring the countless new authors, Great Detectives and series I've been introduced to, and I'm also OCD enough to have started creating reading lists here on BookLikes for all the books mentioned by Edwards (currently up to and including Chapter 15):

 

The "100 Books" Presented

Other Books Mentioned:

Part 1: Chapters 1 - 5

Part 2: Chapters 6 & 7

Part 3: Chapters 8 - 10

Part 4: Chapters 11 - 15

 

Reading status updates:

98 of 357 pages

158 of 357 pages

219 of 357 pages

357 of 357 pages

 

 


Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

It's with no small amount of surprise that I find myself registering a 4 1/2 star rating and a "favorite" check for this audio recording of Emily Brontë's one and only novel. 

 

Though I didn't have any doubts that the mother and son team of Prunella Scales and Samuel West would pull off a stellar performance (which they of course did), Wuthering Heights has so far, in my perception, always veered dangerously close to the over-the-top melodramatic, with more than an occasional foray into the very heart of that territory, which is not my line of country at all.  Yet, actually hearing the bulk of the story being told by Prunella Scales in the voice of a down-to-earth Yorkshire woman -- Nelly Dean -- opened up a whole new perspective for me, and even the high drama of "I am Heathcliff", "he's more myself than I am" and "be with me always -- take any form -- drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! ... I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!" for the first time came across as totally believable to me -- because it wasn't told in the voice of the novel's equally tempestuous author (if contemporaneous characterizations are to be believed), but rather, in the voice of a sympathetic friend and surrogate mother, who genuinely cares for the speakers and worries about them but is apt to take a step back from their outbursts and relates those outbursts more in sorrow than in anguish.

 

The novel's format doesn't place Mr. Lockwood's (here: Samuel West's) framework narration on nearly the same footing as that of Nelly Dean, so the bulk of the narration is Prunella Scales's, but I particularly also enjoyed the "handover" moments from the outer framework to Nelly Dean's story.  They are brief enough moments of dialogue, but in this recording they "clicked" seamlessly, like perfectly matching links of a well-made chain.

 

So, while of all the Brontës' novels, Charlotte's Jane Eyre (which I also revisited this summer on audio) will probably always remain my favorite, I enjoyed this particular return to Wuthering Heights much more than I anticipated and will probably revisit it more often and with greater enjoyment than I initially thought.

 

 


Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

An actor and BBC broadcast journalist in addition to being a writer, Simon Brett is one of Martin Edwards's predecessors as President of the Detection Club.  In the early 1970s he began writing a series of mysteries centering on an actor named Charles Paris; this is the fourth of these books.  Paris is invited to do a "critics circle" live discussion review of an amateur theatre production of Chekhov's Seagull, but before he even gets to give his talk, the company's new leading lady (the only professional actor in their midst) is found strangled.

 

Given that the edition of this mystery which I own is part of a four-book omnibus including the first four installments of the series that I acquired used and dirt-cheap, I may well give this series another shot at a later time; however, this particular novel (written in 1975) hasn't aged very well and was a rather uncomfortable reminder of all the reasons why I'm really not sorry to have left the 1970s far, far behind (the part that I consciously lived through, in any event) ... I don't think the occasional whiff of staleness emanating from the pages of the book was due to its external condition alone.  I was also less than enchanted with Mr. Paris's midlife crisis woes and attitude towards women and commitment, and his insufferably arrogant stance vis-à-vis amateur theatricals, however ill-informed or pretentious they may be in turn.

 

That being said, the writing itself is OK, the murderer's alibi was cleverly plotted, Paris's reasons for getting involved with the investigation in the first place (worry about the chief suspect under arrest, the victim's husband, who is a friend of his, and guilt over having gone along with said friend's drowning his woes in booze instead of trying to provide some more substantial support) came across as just about credible enough, and some of Paris's deductions were nicely drawn; even though the final clue was -- incredibly -- as far-fetched as it was, at the same time, telegraphed narratively from ten miles away, and the ultimate path to the solution was (literally) more a case of stumbling over it than brain work à la Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.  So, as I said, I may well give the series another shot at a later point in time.  It probably won't be anytime very soon, though.

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

The Medieval Murderers round robin series is, literally, one of those products of an idle evening at the pub -- I guess that's what you'll get when you have five authors of medieval whodunits talking shop over a pint or two (or three ...) of ale.  Permanent members of the group, which itself goes by the name "Medieval Murderers", too, are Michael Jecks (another past President of the Detection Club), Bernard Knight, Philip Gooden, Ian Morson and Susanna Gregory; with Karen Maitland and C.J. Sansom having joined for individual installments of the series.

 

All but one Medieval Murderers books are moulded on essentially the same template, in that they follow one particular (allegedly) "doomed" or "cursed" object from the (typically: early) Middle Ages to the present day in several separate but interlinked episodes, written by the group's individual members and typically featuring their "own" individual series protagonists; the sole exception being, so far, The Deadliest Sin, which is modeled on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales -- themselves also a round robin of sorts, modeled in turn on Boccaccio's Decameron.

 

In House of Shadows, the series's third installment, the "object" whose journey the writers and their protagonists follow is Bermondsey Abbey, a real life monastery founded in the 11th century by Cluniac monks near the banks of the River Thames, opposite the Tower.  The abbey, rich and influential in the Middle Ages, was dissolved under Henry VIII and subequently repeatedly built over; it seems to have been the abbey ruins' excavation in the early 2000s -- in the course of the construction of a huge shopping and office complex now forming part of the newly- and substantially-gentrified Bermondsey and Southwark shoreline -- that apparently inspired the premise and opening chapter(s) of House of Shadows.  The authors do go to some lenghts to assure the reader, however, that the events placing a curse on the abbey at the beginning of this book are fictitious (as are the plotlines of the subsequent chapters), and though not inconceivable in the so-called "Dark Ages", it would indeed be shocking for a medieval house of God to have been carrying such a terrible legacy.

 

While the individual chapters' storylines are thus fictitious, again as in many Medieval Murderers books, real, documented historic persons are used in the stories alongside fictitious characters, and the research into details of social and geographical history is solid.  Also as with virtually all round robin efforts (not just by this particular group), the writerly approach varies both in style and in quality, and this installment of the Medieval Murderers series does not necessarily show all of the participants at the top of their game.  Still, it's enjoyable enough, some of the chapters really are a delight to read, and once more as is so frequently the case, the sum total is decidedly more than its constituent parts.

 

 
Sketches of medieval Bermondsey Abbey
(Sources: Wikipedia (top) and South London Guide (bottom))

 


Bermondsey Abbey ground plan (source: British Library)

 


Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (attr. -- formerly attr. John Hofnagel): A Fête at Bermondsey (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 


Bermondsey Abbey excavations and memorial plaque
(sources: Wikipedia (left) and London Remembers (right))

 

The sacred taper's lights are gone,
Grey moss has clad the altar-stone,
The holy image is o'erthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll:
The long-ribb'd aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrine to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk;
God's blessing on his soul!"
Sir Walter Scott: Bermondsey

 

Bermondsey Abbey history and excavation (YouTube)

  
Bermondsey shoreline today (photo mine)

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

Terrifying women all around with this one -- Shirley Jackson delivers every single time when it comes to sheer psychology-based horror (and so, for that matter, do her characters).  You're barely ten minutes into the story, and you're already supremely uneasy -- and boy, does this ever have a slow, peeling-away-layer-by-layer burn ending in a gigantic dynamite fuse.  There's no way to write about this book without instantly giving away spoilers, so I ... just won't, even though most people here are probably already familiar with the story anyway.  Truly masterful storytelling, in any event; truly unsettling social commentary and, in the audio version I own, also truly masterfully rendered by Bernadette Dunne.  I started listening to this one night when I really should have gone to bed much earlier -- and ended up finishing the complete audio in a single sitting; there was no way I could have stopped, even though ultimately it was solely due to my being crash-and-knocked-out tired from entirely unrelated RL excertions that I was able to sleep afterwards at all.

 

 

And finally:

  

... an audiobook extravaganza, though in the case of the Edgar Allan Poe, Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie books (see below), I do own paper copies of the respective novels, too, and had read them before; this was strictly in the spirit of revisiting them in a different medium.  (Hah.  So much for "I'm going to use this square to do something about those books on my mystery TBR that I can't fit into any other bingo square, because clearly something needs to be done about reducing that stack" ...)

 

To start off -- well, let's be honest, how could I possibly not use an audio collection entitled Murder Most Foul for this particular square?!

