9648

Currently Reading

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea
Teffi, Irina Steinberg, Anne Marie Jackson, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Edythe C. Haber
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
Thomas McNamee, Bob Reed
Collection: The Tailor of Panama / Our Game / The Night Manager
John le Carré
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
Thomas McNamee
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life
Liz Kalaugher, Matin Durrani
Progress: 127/304 pages
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection
Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
The Woman In White
Wilkie Collins
Merlin Trilogy
Mary Stewart
Progress: 340/928 pages
Quartet in Autumn
Barbara Pym
Progress: 99/186 pages

Recently Added

The Saltmarsh Murders - Gladys Mitchell
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers, Mark Meadows
Women Warriors - Pamela D. Toler
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." ― Mae West


"The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read." ― Mark Twain


"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea." ― Robert A. Heinlein


"Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else." ― Judy Garland
Find me elsewhere:
My Leafmarks Profile
Project Hamlet

Reading progress update: I've listened to 71 out of 160 minutes.

The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast

Oooh!  Bonus material, including audio interviews with Christie and introductions by her of some of her works -- as well as a speech by her (and an interview) on the 10th anniversary of The Mousetrap!  Nice!!

 


Agatha Christie cutting the 6th anniversary cake for The Mousetrap

Reading progress update: I've listened to 55 out of 160 minutes.

The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast

Personal Call -- slight supernatural tinge, in line with the stories collected in The Golden Ball and While the Light Lasts.

 

Note for the Agathyte whiteboard: Definitely no connection with the Bundle Brent novels.

 

Question for the Agathytes: Where else did Inspector Narracott (or Nerracott) appear?

 

Reading progress update: I've listened to 29 out of 160 minutes.

The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast

First one down, Butter in a Lordly Dish ... so far, so fiendish!  (Even if I had an inkling what was going on partway through.)

 

No implicit connection with After the Funeral intended, however, I think.  (MR?)

 

 

 

Good news ...

The Unexpected Guest: A Play In Two Acts - Agatha Christie The Unexpected Guest & The Pale Horse (BBC Audio Crime) - Agatha Christie

... for those of us looking for a quick Christie audio fix but who want to make sure they're listening to Dame Agatha's own words and not one of the novelizations of her plays by Charles Osborne: You can do just that!

 

The 1981 full cast BBC audio version of The Unexpected Guest (available individually on Audible, as well as sold in a CD set together with a dramatization of The Pale Horse) is based directly on Agatha Christie's play.

 

I received my print edition of the play today, and since I already owned the CD set, I decided to engage in a little spontaneous experiment and listen to the CD while reading along in my new print copy.  Result: While the radio play is a somewhat condensed version, it definitely does contain Christie's own words -- verbatim (solely minus the abbreviation).  I could follow along on the printed page quite easily.

 

(Well, OK -- admittedly I had bought the full cast audio version instead of the one of Hugh Fraser narrating Charles Osborne's novelization because I had hoped the full cast version would be based on Christie's own play, rather than (re-)dramatizing the novelization of a stage play ... but of course I couldn't be certain, so this was still a very satisfactory confirmation of my hopes and beliefs at the time when I bought the CD.)

 

Content-wise, this is rather a neat little mystery (non-series, as far as the protagonists are concerned); not quite as intricate as her novels, but very nicely done nevertheless, with the kinds of twists we've come to expect from our Agatha.  There are certain superficial similarities with several other books of hers, but the usual caveat applies ... what constitutes the solution in one book may be merely a red herring in another one and vice versa.  Since I had already listened to the CD I knew the solution this time around (though I needed a slight prompt to remember it), so this repeat experience brought with it all the joys of watching Agatha at work in laying her traps for the unwary.

 

I'm still planning to read the full print version of the play at some point so as to get the full flavour of the things cut out for purposes of the BBC production, but for what I could see while glancing over the cut out parts, the abbreviation was an exercise in condensation, not in altering the contents (even though at least one potential

red herring

(show spoiler)

element has been eliminated ... but that, too, is merely an extra tangent).

