Game Status Check
Team Tannat/Familiar Diversions
Reading is my ESCAPE
Cause of Death: Unknown
Crime Scene: Unknown
Tea, Rain, Books
Team Themis/MBD & Lillelara
Night Time Reading Center
Cause of Death: Unknown
Crime Scene: Unknown
Hooked On Books
Witty Little Knitter
Cause of Death: Unknown
Crime Scene: Unknown
Round 1 closes Saturday, March 3 at 5:00!
It's not too late to sign up through Friday, March 2. Additional sign-ups may necessitate adding another game and/or shuffling players.
Guess: Mauled by a demon hound.
Book read: Ngaio Marsh - Death at the Dolphin (aka Killer Dolphin): Dolphin on the cover of the paperback edition.
A - Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke (all new); The Man With the Sack (revisited on audio)
B - Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (revisited on audio)
C - Helen Czerski: Storm in a Teacup (new);
Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger (revisited on audio), Crooked House (revisited on audio and DVD) and Destination Unknown (new)
G - Elizabeth George: For the Sake of Elena and Playing for the Ashes (both revisited on audio)
H - Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness (new);
J - P.D. James: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (new), Original Sin and Death of an Expert Witness (both revisited on audio)
M - Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie, Off With His Head (aka Death of a Fool) and Clutch of Constables (all revisited on audio)
O - Emmuska Orczy: The Old Man in the Corner (new)
T - Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair (both new)
Free / center square:
On the card, I am only tracking new reads, not rereads.
Read, to date in 2018:
Books by female authors: 29
- new: 18
- rereads: 11
Books by male authors: 10
- new: 9
- rereads: 1
Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies:
... and really, is there anything she can't write?
This may not be the most ingenious of plots (supermodel with "issues" falls to her death from the balcony of her high rise apartment; after the police have declared her death a probable suicide and closed the case, her brother shows up at the office of a down-and-out P.I. with a somewhat checkered past and pleads with him to reinvestigate; P.I. has a new temp secretary who gradually and reluctantly becomes his sidekick), but as always, it's all in the execution, and here, Rowling delivers on all fronts; from tone of voice to attitudes to every other aspect that's indispensable to creating well-rounded characters ... and what a cast of characters she's come up with, too. She has an impeccable ear for dialogue, for the snazzy, street-wise language that few mysteries can do without, especially those published today -- all the more those set, like this one, in the demi-monde of fashion, film, rock (music, meth / cocaine, and whisky-on-the), modeling, moguls, and money both old and new -- and for endowing her characters with entirely credible human emotions. All of her characters, that is, regardless how important they are to the story. Even today, there are few mystery writers who manage that sort of feat.
And honestly, can you possibly think of a greater name for a protagonist, a run-down P.I. at that, than Cormoran Strike?
Count me in for book 2 of the series soon -- I wonder what took me so long to get to it in the first place.
Oh, and never mind that she published this under a male pen name (nice try, Joanne) ... the cat was out of the bag within weeks, if not days IIRC, and I am SO counting this book towards the "R" square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.
First bingo (bottom row). Not that it greatly matters, but still. :D Progress!
1. A New Era Dawns: Ernest Bramah - The Tales of Max Carrados;
2. The Birth of the Golden Age
3. The Great Detectives: Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke;
4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!'
5. Miraculous Murders: Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady
6. Serpents in Eden
7. Murder at the Manor: Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch)
8. Capital Crimes
9. Resorting to Murder
10. Making Fun of Murder
11. Education, Education, Education: Mavis Doriel Hay - Death on the Cherwell
12. Playing Politics
13. Scientific Enquiries
14. The Long Arm of the Law: Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game
16. Multiplying Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime
18. Inverted Mysteries
19. The Ironists: Anthony Rolls - Family Matters
20. Fiction from Fact: Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair
22. Across the Atlantic
23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead
Free Square / Eric the Skull: Martin Edwards - The Golden Age of Murder
The book that started it all:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 6 & 7
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 8-10
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 11-15
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 16-20
The story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 21-24
Meh. I think if the protagonists of this mystery had been some 3 or 5 years younger, and if I'd read this in my teens or preteens, I'd have loved it -- this is exactly the sort of book I used to swallow way back when (Enid Blyton's O'Sullivan Twins / St. Clare's and Famous Five series, The Three Investigators, the odd Nancy Drew); except that this book is set among Oxford college undergraduates. And therein, to a large extent, lies the problem: What would have been precocious in a high school student and a teenager comes across as simply silly and unreasonable in a college student, however much the author may preface her book with the warning that "[u]ndergraduates, especially those in their first year, are not, of course, quite sane or quite adult". And I, in turn, am no longer the heroines' own age (and aspiring to their daring and their spirit of adventure), but several decades older, and able to look back on my own university years secure and jaded in the knowledge that even as a first year I'd likely have scorned the behavior of these girls -- and the mere attempt to solve a crime that is quite obviously in a very capable police inspector's hands anyway -- as supremely unreasonable; indeed, as risible.
It certainly also doesn't help that Dorothy L. Sayers, in my absolute favorite among her Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane mysteries -- Gaudy Night, which coincidentally was published the same year as this book -- set the standard, once and for all, for how you "do" a mystery in a university setting; moreover, a mystery set, like this book, in an all-female college. And yes, Sayers's book does include undergraduates, both male (from other Oxford colleges) and female. And male and female alike, they do exhibit their share of silly behavior. But they're nevertheless decidedly more rounded, multi-dimensional and capable of rational behavior and foresight than Hay's undergraduates are here.