 

This is a collection of eight short stories by different authors, read with great aplomb by five well-known British actors.  It starts of with Bluebeard's Bath by Margery Allingham -- read by Patrick Malahide --, a "non-Campion" twist on the black widow trope (the twist being, as the title implies, that here it's a black widower), which derives most of its suspense from the fact that it is told from the murderer's perspective. -- 4 1/2 stars for this story individually; it's one of the strongest of this lot.

 

Next is Wilkie Collins's Who Killed Zebedee? (read by Derek Jacobi), which concerns the death of a lodger in an apartment house, and a would-be accidental amateur sleuth's attempt to clear the woman with whom he is infatuated from the suspicion of murder. (3 stars, individually -- Collins himself could do better, and the story doesn't really measure up to the rest of this collection, either.)

 

The third story is An Alpine Divorce by Robert Barr (read by Brian Cox), where a married couple that has come to secretly hate each other's guts vacations in the Alps ... with starkly differing notions as to how those vacations are supposed to end, and with a deliciously-executed evil final twist. -- Easily 4 stars.

 

Barr's story is followed by Edward Hardwicke's reading of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Speckled Band: Although overall I prefer the Derek Jacobi and Stephen Fry readings of the Holmes canon, it's always a true pleasure, too, to have a story narrated by the actor who was Watson to Jeremy Brett's Holmes for the better part of my personal "Sherlock Holmes to end all Sherlock Holmes" series, and certainly nobody nails Holmes's occasionally strident tone as well as the man who was at the receiving end of that very tone for a considerable amount of time (even though in real life Brett and Hardwicke got along like a house on fire, and when Brett's illness reared its ugly head, Hardwicke was the first to be protective of him). -- I already own several collections of Sherlock Holmes stories read by Hardwicke, and this reading nicely complements those collections. (5 stars -- this is a stand-out even in Conan Doyle's amazing body of work.)

 

The next story is probably my favorite of the lot -- next to the Holmes entry, obviously, and with Allingham's offering not far behind: P.C. Wren's The Perfect Crime (read, again, by Brian Cox), which is based on the explicit premise that yes, "there is in fact such a thing as the perfect crime: I know, because I have committed one."  As in Allingham's story, the chief element of suspense is derived from the fact that the story is told strictly from the murderer's perspective, and again similar to Allingham's story, the plot is constructed so as to slowly and deliciously peel away layer by layer, with a slow burn that ends in a supremely devious final twist. -- 5 solid stars as well.

 

The final three stories (like Wilkie Collins's) are made of weaker stuff than the three highlighted above in particular:

 

Sapper's Thirteen Lead Soldiers (again read by Edward Hardwicke) is a story from the "Bulldog Drummond" canon whose crucial twist turns, as the title implies, on a collection of toy soldiers that one participant of a secret meeting of high-ranking international diplomats (to which Drummond has been invited at Scotland Yard's suggestion in an effort to highten security) has made for and gifted to the hosting nobleman's son.  This is both a "whodunit" and a "howdunit" -- where Drummond manages to foil the murderer's intentions to rather lasting effect -- and though I didn't care enough to try and unravel every last detail of the solution in advance, both "whodunit" and the basic outline of "howdunit" are fairly easy to work out. (3 1/2 stars, individually.)

 

Algernon Blackwood's First Hate (read by Derek Jacobi) is based on the contention that, just as there is such a thing as love at first sight, there is also such a thing as purely instinctive "hate at first sight" -- quod erat demonstrandum by way of an "around the fireplace" narration of just such an encounter, with a competition for the hand of a woman thrown in as a sideline (or as a more plausible motive?  I couldn't make up my mind which was which, and ultimately didn't care), and with an ending high up in the Canadian Rockies -- where the story moves from its London beginnings -- that for all practical purposes amounts to cold-blooded murder dressed up as self-defense ... unless you buy into the central premise, which I manifestly don't.  (Jacobi doesn't seem to, either; this is definitely not one of his most convincing narrations, and coming from someone who'd willingly listen to him reciting the phone book, that should tell you something in and of itself.) -- 2 1/2 stars, because I'm feeling generous and because Blackwood still knows how to tell a story, even if it's a supremely implausible one.  Also, um, Derek Jacobi.

 

Finally, Robert Louis Stevenson's Markheim (read by Jack Shepherd) is highly atmospheric and skillfully constructed until about its halfway point (or shortly thereafter): It starts with a customer's (the eponymous Markheim's) visit to a pawnbroker's store on Christmas Eve and the exchange between the customer and the pawnbroker, which after a short while ends in murder.  There's a nice, slow build-up to the murder itself (which build-up even includes an adroitly-executed slight of hand), and a further slow burn while the murderer is rifling the shop and trying to cover his tracks.  However, then we literally get a deus ex machina appearance that radically changes the state of play, and unfortunately that was the point where Stevenson lost me. -- 3 1/2 stars, chiefly for the story's first part; a writer of Stevenson's caliber shouldn't have needed (or even explicitly sought) any deus ex machina, and certainly not this one; not even in a story set on Christmas Eve.

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter
(Kerry Shale audio)

 

I debated using this for either the "Locked Room" or the "Classic Horror" bingo square, but there was compelling competition for both of those, and anyway, I already knew the stories and chiefly bought this CD for Kerry Shale's narration: Ever since I first listenend to his audio versions of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance cycle, I've been on the lookout for further recordings featuring him.

 

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with having created the first professional detective in C. Auguste Dupin -- a fact that, unsurprisingly, doesn't go down particularly well with Sherlock Holmes when mentioned to him by Dr. Watson -- and in fact, Dupin and Holmes share a number of traits and abilities, including their disdain (benevolent or not) for the professional police, their reliance on "trifles" (apparently unimportant details), and their rather astonishing ability to deduct another person's silent thoughts by "reasoning backwards" and then thoroughly startle the other person by responding to those very thoughts explicitly.  But while Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories rely on Holmes's fully-rounded character, as well as on action and plot development, as much as on Holmes's deductive methods, and while they invite the reader along on the investigation, Poe's "stories of ratiocination" -- once Dupin has been (or considers himself) called on  to help solve the case -- are almost exclusively a rendition of Dupin's own thought processes and reasoning.  This, to me, makes them somewhat more monotonous and consequently somewhat less easy to follow (even with a splendid narrator like Kerry Shale).

 

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the earliest locked room mysteries in the history of crime fiction, and together with the even earlier Mademoiselle Scuderi by E.T.A. Hoffmann (which however is more "impossible crime" story than locked room mystery in the strict sense), and with Gaston Leroux's Mystery of the Yellow Room, it pretty much laid down the template for this particular mystery subgenre.  Its solution is as, um, colorful as some of Dupin's conclusions, however, and it requires a healthy portion of suspension of disbelief -- here, too, both Conan Doyle and Leroux did better, and so did E.T.A. Hoffmann.

 

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt was Poe's response to a widely-publicized real life murder case in New York: Poe transposed the events to Paris and, through the voice of his fictional detective, set forth what he believed to be the solution of the case; disecting, in the process, the various competing theories advanced by the newspapers writing about the murder -- the only material that Poe himself had to go on.  (Despite its notoriety and the public hunt for the killer, the real life case of the murder of Mary Rogers still remains unsolved.)

 

The Purloined Letter is easily my favorite among the three Dupin stories: Like his famous London colleague frequently half a century later, our Paris detective is called on by a high government official (the Prefect of Police) with a request to assist in recovering a document which, in the wrong hands, might wreak all sorts of political havoc.  The solution to the case relies on both a rather brazen attitude by the culprit, which Dupin divines, and on an oversight that, I very much hope and trust, should not happen to any well-organized modern police force.  Dupin's deductive process is sound and fun to watch, however, and we're also invited in on a bit more of the chase than in the other stories.

 

 

Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

I said not so long ago that (barring Christie's overwhelmingly abysmal final books) Enless Night isn't exactly my favorite book by her and that I probably wouldn't revisit it anytime soon -- then this CD crossed my path for a song during a recent book store browse, and I figured it had to be karma, so here we are after all.

 

I'm still not exactly enchanted with the story (let alone its narrator and protagonist), though, and if there is one thing that this audio adaptation makes clear it is that this is a story that does not easily lend itself to the transformation to another medium -- too subtle, nuanced and slow is the burn up to the final climax.  That said, the adaptation's cast handles the material very well, and the script avoids the pitfalls that some of the novel's incidental elements would undoubtedly create in less expert hands.  So, if you just want to know what happens in this novel, this is a decent enough introduction -- just don't expect the depth of the written original.

 

 

Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)

I love horses and used to be an enthusiastic horseback rider throughout my entire school years, and I also love mysteries, so Dick Francis's books were a natural go-to choice for me once upon a time.  Having revisited a Dick Francis novel after many years, though, I find that this, too, hasn't weathered the passage of time particularly well, even though it's still a pleasure to go horse trading with Mr. Francis and have him share his experience of life on and off the racetrack -- and Mr. Pigott-Smith is another audio narrator who has once more solidified his hold on my attention.