 

The print version doesn't quite run to 100 pages, so I'm going to keep this in reserve for Snakes and Ladders, possibly to be used in conjunction with the radio plays MR and I are going to listen to tomorrow ... as well as the odd short story or two to make up for the required 200 pages or equivalent audio listening time.

Clapton and "Blackie" -- Old Love ... for those who enjoy Peter Grainger's D.C. Smith novels.

 

For everybody else: this song, but just as soulfully performed by Smith himself, provides the final note of An Accidental Death.  And Grainger clearly had this sort of performance in mind when writing that passage ... just listen to the guitar solo (beginning ca. 3:25).

The British Police Procedural Is Alive and Well

An Accidental Death: A DC Smith Investigation Series, Book 1 - Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson

... and I have found yet another favorite new series!

 

Never let it be said that there are no great new voices in British crime writing, and on top of that, two of my most recent discoveries -- Joy Ellis's Jackman & Evans series and Peter Grainger's D.C. Smith series -- are set in an area not (yet) written to death, the bulge on England's East coast consisting of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex (though chiefly Norfolk).

 

A big shout-out to Mike Finn for recommending Peter Grainger's writing -- I have few things to add to his spot-on review, so I'm going to hand over to Mr. Grainger himself instead, who was interviewed about his writing (by Deborah Crombie, no less) and then answered additional readers' questions here:

 

http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2018/02/peter-grainger-two-terrific-british.html

 

(Also, let me just comment that whoever turned Mr. Grainger down at several traditional publishers and pushed him into self-publishing instead needs to have their job credentials reviewed.  Grainger can write rings about plenty of traditionally-published writers and then some.)

 

The setting of the D.C. Smith series is King's Lynn, which I visited the year before last, so I can personally attest to how well Mr. Grainger "nails" the town and that particular corner of the Norfolk coast:

 


Reading progress update: I've listened to 4 out of 412 minutes.

An Accidental Death: A DC Smith Investigation Series, Book 1 - Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson

Hah.  Serendipity!  I just finished a book from Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn series ... and guess what the name of the superior officer of this book's protagonist (DS Smith) is?  Detective Superintendent Allen!

 

Reading this for square no. 48 of Snakes and Ladders ("a book you acquired in February 2019).  So much for clearing Mt. TBR ... (sigh).  On the plus side, this book comes highly recommended by Mike and sounds like it has all the makings of introducing me to what may become yet another favorite series.  So I guess it's all good!

 

The Pleasures of Revisiting a Neglected Entry in a Favorite Series

Vintage Murder - Ngaio Marsh Vintage Murder - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon

I spontaneously picked the audio version of this book yesterday as my book for "Snakes and Ladders" square no. 40, "characters involved in the entertainment industry"; realizing that I'd read it so long ago that I remembered little more than the (rather unusual) method of murder and the fact that it concerns a company of actors travelling in Marsh's native New Zealand -- the first of several novels set in her home country, and her second mystery set in the world of her main daytime occupation as a theatrical director.  And I'm glad that I decided to revisit this book; not only for some much-needed memory refresher (for one thing, the train journey opening the book's events takes up much less space than I had recalled) but also because, upon revisiting it, I find that overall I like it considerably better than I remembered.

 

In many respects, this is signature Marsh: both landscape and characters fully coming alive on the page with seemingly little more than a few well-placed brush strokes and pieces of dialogue, great insight into the world of the theatre in general and actors' psychology and modes of communication in particular, peppered with quotes from the great classic plays (in particular those of her and her main man, Chief Inspector Alleyn's particular favorite, William Shakespeare), and plenty of misdirection, with "opportunity" [to commit the crime] being writ large as a key factor of the solution from early on.