 

Knockdown is the story of Jonah Dereham, an ex-steeplechase jockey turned bloodstock agent who gets into trouble when he takes a stance against a de-facto syndicate exploiting a gap in the rules of trading for purposes of profiteering at their clients' (the horse owners' and breeders') epxense.  The book doesn't start out as a murder mystery -- there's plenty of assault and battery, arson, and other assorted violent behaviour (as well as, obviously, greed, extortion and [near-]fraudulent machinations), but the murders -- several of them in quick succession -- only happen once the profiteering racket's chief organizer is beginning to feel the hounds closing in on him, with Jonah at their forefront.

 

 


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

Finally, my audio extravaganza consisted of a five-volume foray into Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, next to Agatha Christie's, Dorothy Sayers's, Margery Allingham's and Patricia Wentworth's one of the major Great Detective series of the Golden Age; taken together, these five writers are unquestionably the era's "Queens of Crime."  (I own print versions of all of Marsh's novels, too, and pulled those in addition to the audio recordings.)

 

Of the five novels revisited, Death and the Dancing Footman had previously been my favorite novel and it continues to be so; it's a slightly wacky country house locked-room mystery (so would also fit these two squares) where a group of guests with previously-existing antagonisms are invited to a house party ... with predictable effects; and it certainly doesn't help that the house is snowed in and thus locked off from its surroundings.

 

Death and the Dancing Footman is an intra-series sequel of sorts to Overture to Death, which is set in the village closest to the manor where Death and the Dancing Footman is set in turn, with the vicar from Overture to Death briefly making a reappearance as Alleyn's and his wife's host in Death and the Dancing Footman.

 

Marsh's writing particularly shines where it focuses on characterization, and there are two settings -- in addition to country house mysteries -- ideally suited for this: village settings and the theatre. Overture to Death is a nice example of the former, Opening Night (published as Night at the Vulcan in the U.S.) of the latter. In Overture to Death, village jealousies and intrigues culminate in a rather cleverly-constructed "murder by piano" (with a built-in service revolver) on the day of the opening of the local amateur theatricals' latest production. -- Opening Night is set in London's West End, at the (fictitious) Vulcan Theatre (which had already been the setting of Marsh's second Alleyn novel, Enter a Murderer); and it concerns the "death by greasepaint" of an actor who has made one enemy to many in a cast of bickering performers, also inclduing an idiosyncratic and irrascible playwright.  The actor manager of the Vulcan is rather obviously modeled on Laurence Olivier -- and he is not the only leading actor appearing in Marsh's novels with whom that is the case.  As Marsh herself was, first and foremost, a highly-reputed theatrical director who had built an especially solid reputation for her productions of the plays of William Shakespeare, this particular milieu was second nature to her, and consequently her portrayals of actors and the world of the theatre are a special delight to read -- and a character's aptitude at quoting Shakespeare is a near-infallible indication that he is likely one of the "good guys."  (Obviously, Alleyn himself speaks Shakespeare fluently.)

 

Opening Night is, again (and very losely speaking), an intra-series sequel of sorts to Surfeit of Lampreys (in the U.S., published as Death of a Peer), where the death of the wealthy Lamprey family patriarch brings Alleyn into an investigative encounter with the dead peer's quirky, chronically impoverished family -- one of whose sons, as a result of the encounter, eventually seeks employment with the Metropolitan Police and returns as P.C. Lamprey in the later novel.

 

Artists in Crime, finally, is the novel where Alleyn meets his wife-to-be, the feisty, self-assured painter Agatha Troy.  Again, as Marsh (in addition to being a director and writer) was also a trained painter she could speak from experience when writing about Troy, who would become one of the series's greatest assets and a great complement to "the nice detective" Roderick Alleyn.

 

Of the audio versions I listened to, I preferred those read by Anton Lesser to the one by Benedict Cumberbatch: While Lesser clearly knew and appreciated the material, Cumberbatch did bring his considerable talent to bear, but it was rather obviously "just a job" to him and he knew nothing about the series.  This showed most obviously in his pronunciation of Alleyn's name: Ngaio Marsh had named her inspector for Elizabethan actor Edward "Ned" Alleyn, the star of the Lord Admiral's Men (the chief competitors of William Shakespeare's King's Men), whose name was pronounced ALLen -- and Marsh was adamant that this was how her inspector's name was to be pronounced as well.  Anton Lesser knew and respected that -- Cumberbatch didn't, and to a fan of the series, it was seriously jarring to hear him saying All-EYN over and over again, particularly given the frequency with which the name appears.

 

 

Next Reads:

 

 

and

 


Angua!!

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

Diagonal, top left corner to bottom right corner.

 

 

The "bingo" squares and books read:

 

  

 

Plus a bingo-"ready" completed column (second from right) ... and two more bingos in the making once I've read my books for "Diverse Voices" (=> all 4 corners plus center square) and "Werewolves" (=> center row) -- and once the "Classic Noir" and "Classic Horror" squares are called.

 

Considering that I've approached this bingo chiefly in "mood reader" mode, the calls have been extraordinarily lucky for me so far!  That being said, guess what my next two reads are likely going to be ...

 

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 Reviews for the books I've read most recently to follow separately!

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Merken

Reading progress update: I've read 357 out of 357 pages.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

Finished; full review to come as part of my next bingo update.  Right now, my head is still too much in a whirl, brimming with the names and information that Edwards has crammed into it.

 

The book's final chapters explore specific topics and methods of narration pioneered by some of the classic crime writers: psychology -- the forerunner of thrillers and suspense novels such as by Minette Walters, and Ruth Rendell in her Barbara Vine identity --, serial killer stories, inverted mysteries (think "Columbo": you know whodunit; rather, the thrill lies in the cat-and-mouse game between the killer and the detective), and irony as a narrative method; as well as taking a look at some writers that, despite having published one successful crime novel, never wrote another (nicknamed "singletons"), as well as at the major early to mid-20th century represetatives of crime fiction in the U.S., on the European continent, and in South America (well, really just Argentina) and Japan; and finally, the books that stylistically built a bridge towards the crime writing of the second half of the 20th century, as well as today.

 

My reading lists culled from the book, for those who are interested, are up to chapter 15 at present:

 

The "100 Books" specifically presented -- and

Other books mentioned:

Part 1: Chapters 1 - 5

Part 2: Chapters 6 & 7

Part 3: Chapters 8 - 10

Part 4: Chapters 11 - 15

 

... with the lists covering the final chapters due to follow once I've caught up on my bingo reviews -- and some real life stuff that is interfering with my reading pleasure at the moment.

Reading progress update: I've read 219 out of 357 pages.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

From the chapters covering some of the key locations of classic British mysteries (the countryside, including and especially country manors, as well as London -- of course -- and domestic and international vacation resorts), we've now moved to an exploration of how the various writers used their "original" professional experience in their writing, and how classic mysteries worked when set in the worlds of science, engineering, politics, teaching -- and of course, the world if the professional investigator, the policeman. 

 

I find I am particularly enjoying these chapters; while those dealing with the various geographical settings were a huge enterprise of cramming as many titles into the introductory chapters as possible (with considerable "name recognition" value -- this is, after all, the Golden Age mystery world 101, and you can't possibly read classic British crime fiction without coming across at least a fair share of the novels mentioned in those chapters somewhere or orther eventually) -- now we're back to an analysis as to what exactly made the novels, and their writers and protagonists, tick ... and how it impacted the various storylines.  That, in addition to being introduced to a plethora of new authors to read, was a major draw for me in the initial 5 chapters, too, where the focus was on how the "conventions" and hallmarks of classic British crime fiction were shaped.

 

Now off to working on another "books mentioned" reading list ...

Reading progress update: I've read 158 out of 357 pages.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

Up to the end of chapter 10 now, and we've moved into the territory also covered by Edward's short story anthologies: Serpents in Eden (countryside crimes), Murder at the Manor (country house crimes), Capital Crimes (London mysteries) and Resorting to Murder (detectives solving crimes while on vacation), and finally, Making Fun of Murder (books satirizing the genre -- so far, not also the topic of a short story anthology).

 

I'd been planning to create one single "other books mentioned" list for all five of these chapters, but it turns out Edwards really went overboard on this one ... so I ended up with an 80+ book list just for chapters 6 and 7 (the two countryside chapters):

 

http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/829/martin-edwards-the-story-of-classic-crime-in-100-books-other-books-mentioned-part-2-ch-6-10

 

-- with further lists to be created for the next chapters separately.

Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 357 pages.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

Well, I've read chapters 1 through 5, and I suppose this is what it sounds like when you get a walking encyclopedia talking. Even though it's, in a way, the print equivalent of having your favorite actor reading the phone book (which I expected going in -- the format itself suggests as much), it's addictively compelling, and I am racing through this book much more than I expected I would.  I also know I'll be revisiting it often for reference in the future.

 

When reading the chapters on the beginning of the Golden Age and on the Great Detectives, I also dipped into Edwards's Golden Age of Murder for further background, "met" the members of the Detection Club ... and learned that Ngaio Marsh was not a member (which I admit I'd heretofore taken almost for granted she was), but rather, "dined for weeks" on the experience of her one invitation to a Detection Club dinner.

 

Incidentally, for those who are interested, I've created a reading list for the "100 [main] Books" presented by Martin Edwards in "The Story of Classic Crime" here:

 

Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -- the "100 Books" Presented

 

I've also started a listing of the other books mentioned by way of further reference in the individual chapters.  As Edwards easily manages to toss in an average of 20+ extra books per chapter, I've decided to break up the "other books mentioned" listing into several parts, with the first list going up to the end of chapter 5 (i.e., as far as I've read at present):

 

Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -- Other Books Mentioned; Part 1 (Ch. 1-5)

 

I'm reading The Story of Classic Crime for the free (center / raven) bingo square, as well as by way of a buddy read.

 

 

Merken

Merken

Abbey Weekend

House of Shadows  - Bernard Knight, The Medieval Murderers, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks

I spent yesterday and this morning near Maria Laach abbey, a gorgeously-maintained, fairly important Romanic) Benedictine abbey (founded in 1093) on the shores of a volcanic lake a little less than an hour south of Bonn, celebrating my mom's birthday and reading my "haunted houses" bingo book -- which just happens to be set in medieval Bermondsey Abbey on the banks of the Thames opposite the Tower (founded in 1089 and erstwhile a rich, Cluniac house of major consequence as well, but dissolved under Henry VIII, variously built over, and now vanished under the major new Bermondsey shopping and office complex). Book review to follow as part of my next bingo update!

 

 

Bermondsey Abbey

 
Sketch of medieval Bermondsey Abbey
(Sources: Wikipedia (top) and South London Guide (bottom))

 


Bermondsey Abbey ground plan (source: British Library)

 


Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (attr. -- formerly attr. John Hofnagel): A Fête at Bermondsey (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 


Bermondsey Abbey excavations and memorial plaque
(sources: Wikipedia (left) and London Remembers (right))

 

The sacred taper's lights are gone,
Grey moss has clad the altar-stone,
The holy image is o'erthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll:
The long-ribb'd aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrine to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk;
God's blessing on his soul!"
Sir Walter Scott: Bermondsey

 

Bermondsey Abbey history and excavation (YouTube)

 

 
Bermondsey shoreline today (photo mine)

 

Maria Laach


Maria Laach Abbey (painting by Fr. Lukas Ruegenberg, OSB)

 

 
Maria Laach Abbey (photos: mine)
Bottom row: the tomb of the abbey's founder, Heinrich (Henry) II,
first Count Palatine of the Rhine

 


The lake and our hotel's garden, next to the abbey



Souvenirs!
(chiefly enlarging my bookmark, magnet, and Rosina Wachtmeister collections...)

Merken

Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 2

Lord of the Wings: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries) - Donna Andrews The Babes In The Wood - Ruth Rendell Not in the Flesh: (A Wexford Case) - Christopher Ravenscroft, Ruth Rendell Not in the Flesh - Ruth Rendell Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (Christopher Lee Reads...) - Robert Louis Stevenson, Christopher  Lee The Bride Wore Black - William Irish, Cornell Woolrich Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler, Elliott Gould The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler, Full Cast, Toby Stephens The High Window: A BBC Full-Cast Radio Drama - Raymond Chandler, Toby Stevens, Full Cast

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison, as called and read squares will, bit by bit, vanish behind my markers and everybody's cards are different.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called

 


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

 

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:

 



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

A Halloween entry in Donna Andrews's long-running series featuring Caerphilly, VA artisan blacksmith and volunteer town events organizer Meg Langslow -- what could possibly be more fitting for this bingo square?

 

Caerphilly (that's CaerPHILLY to you reporters if you don't want to have the locals screaming at their TVs at the top of their voices) has decided to join the Halloween festival craze and is going at it hammer and tongs.  Mayor Shiffley is supposed to have an assistant organizing the festivities, but she's more bossy than efficient (and vanishes halfway through the event, to boot), so unsurprisingly the whole thing lands in Meg's lap all over again.  Unfortunately, some evilminded soul has decided to hijack the festivities for their own purposes, so soon enough Meg, the Mayor and Chief Burke have two real corpses on their hands, the local would-be vampire (formerly: the police department's forensic pathologist) is carted off to hospital with a near-fatal head wound administered with a blunt object, the town is beset by scavenger hunters who seem to stop at very little in pursuit of a computer game called "Vampire Colonies II" created by the software company of Meg's brother Rob, Mutant Wizards; and a group of live action role playing vampires have converged on the town with who knows what agenda of their own. -- Meanwhile, Meg's grandfather has added a bat cave to the local zoo (which is run by him), has managed to tame a bunch of ravens to stick to him more or less like sown to his wizard cloak with fine thread and croak "Nevermore" and similar Halloween'ish things, realistic-looking body parts show up in the zoo's lion's den and Florida alligator swamp areas (they are soon revealed as part of the scavenger hunt pranks, however) -- and in the middle of the festivities, a former heavy metal drummer of Scandinavian origin comes into his own again, which promises great things for the subsequent year's Halloween.

 

As an installment in the series that is set against the backdrop of a major holiday I didn't love this quite as much as Andrews's recent Meg Langslow Christmas books (Duck the Halls and The Nightingale Before Christmas) -- perhaps because unlike Christmas, Halloween is the sort of holiday where you more or less expect a certain amount of craziness anyway; so oddly, it didn't offer quite as much opportunity for Andrews's comic genius to shine as the Christmas setting, where the contrast between the expectation of a supremely peaceful holiday (certainly in a small town setting at least!), and the chaos engendered by the intrusion of violent crime and various pranks seems to work a bit better -- at least for me -- than in a setting that, like Halloween, must have had Andrews walking a fine tightrope practically all the time in order not to have things going over the top.  But this is ultimately nit-picking ... first and foremost, at now over 20 entries (of which this is no. 19), I'm happy to see that the series is still going so strong at all!

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

For the "In the Dark, Dark Woods" square, I decided on a Ruth Rendell double dip.  The Babes in the Wood and Not in the Flesh are books no. 19 and 21 in Rendell's Chief Inspector Wexford series, and now that Rendell is no longer around to add to the series, I'm getting ever more nostalgic about revisiting Wexford's Kingsmarkham (notwithstanding that IMHO Wexford did, probably, retire just about when it was really time).

 

Both books feature classic Rendell territory: the victimization of women (physical abuse in The Babes in the Wood, female circumcision in Not in the Flesh), child abuse, xenophobia, racism, the marginalization of immigrants and minorities (also including, in Not in the Flesh, "travelers", aka gypsies) and, oh yes, all that amidst the investigation of a murder or two.

 

The title of The Babes in the Wood is largely symbolic, referring as it does to the title of a traditional children's tale dealing with -- you guessed it -- two kids all alone in the woods, after their parents have unwittingly left them to the care of their evil uncle, who in short order proceeds to deliver them into the hands of murderers.  The tale was first published as a ballad by Thomas Millington in Norwich in 1595 -- the late 19th century Caldecott version is available for free on the Project Gutenberg site -- and has given rise to a proverb indicating essentially the same as someone being "in over their head"; i.e., being overwhelmed by situation requiring decidedly more experience than one really possesses. Rendell's novel does in fact trace the eponymous children's story to a certain extent, however, in that it concerns the disappearance of two kids and their caretaker during their parents' brief absence from home -- and I guess both the fact that there's a wood on the cover (of the CD I listened to, as well as on that of the paperback edition) and the fact that the one corpse showing up some time after the kids' and their caretaker's disappearance is found in a quarry near a patch of woodland makes it qualify for the "In the Dark, Dark Woods" bingo square.

 

Not in the Flesh begins with the discovery of a corpse in a forest near Kingsmarkham, and a while later, a second corpse is found in a locked and abandoned basement nearby (besides, here, too, both the CD and the paperback edition have a wood on their respective cover).  As both murders have occurred quite a while ago, Wexford and Burden get to be their own cold case investigators, or rather, criminal archeologists.