 

However, this book -- at least as much as Colour Scheme, written a few years later

(where Alleyn returns to New Zealand incognito)

(show spoiler)

-- is also a welcome reminder that casual racism was not ubiquitous in Golden Age crime fiction: Not only do both books expressly feature positive portrayals of the Maori in general, and of key Maori characters in particular; in both books Alleyn also makes a big point of befriending these characters, and he displays a genuine interest in learning about their history and culture.  (Now if only Marsh had also  extended the same enlightened attitude to gays.)  And revisiting this book also reminded me that many of Marsh's novels are subtle witnesses to the spirit of their time: In this one, for example (written in 1936), Alleyn and the local inspector (who has invited him to join the investigation) trade worries about the imminent outbreak of yet another war, and they reflect on the folly of their own generation's going into WWI expecting it to be akin to one great party.

 

This is not quite the pinnacle of Marsh's writing just yet, but she clearly was well on her way by the time she wrote this book -- the fifth in her Inspector Alleyn series --, with one of her all-time best (Death in a White Tie, Alleyn mystery #7) right around the corner.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie

Still as much fun as ever.  David Suchet obviously is Poirot -- but this is the one audio recording where he is equally obviously having the time of his life with the rest of the cast in an "Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets" manner, and I'm enjoying being along for the ride every single second, every single time.

 

Original review (also of this audio version) HERE.

 

Now onwards and upwards on the Snakes and Ladders board!

 

Agathyte PSA: For those who'd like to join: First stop in my planned "Agatha on Stage" series

The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast

I have almost all of Agatha's plays sitting at hom now (with the sole exception of Black Coffee and The Unexpected Guest), and I've decided to start my exploration of her dramatic writing with this recent(ish) compilation of three radio plays:

 

* Butter in a Lordly Dish (for our whiteboard: starring a KC named Luke Enderby ... possible connection with After the Funeral?)

* Murder in the Mews (starring Poirot and going by the description, sounds like a fairly straightforward adaptation of the short story) and

* Personal Call (starring a couple named James and Pamela Brent -- possible relatives of Bundle?)

 

On a semi-related note, the investigator in the stage version of Murder on the Nile (which I'm also planning to read soon) is not Poirot but ... Canon Pennyfather!  So, another cross reference between the worlds of Poirot and Miss Marple (cf. At Bertram's Hotel).  And it makes sense, of course, that the play was written in 1944 -- 20 years before the Miss Marple novel (1965).

 

I haven't set any particular start date for either the radio plays or Murder on the Nile yet, but if anybody would like to join me, please let me know what date would work for you.

 

Reading progress update: I've listened to 100%.

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? -  Emilia Fox, Agatha Christie

Well, turns out I didn't so much join MR and BT for their final Christie buddy read but trail behind, but either way, it was fun revisiting this.  So thanks for the inspiration ... and may there be many more Agathyte repeat visits in our future!

What a Disappointment

The Red Lamp - Mary Roberts Rinehart, Gary Dikeos

Ugh.  If I hadn't been listening to this for Snakes and Ladders I would have DNF'd.  Much too heavy handed use of pseudo-occult phenomena for my taste (also, the dead animals thing was done so much better by Conan Doyle in Silver Blaze; it just felt like copycatting here) -- and I really, really dislike stories in which the narrator comes across as a passenger of / on the train of events instead of the conductor; particularly if, as in this case, as a scholar (s)he ought to have had ten times the brain power required to solve the mystery on their own, instead of becoming a plaything being buffeted around by adverse forces and having to rely on someone else both active and prescient enough to see through the bad guy's machinations and save our narrator's behind in the process.  (And don't get me started on the bad guy's motivation and psychological makeup.)  Why, Ms. Roberts Rinehart, why?  You could do sooo much better!