 

Of the two novels, I slightly preferred the later one (Not in the Flesh): The subplot of The Babes in the Wood, which brings a case of domestic violence to Wexford's family, is not quite convincing (

once Wexford's daughter Linda, who has been victimized by her boyfriend, is rescued, she seems to recover surprisingly quickly from her ordeal -- quickly and fully enough to have another boyfriend in absolutely no time whatsoever, as if she didn't have some fairly significant trust issues to overcome first

(show spoiler)

), whereas that of Not in the Flesh -- which was written at the height of the public outrage over female genital mutilation -- left room both to explore the horrors involved in the practice as such and the cultural complexities involved, and it also served as an uncomfortable reminder that a human rights issue making headlines one day will just as easily drop from public consciousness as soon as more pressing concerns emerge.  Female circumcision is still as much of an issue in many parts of the world as it was ten years ago when this book was written, but at a time when the Western world is buffetted by everything from the Trump presidency to ISIS, Brexit and the aftermath of the 2009-2009 financial crisis, it hardly seems to impinge anymore. -- As a side note, I very much enjoyed briefly meeting again Dr. Akande, Wexford's doctor and one of the protagonists of the series's 16th novel, Simisola.

 

For both novels, I listened to the audio narration by Christopher Ravenscroft, the Inspector Burden of the long-running TV series starring George Baker as Wexford.  (I do also own a paperback copy of Not in the Flesh, however, and consulted it for reference and plot tracking purposes.)  Ravenscroft gives Wexford a bit more of a country man's accent than he has in the TV dramatizations -- and, I have to say, in my head when I read the books -- but he is a pleasure to listen to, and his obvious familiarity with the source material only adds to that pleasure, as does his classical stage training.

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

One of the great classics of the horror genre -- which I'd read before, but when I heard that there was a recording of the story by Sir Christopher Lee, I just had to have it.  And Lee more than delivers on the promise associated with his name alone.  No wide-eyed, flamboyantly-gestured horror movie antics here (or their audio equivalent), just great empathy for all of the characters involved -- and for none more so than for the unfortunate, tragically overreaching Dr. Jekyll.

 

Never mind the story's one minor logical inconsistency -- by which I'm not referring to its central premise, the notion of (even physically) splitting apart a man's personality into its "good" and its "evil" components (reject that, and the story falls apart entirely, obviously), but

if Hyde is initially significantly smaller in stature than Jekyll because his is, or has heretofore been the less dominant part of Jekyll's personality, shouldn't Hyde then grow in stature, too, as his influence over Jekyll grows?

(show spoiler)

-- this is rightfully a classic of the genre, and a cautionary moral tale to boot; and in an age that has made the manipulation of human genetic material easier than ever, also eerily timely ... not to mention that it brilliantly shows that "horror" does not have to involve bucketfuls of blood oozing from the pages in order to achieve a truly terrifying effect; psychology and atmosphere, if as brilliantly executed as here, really does it all.  (Oh, yes, of course there is the one brutal murder committed by Hyde, but let's be honest, that doesn't even come close to the real life horror that would be spread, barely two years later, by Jack the Ripper; and it certainly hasn't got a dime's worth on our latter days' slasher yarns.)

 

 

Having lucked out with the two most recent bingo calls, in that one of them (Genre: Horror) isn't on my card and the other one (Locked-Room Mysteries) is one I'd already read a book for, I decided to indulge in a bit of a mini-binge for one of the squares I had been particularly looking forward to -- and had also had a disproportionately hard time making up my mind what book(s) to read for it.  I ended up settling for a print edition of Cornell Woolrich's The Bride Wore Black and an audio threesome of Chandlers: an unabridged reading by Elliott Gould (who better?!) of Chandler's second Philip Marlowe novel, Farewell, My Lovely, and full cast audio dramatizations of Marlowe books nos. 3 and 6, The High Window and The Long Goodbye.

 

Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Woolrich was one of the classic noir era's masters of psychological suspense; few of his contemporaries were capable of making nightmare scenarios come alive within a few short pages the way that Cornell Woolrich could.  Many of his stories have a downright evil twist at the end, and as far as such endings go, The Bride Wore Black certainly shows Woolrich at the top of his game.  (Be warned, however: Woolrich doesn't always play fair.  His final twists may come out of left field not only for his characters but also for the reader; and this, too, is certainly true for this particular novel.  While certain clues are provided throughout the story hinting at yet another narrative level, they in themselves are not sufficient to allow a deduction what precisely that level might coonsist of.)

 

There is very little that can be said about the plot without spoiling at least significant parts of it, so let's just stick with what the title implies -- this is a twist (and a fairly major one) on the "black widow" trope, in that over the course of 2 1/2 years, several men are murdered ... though not by a woman whom they themselves have married.  It's a thrilling tale that I greatly enjoyed, even if not all of the background details provided over the course of the book and in the final reveal do, IMHO, fully resolve the things that had nagged at me while I was reading the book.

 

(Note: If you don't know the book and are seriously planning to read it, DO NOT read the below spoiler.)

 

In the Moran chapter particularly, "the woman"'s background research -- notably, into Miss Baker's habits and into Cookie's kindergarten routine (the "gold star" awards system for the children's drawings, etc.) would seem to have had to be much more extensive than a brief absence from her job (as she owns to during the final reveal) would have enabled her to carry out, and I also think this is the one section where the book most clearly shows its age in terms of child psychology. -- Moreover and still in that same section, the murder method seems inconsistent with "the woman"'s otherwise extremely careful planning in that it seems opportunistic, as she certainly couldn't expect to come across that conveniently suffocating closet (and we neither have any indication that she had ever actually seen the inside of Moran's house before, nor that she had initially been planning on a different murder method, e.g., for using that fruit paring knife, and changed her mind only at the very last moment, baiting the trap with a game of hide and seek).

 

Similarly, given the back story it seems hardly credible to me that Corey should not have been aware of her (and able to recognize her) long before she even showed up at Bliss's engagement party: This is the woman who ruined his business racket and made his former partner abscond with the proceeds ... and yet, to Corey she's supposed to have been "that unimportant little white doll-like figure" next to her husband even on their wedding day?!

 

And, finally, I find it hard to believe that Wanger should not have focused on the cross sections of the victims' lives much earlier than we are told he did.  Surely if you are convinced there is a connection between several killings, taking a look at the victims' lives and seeing where they intersect is one of the very first things you do ... especially if you have a hard time convincing your superior officer because all else you can come up with is the fairly esoterical notion that the killer might -- just might -- be the same woman?

(show spoiler)

So, a bit of suspension of disbelief is required on the part of the jaded modern reader who's read one or two mysteries too many.  But the quality of the writing, the clever build-up of suspense, and the wicked twist in the final reveal more than make up for that.

 

And just as a side note now, take a look at that cover: Isn't it simply fabulous?  It alone almost tells you everything you need to know about the story going in -- and in the actual physical copy I own, the red and deep black almost have a lacquer glow.  So gorgeous!  Hats off to the artist whoever came up with it.

 

 

Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

Farewell, My Lovely is supposed to have been Raymond Chandler's own favorite novel, and although it didn't quite manage to elbow The Big Sleep out of the top spot of my personal affections for Chandler's writing, it came darned close and is also, along with the Christopher Lee / Robert Louis Stevenson "co-production" (of sorts) on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, easily the stand-out experience of this particular batch of bingo books.  It certainly helped to have it read to me by Elliott Gould, whose dark, slightly husky voice and laconic intonation is a perfect match for Chandler's language -- and for Marlowe's character --, but even narration aside, this book has everything you can possibly ask for in a Raymond Chandler novel: razor sharp language and observation, perfect pitch, a 1940s Los Angeles leaping off the pages in every conceivable shade of gray, dodgy characters (both male and female) aplenty, and a Philip Marlowe in deep trouble after successive run-ins with representatives of both sides of the law (with both sides of the law sometimes being represented by the very same persons, of course).

 

Structurally, the book follows a similar pattern as The Big Sleep and virtually every other Marlowe novel: After having made an acquaintance with every potential to land him in the deepest of muck -- and not before the first specks of said muck have indeed begun to materialize -- Marlowe is hired by a(nother) client, as a result of which his attention is temporarily deflected from the muck already accumulating elsewhere, until it dawns on him that the two piles of manure are actually -- or at least very likely -- products of the same stable.  He digs deeper (or is dragged deeper in), whereupon the manure acquires Augean proportions.  Further complications ensue, until at the end Marlowe emerges from it all: yet a bit more cynical and disillusioned by his recent experience, minus a client or two, and feeling that, once again, in a city where not even the police can be trusted to do their job, he has done their job for them very much at his own cost.

 

In this instance, the trouble begins with a variation of the "two men enter a bar" joke, except when a private dick (Marlowe) and a black six-foot heavyweight boxer-material ex-con appropriately named Moose Malloy enter this particular bar, the punch line is, in quick succession, a dead body in a back room, Marlowe's first of several run-ins with the cops, and a phone call from an equally rich and shady character seeking to hire him, at the very last minute, as a bodyguard for a nightly rare-jade-necklace-for-a-suitcase-of-ransom-money-exchange in the hills above the city.

 

Plot serpentines the size of Mulholland Drive aside, however, the true feast in any Raymond Chandler novel is the language and imagery.  Oh, it's cynical beyond belief (this is a noir novel, remember), and female sensibilities in particular aren't catered for; much less so than even in the writings of Chandler's contemporary Dashiell Hammett.  But there's a rapid-fire gut-punch quality to it that just hasn't got any equals anywhere -- just take these few examples, all within just a few pages of each other (if that) fairly early on:

"I said: 'Mrs. Florian? Mrs. Jessie Florian?'

'Uh-huh,' the voice dragged itself out of her throat like a sick man getting out of bed."

 

"A couple of frayed lamps with once gaudy shades that were now as gay as superannuated streetwalkers."

 

"The woman's eyes became fixed in an incredulous stare.  Then suspicion climbed all over her face like a kitten, but not so playfully."

 

"[T]heir faces were as threadbare as a bookkeeper's office coat."

 

"I wouldn't say the face was lovely and unspoiled, I'm not that good at faces.  But it was pretty.  People had been nice to that face, or nice enough for their circle.  Yet it was a very ordinary face and its prettiness was strictly assembly line."

 

"'Huh?  Oh yeah, funny.  Remind me to laugh on my day off.'"

 

"They had Rembrandt on the calendar that year, a rather smeary self-portrait due to imperfectly registered color plates.  It showed him holding a smeared palette with a dirty thumb and wearing a tam-o'-shanter which wasn't any too clean either.  His other hand held a brush poised in the air, as if he might be going to do a little work after a while, if somebody made a down payment.  His face was aging, saggy, full of the disgust of life and the thickening effects of liquor.  But it had a hard cheerfulness that I liked, and the eyes were as bright as drops of dew."

 

"Montemar Vista was a few dozen houses of various sizes and shapes hanging by their teeth and eyebrows to a spur of mountain and looking as if a good sneeze would drip them down among the box lunches on the beach."

"I walked back through the arch and started up the steps.  It was a nice walk if you liked grunting.  There were two hundred and eighty steps up to Cabrillo Street.  They were drifted over with windblown sand and the handrail ws as cold and wet as a toad's belly."

Let me tell you, after you've been through a whole novel's length of that sort of stuff, you feel like you're fresh out of the wringer, too; right down there with Marlowe!

 

 

 

 

The Long Goodbye

The High Window

Compared to an unabridged reading of Chandler's own words, any radio adaptation of his novels must necessarily fall a bit short, even if it's got the BBc's stellar production quality and the cast -- lead by a very credible Toby Stephens as Marlowe; accent, cynicism and all -- do their level best to convey the essence of Chandler's works.  Still, I wasn't disappointed, and quite frankly, another two servings on the same level asthe Elliot Gould reading of Farewell, My Lovely would have been more than I'd have been able to stomach in this rapid succession.

 

The Long Goodbye was Chandler's penultimate Marlowe novel complete and published during his lifetime.  It begins when Marlowe makes the acquaintance of a drunk ex-soldier in a sort of on-again-off-again-marriage/relationship with a rich tycoon's daughter, who after several months on-again-off-again friendship with Marlowe asks the detective to help him to make it to Tijuana airport ... only to be reported to have died in Mexico a short while later; not however before dispatching two farewell notes to his late pal -- a short letter accompanied by a larger banknote than Marlowe has ever seen.

 

The High Window, Chandler's third Marlowe novel, sees the detective hired by a rich bully of a widow (magnificently portrayed by Judy Parfitt) to recover a "Brasher Doubloon", a valuable antique coin (see left) that she has inherited from her late husband.  Like The Big Sleep, this story has an extremely jaded "it's all in the family" subtext, and while its storyline is not quite as tangled and knotted as that of Chandler's most famous novel (where reportedly not even the author himself was ultimately able to unravel all of the plot strings), there are noir joys aplenty along the way ... and Marlowe even gets to go on a cross country trip to rescue a Mid-Western damsel in distress from her toxic big city environment and restore her to her parents' porch.

 

 Los Angeles in the 1940s:

Ansel Adams (YouTube: here)

 

1940s' Downtown L.A. at night (YouTube: here)

 

A map of Raymond Chandler's / Philip Marlowe's Los Angeles:

Source: Huffington Post

 

 

... and finally, a couple of my own photos: View from Mulholland Drive: Hollywood Bowl, 405 Freeway, Westwood;
on the horizon, downtown Los Angeles



Left: Westwood, Beverly Hills and Century City;
Right: Bel Air and Hollywood Hills



Hollywood Hills and Hollywood Sign



Beverly Hills: Sunset Blvd. and Rodeo Drive



Santa Monica



Rancho Palos Verdes

 

 

Next Read:

  TBD!

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Noir Mini-Binge

The Bride Wore Black - William Irish, Cornell Woolrich Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler, Elliott Gould Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler, Full Cast, Toby Stephens The High Window: A BBC Full-Cast Radio Drama - Raymond Chandler, Toby Stevens, Full Cast

Well, what with the last two bingo calls having given me some breathing space -- "genre: horror" is not on my card, and "locked room mystery" was one of the first squares I already read books for --, I've embarked on a classic noir mini-binge, with Cornell Woolrich's "The Bride Wore Black" (physical book) and a Raymond Chandler audio multi-pack -- "Farewell, My Lovely" (unabridged, read by Elliott Gould) and the recent(ish) BBC full cast dramatizations of "The Long Goodbye" and "The High Window" (starring Toby Stephens ... and yes, he does manage a credible enough Marlowe, accent and all).

 

I've yet to finish "The Bride Wore Black", and if I know Woolrich there will be some fairly devilish twist at the end -- but I have to say, the gem of the set so far is Chandler's "Farewell, My Lovely".  There's nothing like revisiting the mean streets of 1940s Los Angeles, Chandler's imagery is as gut-punching as ever, and it's just an unmitigated joy of having a classic noir novel read to me by Elliott Gould.

 

I suppose I could count these towards several different bingo squares ("murder most foul" and the free square in addition to "classic noir" if nothing else), but I think I'm going to count them all towards "classic noir" ... I just have too many other books that I really also want to get to during the bingo.  And if things don't go the way I hope they will, I can always reassign one or two of these later on ...

 

Merken

#7 Follow Friday with book bloggers: Sailing in a Sea of Words

Say hello to Kat in Follow Friday book bloggers talks!

 

Let's meet a blogger behind the Sailing in a Sea of Words blog:

http://travelerbypage.booklikes.com/

 

When have you recognized a book lover in you?

 

My love for reading was most definitely fostered and encouraged by my parents. They read to me as a child and I began reading on my own at a very young age. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t love reading. It’s a core part of me and without it, I would have a hard time recognizing myself. All of my other interests are born from the books that I’ve read.

 

Please pick three books you’d like to recommend to our readers?

 

Book #1: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s a really brilliant thriller/suspense novel that is beautifully written and well-researched.

 

Book #2: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. Few books have sucked me in as well as this one. Tessaro’s knowledge of scent and her mastery of balancing two different timelines so that neither is lacking in detail and plot makes this book a real gem.

 

Book #3: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. This is another book that really sucked me in. I finished it in a matter of days because I needed to find out what happened next. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story wrapped in mystery and supernatural elements. I’m eager to get my hands on whatever novel she publishes next.

 

The Perfume Collector - Kathleen TessaroThe Ghost Bride - Yangsze Choo

 

Why have you decided to start a book blog? Do you like it so far?

 

I wanted to keep a record of the books I read and my impressions of them. I wanted to make each entry as detailed as possible, but I’ve been having trouble with that as of late. Once I finish my next series of books I have lined up, I’m going to be changing the way I write the reviews so that I can take the time to provide the detail I’ve always wished to give. I love it! I’ve shared my blog with friends and family so they can keep up to date on my recommendations and what I’ve been reading. It helps give me extra incentive to keep going and not let myself fall behind on posting my reviews.

 

In your short bio you reveal you’re a writer! Please tell us more!

 

I haven’t published anything I’ve written online, but I’ve written a bunch of short stories. I’ve been outlining and playing with an idea for a novel, but I haven’t waded into the deeper waters as of yet. The short stories I’ve written mostly revolve around chance encounters and pushing the boundaries of the world one has lived in for all of his or her life.