 

Also, note to self, another audobook narrator to avoid like the proverbial plague henceforth is Gary Dikeos.  Stentorian declamation devoid of any sort of nuance (except when reproducing dialogue, of which there was way too little to make a difference here, however), which pretty much killed any sort of atmosphere Roberts Rinehart was obviously aiming for.  If I'd liked the story as such any better than I did I might have given it another chance with the print version just to get that irritating vocal performance out of my head.  As it is, I probably won't -- unless I encounter it in an omnibus collection or anthology somewhere, in which case I just might reread individual snippets.  Even then I doubt I'll revisit the entire book, however.  For now, I'm just glad I've got this one out of the way so my little helpers and I can climb that ladder on the Snakes and Ladders board ...

 

Reading progress update: I've listened 20 out of 450 minutes.

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? -  Emilia Fox, Agatha Christie

"But what could you expect?  Nobody over fifty understood anything at all.  They had the most extraordinary ideas.

 

'I expect it was the War,' thought Bobby loyally.  'It upset them and they never got straight again.'

 

He felt ashamed of his father and sorry for him."

Oh, Agatha.  If only you had been able to look into the future -- or travel backwards (and forwards again) in time ...

Not So Clever, After All

The Elusive Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy, Joanna Ward

Ye gods! the irony of it all! Had she not been called the cleverest woman in Europe at one time? Chauvelin himself had thus acclaimed her, in those olden days, before she and he became such mortal enemies, and when he was one of the many satellites that revolved round brilliant Marguerite St. Just. And to-night, when a sergeant of the town guards brought him news of her capture, he smiled grimly to himself; the cleverest woman in Europe had failed to perceive the trap laid temptingly open for her."

Totally with you there, M. Chauvelin, I'm afraid -- Marguerite is behaving like the worst of literary history's headless TSTL chickens here.  This is one of the books that really should have captured me, because it is from this book (not from the first one) that the creators of virtually all screen adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel (and its sequels) have drawn a plethora of the screen "Pimpernel's" signature attributes and plot highlights, or almost all of the things, anyway, that go beyond the central features of his dual identity and his league's activities: The "demmed elusive Pimpernel" ditty, the attempt to draw Sir Percy into a duel by creating a scandalous scene at a social gathering involving Marguerite, the explicit entrapment of Marguerite (and / or her brother) in order to entice Percy to travel to France (where a trap will be laid for him in turn -- and where he will have to save one or both of the St. Justs in addition to completing the venture that is actually taking him there), the use of a treacherous French actress, and the suggestion of a fencing duel between Sir Percy and Chauvelin in a fortress on the Channel coast, with Blakeney's yacht Daydream waiting in the waters off shore, ready to take him and Marguerite back to England at the end.

 

Unfortunately, however, this book only worked for me up to about the halfway point (or actually, only a little before that even); i.e., as long as Marguerite was displaying at least a modicum of wit.  The moment she basically allowed her brain to shut down and decided to heedlessly run after her husband, with no idea (nor really any way) how to help him on his mission to France and every probability of making his life about a million times harder, the whole thing turned into a pretty consistent groan fest.  It also didn't exactly help that there is a whole lot of telling instead of showing going on in the second part of the book, as well as scenes and dialogue that don't exactly advance the plot -- this is not an exceptionally long book, but the final (or, well, next to final) part still dragged interminably.  All of which is a shame, as the book starts with a lot of wit and panache, and Sir Percy himself is, once again, in great form.  So, three stars for the beginning, for the Pimpernel himself, and for the odd scene here and there in the second part.  Others might give even a less favorable rating, but I just can't bring myself to go any lower than this for one of my all-time literary heroes (though I do seriously hope Marguerite will recover her wits in the next book).

Hey, Booklikes

Obsidian Blue and I have been talking about a new game of Booklikes-opoly for this summer, but in the interim, does anyone feel like a quick game of Snakes and Ladders?

 

 

RULES OF THE GAME:

 

Everyone starts on 1. There are two alternative ways to move forward.

 

Read one book, roll one dice on random.org. Read a book that corresponds to the number of the space as listed below and you can roll two dice to move forward more quickly. 