 

You write “I tend to lean toward mystery and fiction, but I like to change patterns with the occasional YA or non-fiction book”. Which YA and non-fiction books have amazed you?

 

Blythewood - Carol Goodman I’ve only just started re-reading YA books within the last year or so. I enjoyed Blythewood by Carol Goodman.

As far as non-fiction goes, I’ve been exploring books related to topics I like as well as biographies. I really enjoyed Carl Sandburg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln  that’s broken up into the Prairie Years and the War Years. I also enjoyed Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill. It’s a memoir of Hill’s time as Jackie Kennedy’s primary Secret Service agent. I really admire Jackie Kennedy and Hill’s memories made me want to dig deeper. I have a few books on the Kennedys and Jackie lined up for future reading. Stephen Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat has been really insightful as I love his musicals and I’ve had fun finding out his thoughts on the musicals he’s worked on.

 

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years - Carl SandburgMrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir - Clint Hill,Lisa McCubbinFinishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics, 1954-1981, With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines, and Anecdotes - Stephen Sondheim

 

How much time do you spend reading?

 

Many people I know would say too much. I try to read every day. I have a long commute and I take public transportation so I read on my trips to and from work. On the weekends where I don’t have plans, I tend to read all day. That’s when I’ve been notorious for finishing books within hours.

 

What are your three favorite book covers?

 

Book #1: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman. This was the first Goodman book I read and the cover just drew me in with how mysterious and elegant it looks.

 

Book #2: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. It’s one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen. The fields of lavender leading up to the lonely looking cottage is so mysterious yet so soothing.

 

Book #3: Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet. If you worship autumn like I do, this cover speaks to that love and adoration. I love mysteries to begin with so it was helpful that this book was one, but I wanted the cover just as much.

 

Arcadia Falls - Carol GoodmanThe Lantern - Deborah LawrensonWicked Autumn - G.M. Malliet

 

What’s your reading spot? We’d love to see the photos :)

 

When’s a nice day, I’ll read in the window ledge in my living room. I’ll prop up a pillow, grab a blanket and read away.

 

 

A paper book or an e-book?

 

Paper book, always. I don’t want to strain my eyes, plus I love the texture and smell of books. I’ll never go all digital – not for books.

 

Three books for a desert island?

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle Book #1: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s easily one of the best mystery novels of all time. I would argue that it is the best one, but I know many who would disagree. This book is responsible for my love of mysteries as my father read it to me when I was young. I love Sherlock Holmes so I need this novel, if not one of the collection of short stories. Who doesn’t love that line, Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound. Chills.

Arcadia Falls - Carol Goodman 

Book #2: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman. It’s not just the cover that I love about this novel. I adore the story and it’s one that I can read over and over and never get bored. It brings the feeling of autumn to me and I love that feeling, even if it’s while I’m on a desert island.

 

Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics) - Vivien Jones,Tony Tanner,Claire Lamont,Jane Austen Book #3: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know I’m a minority, but I love Pride and Prejudice. It was close, as I would also love to bring Jane Eyre, but I just love Austen a little more. I need at least one love story on my island.

 

Favorite quote?

 

There are so many it’s hard to choose! I’m going to have to go with the inner romantic here:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

 

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.

 

― Jane Austen, Persuasion

 

If you could meet one author, who would it be and why?

 

I’d love to meet Carol Goodman. She’s the only modern author where I have bought every single book she’s ever written. I haven’t read all of them (yet), but I love her writing, her subjects, and I would love to just chat with her on her writing as well as her inspiration.

 

The best thing about books?

 

The escape! Books allow you to travel to worlds and places too numerous to count. You can transcend time and place to follow the lives of people you’ve never met – both real and imagined. Books are an incredible gift and one that needs to be always appreciated.

 

Shelfie time! Please share your home library photos :)

 

I don’t have huge bookcases to house all of the books I own (yet), so here’s a photo of some of the books I have in my bookcase.

 

Thank you!

*

Missed previous Follow Friday talks? Use ffwithbookbloggers tag or click the catch up links:

 

 

Remember, you can nominate your blogger friends for the Follow Friday interview! Click here and leave the URL address in the comment section.

 

See you next Friday!

Reblogged from BookLikes

The view from my desk ...

 

 

"Monsieur" (as my mother refers to him) decided last weekend that merely being able to see me from one of his several beds in the corridor while I am working was no longer good enough -- he wanted greater proximity.  (Yey for that.)  So he started to experiment with various positions on the rug inside my office (nice and close, but too much light in the evening) and on the floor right outside my office (almost as nice and close, also dusky enough to sleep, but a wooden floor just doesn't cut it in terms of comfort).  On Sunday I moved the bed in question to a position right outside my office door, where it's dark enough for him to be able to sleep if he wants to, yet light enough to play during the daytime, and where he is also another bit closer to me (not that you'd think he'd care to look when the camera is out, of course).

 

Now if "closeness" only meant that he'd permit me to touch him ...

 

(Note: The second clip will only open in blog view; to get there from the dashboard, click here.)

SPOILER ALERT!

Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 1

Equal Rites  - Terry Pratchett Mrs. Zant and the Ghost - Wilkie Collins, Gillian Anderson Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes (British Library Crime Classics) - Various Authors, Martin Edwards Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie Lord of the Wings: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries) - Donna Andrews

 

My Square Markers:


Black Kitty: Read but not called

 


Black Vignette: Called but not read

 


Black Kitty in Black Vignette: Read and Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

The first book of the Witches subseries and one of the earliest Discworld novels overall (it's book #3 of the series): by Pratchett's standards a slight book, which I knew going in, but since I'd started to read the Witches books subseries, I ought to go back and catch up with the beginning at some point before proceeding to far.

 

Still, it's an enjoyable enough ride; Granny Weatherwax is there (Nanny Ogg and Greebo aren't, though); and we do end up at the Unseen University, where Granny engages in a battle of magic with then-Archchancellor Cutangle, which ends up having some odd foreshadowings of Granny and Ridcully.  Ankh Morpork -- and indeed, even the market town closest to her Ramtops village -- is more "forn parts" to Granny than it will be ever after, which of course, however, doesn't stop her in the least from shepherding a youthful female wizard (yes, not a witch) all the way there once she has reconciled herself to the unheard-of notion that women of the magic persuasion can in fact be anything other than witches, even if they only got there accidentally, because a dying wizard didn't pay attention and conveyed his staff to an infant girl instead of the eighth son of an eighth son.  (In case you're wondering about the difference between wizardry and witchcraft, it's to do with whether you use the forces of air or earth, and how you treat your fellow furred and feathered creatures.)  Along the way, we get lots of opinionating -- Terry Pratchett's, the witches' and various wizards' -- about whether there is such a thing as "a woman's (witch's) proper job" as opposed to "a man's (wizard's) proper job", and if so, what exactly either of these might consist of, and whether or not women (witches) should be allowed to succeed in storming the battlements of a place of higher education. 

 

I began reading this on August 30, when Moonlight Reader opened up the "Halloween Bingo Pre-Season" and I could easily have finished it the next day; I had to stop myself on the edge of the book's climax so as to make it count towards the bingo. -- It's been fun to go back to the roots and visit the place from where Pratchett's amazing talent began to evolve, and by many another author's standards I'd have probably rated this even higher than I did.  Still, it has made me appreciate the later entries in the Discworld canon even more -- and I'm now looking forward even more to returning to Discworld at its best!

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

I remembered that several folks on Booklikes had listened to this novella / extended short story during last year's bingo, so when I saw it was available for free on Audible I snatched it up -- and when "Ghost" was the first square to be called, I made a snap decision to use this read for the square as I had just enough time to fit in the audio yesterday.

 

This is the story of a widowed father's acquaintance with a young woman (the eponymous Mrs. Zant) who, in turn, has recently lost her husband, and whose strange behaviour is giving rise to the suggestion that she might have gone mad.  After some initial  reluctance, she eventually confides in Mr. Rayburn (the widower, from whose point of view -- albeit in the third person -- the story is told), and he (and through him, the reader) is given to understand that ever since the untimely death of her much-loved husband Mrs. Zant has experienced instances of a mysterious invisible presence which, though it initially disturbed her and made her suspect herself of madness, too, she eventually learns to trust and come to consider benign -- much to the distress of her brother in law, who (at Rayburn's suggestion) takes her to his residence on the seaside in the professed hope of thus relieving her nervous state and nursing her back to stability and mental health.

 

To a 19th century reader, this story would probably have had much more novelty value, surprising turns and perhaps even spooky aspects than to this jaded late 20th / early 21st century reader (or listener) -- certainly, it's no competition to the likes of Henry James's "Turn of the Screw -- and Collins's narration does tend to meander a bit.  Still, it's a sweet enough little story, and for someone who is not a big horror reader, just the perfect kind of thing to cover this particular bingo square.

 

 



Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

This is one of several Golden Age mystery short story anthologies recently published by the British Library and Martin Edwards. I had initially contemplated only reading some of the stories for this square, but once I'd started I was hooked pretty much instantaneously and soon there was no question whatsoever that I would read the whole thing.

 

Martin Edwards concurrently serves as the chair of the Crime Writers' Association and the Detection Club, and there is very little (if anything) that he does not know about mysteries and the history of mystery writing: his introductions to the individual stories -- and to this anthology itself -- alone are worth the price of admission.  The stories he selected cover the length and breadth of locked room scenarios, writing styles, and Golden Age writers, from those whom we still know today to some who undeservedly fell under the wheels of time and finally others ... who probably didn't. 

 

Even for the well-known representatives of the genre, Edwards managed to unearth less familiar stories, including a non-Holmes mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle from the time period after Holmes had supposedly drowned in the Reichenbach Falls, entitled "The Lost Special" and dealing with the mysterious disappearance of an entire train -- though true to the author's style, this, like many of Holmes's adventures, is a story that is (supposedly) first published only years after the actual events occurred (albeit unlike Holmes's adventures, not "because the world is not yet ready for it", but simply because it has taken this long for the case to be solved); thus fortuituously allowing, however, for the inclusion of a letter to the editor of a major newspaper reporting on the case when it first happened, written by "an amateur reasoner of some celebrity at that date [who] attempted to deal with the matter in a critical and semi-scientific manner," and whose letter begins with the words: "It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning that when the impossible has been eliminated the residuum, however improbable, must contain the truth."  (Would that he had actually been put on the case; one cannot feel but that it wouldn't have taken all of eight years to solve the mystery then.)

 

Of all of the stories contained in the anthology, I only knew Dorothy L. Sayers's "The Haunted Policeman" (one of her final three Wimsey stories), which is certainly one of the strongest in the lot -- though only Wimsey would welcome his firstborn son to the world wondering aloud whether the "collaborative effort" (with his wife) was "up to standard," noting that "I never knew so convincing a body of evidence produce such an inadequate result" (of his own efforts, one is given to assume) ... and after being thereupon thrown out of his wife's bedroom, proceeding to spend the rest of the night by killing two bottles of vintage champagne with the local bobby, listening to the police constable's woes about mysterious goings-on in a nearby house that can't possibly exist in the first place and a murder he's made to believe didn't happen, either, even though he has seen the corpse with his very own, then-sober eyes.

 

Like Sayers's story, several other entries in the anthology would cover not only "locked room" but also other bingo squares; in addition to "murder most foul", several have a supernatural touch, two of these with an added "ghost" element, whereas Sayers's is a tongue-in-cheek take on a "haunted house" story; and finally, this being the Golden Age of mysteries, several stories would also qualify as "country house murders". -- The entries that, in addition to Sayers's, I liked best overall were Sapper's "The Music Room" (even though its solution is of the "locked room" variety that I like the least), Christopher St. John Sprigg's "Death at 8.30" (again, despite its -- in this case, rather sensational -- solution), and E. Charles Vivian's "Locked In," which, of all the stories in the collection, is probably the neatest-written example of a classic locked-room mystery.

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

This was a return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser, the Captain Hastings of the long-running TV series starring David Suchet as Poirot, who has since come to narrate audio versions of almost every single Agatha Christie mystery; with the exception of a couple of Poirot books recorded by Suchet himself, the Miss Marple mysteries (narrated by the BBc's [and Christie's own favorite] Miss Marple -- Joan Hickson -- as well as the fabulous Stephanie Cole and, lately, Richard E. Grant), and a few short stories narrated by Isla Blair and Sir Christopher Lee. -- After having appeared alongside David Suchet in countless Poirot TV episodes, Fraser has Suchet's mannerisms as the Belgian detective down fairly pat, and he did indeed say in an interview that his reading was intended to keep faith with Suchet's performance (as in, how could it possibly not).  There are a couple of audio collections where both of them appear, and in those you can tell the two narrators apart, but to anyone hearing just a recording by Fraser and not listening too closely, his narration is pretty darned convincing and, therefore, contributes greatly to the listening pleasure.  In this instance, for Fraser's reading alone I upped my previous rating of a story I already liked considerably by yet another notch.

 

"Mrs. McGinty's Dead" provides several of Christie's recurring motifs and settings: Poirot's sidekick is (not Hastings, but instead) Christie's own mock-stand-in, Ariadne Oliver; the novel is set in a small town (named Broadhinny) -- even though this is ordinarily more Miss Marple's territory than Poirot's --; its title is based on a bit of poetic doggerel repeated in various forms throughout the story; and Poirot is called in at the last minute (by the policeman formerly in charge of the case, no less) to prevent a deadly miscarriage of justice.  The element striking terror in Broadhinny is not necessarily the murder itself -- the victim was a gossipy elderly charwoman who didn't greatly seem to matter; the man convicted for her murder is her former lodger, who is socially and as a person even more insignificant than his supposed victim -- but the arrival of Poirot and the facts revealed by his investigation: Starting with a newspaper article that he finds among the dead woman's last possessions, he investigates the local population's connections with a number of gruesome past crimes portrayed in that article, and he soon comes to conclude that several inhabitants of Broadhinny have more than a few skeletons of their own in their closets; in fact, more than one of them may have been involved with (or may be related to persons involved with) the crimes described by the newspaper. -- Along the way, we get a few pointed insights into Christie's own woes (uttered by Ms. Oliver, of course) regarding the less-than-faithful stage adaptations of her works ... and Poirot, to the reader's considerable amusement, gets to suffer ... not only the all-around unpleasantness of the British countryside, but also the horrors of a thoroughly chaotic and untidy boarding house, complete with water-drenched, overcooked, and generally tasteless cuisine (and this, after having agreed to take on the case upon having just returned from his favorite gourmet restaurant in London!).

 

 

Next Read:



 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 



Ready - Set .... GO!

So -- turns out we got an early go at trick or treat ... yey!

 

Card:

 

 

Book Selection Stacks:

(... more likely my TBR for the next several years, lol!)

 

Marker:

 

... and ...

 

Spreadsheet:


(There's bound to be some very basic color coding, too, once a square is called and I've finished the book I'll be reading for it.)

 

 

Ta-da ...!

Let the games begin!!

 

Now, what book to start with?!

Merken

Merken

Halloween bingo: Take Your Head Start!

For those of you who can't wait to start reading!

 

Good news!

 

You don't have to wait to start!

 

You just have to wait to finish!

 

Reblogged from Moonlight Reader

Why I'm Here

So I'm new here, but I don't think I ever mentioned that I came here because of my disenchantment with Goodreads/Amazon.  TL;DR, because Amazon owns goodreads, they have some really crappy policies that I just didn't like.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm an Amazon Prime member, and I order a lot of household stuff, things I just can't get out to the store for, hard to find things, etc.  I just limit the books I purchase from the site because of things I've read and heard about how abysmally they treat authors and publishers.  I only purchase books I can't find anywhere else, or if it's a deal waaaaay too good to pass up (like the ones I got on prime day).  For example, if the book is like half the price on Amazon than it is anywhere else.  A few bucks difference doesn't really matter that much to me; I'll pay a few extra dollars buying from Barnes & Nobel or somewhere else.  I'm not perfect, but I am trying.  I think one of the [several] things I hated about goodreads was that they allowed people to add fanfic to the site.  Now I'm an avid fanfic reader and writer; however I believe it has no place on a book website.  Some people agree with me, some don't.

 

But I digress.  I deleted my goodreads account and I came here.  I thought, just in case you're interested you could check-out/follow me at my other bookish site(s): LibraryThang, Wordpress

 

I also have a (new) instagram account specifically for my bookish photos.  And you can follow my twitter and tumblr.

Reblogged from Bookish Blerd

The Flat Book Society: 6 more days until our first offical group read!

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

Just a reminder that in addition to all the Halloween Book Bingo fun, The Flat Book Society's first read starts September 1st.   Thankfully, it's a 60 day read, something I think all us Bingo participants will appreciate.

 

Anyone seeing this for the first time - you're welcome to join us for this read or any others. We're a group newly formed to read what most people would call 'popular' science books; the ones that don't make your eyes glaze over (hopefully) or put you into a coma.  There's a list of books in the club in a continuous state of voting, so there's no draconian group moderator (me) deciding what we're reading next.

 

And now I think I've extended that welcome out long enough that there's room for our club mascot, Huggins (whom you can click to go to the club).

Reblogged from Murder by Death