 

All books must be at least 200 pages long. Short stories count, so long as you read enough of them from a collection to equal 200 pages. 

 

You do not need to hit space 100 with an exact roll. In order to win, you must complete space 100 as written.

 

Spaces:

 

1. Author is a woman

2. Genre: mystery

3. Set in the twentieth century

4. Published in 2019

5. Published in 2018

6. Title has a color word in it

7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.

8. Author's last name begins with the letters E, F, G, or H.

9. Author's last name begins with the letters H, I, J, or K

10. Author's last name begins with the letters L, M, N or O

11. Author's last name begins with the letters P, Q, R, or S

12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z

13. Author is a man

14. Author is dead

15. Genre: romance

16. Genre: fantasy

17. Genre: horror

18. Set in a school

19. Set in the UK

20. Set in a country that is not your country of residence

21. Set in Europe

22. Set in Asia

23. Set in Australia/Oceania

24. Set in Africa

25. Snake - go back to 5

26. Part of a series that is more than 5 books long

27. Set during WWI or WWII

28. Written between 1900 and 1999

29. Someone travels by plane

30. Someone travels by train

31. Road trip

32. Genre: thriller

33. Set in North America

34. Snake - go back to 1

35. Has been adapted as a movie

36. Set in Central or South America

37. Has won an award

38. Newest release by a favorite author

39. A reread

40. Characters involved in the entertainment industry

41. Characters involved in politics

42. Characters involved in sports/sports industry

43. Characters involved in the law

44. Characters involved in cooking/baking

43. Characters involved in medicine

44. Characters involved in science/technology

45. A book that has been on your tbr for more than one year

46. A book that has been on your tbr for more than two years

47. Snake - go back to 19

48. A book you acquired in February, 2019.

49. Recommended by a friend

50. Has a domestic animal on the cover

51. Has a wild animal on the cover

52. Has a tree or flower on the cover

53. Has something that can be used as a weapon on the cover

54. Is more than 400 pages long

55. Is more than 500 pages long

56. Was published more than 100 years ago

57. Was published more than 50 years ago

58. Was published more than 25 years ago

59. Was published more than 10 years ago

60. Was published last year

61. Cover is more than 50% red

62. Cover is more than 50% green

63. Cover is more than 50% blue

64. Cover is more than 50% yellow

65. Snake - go back to 52

66. Part of a series that is more than 10 books long

67. Set in a city with a population of greater than 5 million people (link)

68. Something related to weddings on the cover

69. Something related to travel on the cover

70. Something related to fall/autumn on the cover

71. Involves the beach/ocean/lake 

72. Involves the mountains/forests 

73. Categorized as YA

74. Categorized as Middle Grade

75. Set in a fantasy world

76. Set in a world with magic

77. Has a "food" word in the title

78. Set in a small town (fictional or real)

79. Main character is a woman

80. Main character is a man

81. Ghost story

82. Genre: urban fantasy

83. Genre: cozy mystery

84. Genre: police procedural

85. Written by an author who has published more than 10 books

86. Author's debut book

87. Snake - go back to 57

88. Comic/graphic novel

89. Published between 2000 and 2017

90. A new-to-you author

91. Snake - go back to 61

92. Reread of a childhood favorite

93. Author's first/last initial same as yours (real or BL handle)

94. Non-fiction

95. Memoir

96. From your favorite genre

97. Title starts with any of the letters in SNAKE

98. Title starts with any of the letters in LADDERS

99. Snake - go back to 69

100. Let BL pick it for you: post 4 choices and read the one that gets the most votes!

Reblogged from Moonlight Reader

Reading progress update: I've listened to 15 out of 527 minutes.

The Elusive Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy, Joanna Ward

Aaaand -- off we go!  First "Snakes and Ladders" entry, a book written by a woman.

 

Also my first of probably several books set in France (for my "In 80 Book Around the World" project).