So, I am definitely not the right audience for this book. More than that, though, unlike Hay's Santa Klaus Murder, which I rather liked, this novel simply lacks depth; its plot is as shallow as its characters, half the clues don't seem to go anywhere in particular (even in the final reveal), and clichés abound -- including a number of jarringly racist clichés. This is a pity particularly in light of the fact that Hay does tackle a serious issue which was of tremendous relevance to women in her day, and would remain to be so for decades to come -- not only, but even more so, in a professional environment,(show spoiler)
and which would have deserved to be put front and center and explored in depth. Still, I'm giving a fair amount of kudos to her for the fact that she is addressing this topic at all, which, together with the odd moment of more competent writing or (dar I say it?) even amusement, accounts for the fact that I'm rating this book, overall, as average instead of sub-par.
Stephen Booth, in his introduction to the British Library Crime Classics edition of this novel (yes -- for once it's not introduced by series consultant Martin Edwards) deplores that Hay only published three mysteries before turning to other things, of which this and The Santa Klaus Murder are two and Murder on the Underground is the third. Judging by The Santa Klaus Murder and by some bits and pieces of talent shining through here, that may well be true. I am glad, however, that she didn't try to make a career out of treading the same paths so successfully trodden by Enid Blyton, Robert Arthur and their ilk. Or at least, I am glad that she didn't try to make a career writing mysteries that have undergraduate college students for protagonists ...
I read this for the "Education, Education, Education" square / chapter of the Detection Club bingo (it's not one of the mysteries accorded a special essay-length portrayal in Martin Edwards's Story of Classic Crime in 100 books, but it is definitely more than merely name-checked in the corresponding chapter; and indeed, the image for the relevant square of the Detection Club bingo card is taken from this book's cover), as well as -- as an additional book -- for the "H" square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.
Stephen Gordon grows up in the Malvern Hills of rural Worcestershire, the child of a rich local landowner and an Irish mother, from early on learns to hunt, fence, and engage in a plethora of other outdoor occupations, experiences first amorous stirrings for a plump and pretty housemaid, upon reaching (young) adulthood and after an ill-advised, socially disastrous calf love affair with a married woman leaves home and moves first to London and then to Paris, serves as an ambulance driver on the French front in WWI and becomes a celebrated novelist, but plunges into despair (not for the first time) upon losing out to an erstwhile friend -- a Canadian -- in affairs of the heart.
What's so special about this tale, you're wondering? Well, for one thing, Stephen is not a man but a woman, having been given a male first name by a father who had decided upon his heir's name long before the long-awaited child's eventual birth and not deterred by puny details such as that child's actual sex. More importantly, however, Stephen is a lesbian; or, as she herself calls it (taking a term from early 20th century sexologist Havelock Ellis), an "invert".
It's never entirely clear whether and to what extent the author, a lesbian herself, actually sought to portray her heroine's first name and upbringing, with its emphasis on (or at the very least, permissive attitude towards) Stephen's pronounced preference for masculine occupations and attitudes -- one prominently explored example being the fact that of course she does not ride side saddle but astride, which is what allows her to become such a superb hunter even before she has reached her teens to begin with; another equally prominent example being Stephen's insistence on wearing male clothes -- as a direct or indirect cause of her sexual leanings, or merely as a collateral effect: Hall does express unambiguously that Stephen is the way she is because God made her thus (i.e., a person's sexuality is a matter of nature, not nurture), which, though now the widely-accepted view, decidedly put her at odds with the beliefs and attitudes of her own time (of which more anon). Yet, the suggestion remains.
However, perhaps Hall was merely reflecting her own experience in that regard (or expressing a wish for the sort of tolerant and empowering childhood she would have wanted to have, but didn't actually enjoy herself) -- for unquestionably, she was speaking from her own experience: She, too, preferred male over female dress, dropped her female first name (Margaret) and adopted instead the male nickname (John) that one of her lovers had given to her, and like her heroine, she came to move in the Paris expat scene, including the salon of Natalie Barney (who inspired this novel's character of Valérie Seymour), and she, too, had visited the Canary Islands with her first llover, as does the novel's Stephen with her great love Mary. (Noël Coward, incidentally, is given quite an extensive cameo in the novel as well.)
Radclyffe Hall stated that her intentions in writing this novel were:
* "To encourage inverts to face up to a hostile world in their true colours and this with dignity and courage",
* "To spur all classes of inverts to make good through hard work, faithful and loyal attachments and sober and useful living", and
* "To bring normal men and women of good will to a fuller and more tolerant understanding of the inverted."
A staunch Catholic and conservative in her politics, Hall was in no way prepared for her novel's reception in England, even though in hindsight at the very least, it can hardly be called surprising that, only a few decades after Oscar Wilde's infamous obscenity trial, a book explicitly describing its heroine to have "kissed [another woman] on the mouth, like a lover" and (though never sexually explicit) detailing at great length a woman's emotional trials, tribulations, and pinings for the various female objects of her desire, would have swiftly engendered the same response. (In Paris and Brittany, on the other hand, the publisher Jonathan Cape, who had shifted printing to France, and Sylvia Beach -- owner of Shakespeare & Co. -- could hardly keep up with demands for copies of the novel produced on French soil.) While Virginia Woolf's Orlando (published the same year), her own "love letter" to Vita Sackville-West, flitted through centuries and even underwent a mid-novel sex change with nary a critic's batted eyelash, and Djuna Barnes's Nightwood (published a few years later) was saved from censorship by T.S. Eliot's editorial hands, Radclyffe Hall and Stephen Gordon walked straight into early 20th century England's bigoted attitude; obscenity trial, public vilification and virtually every other form of state-sponsored discrimination included. And this, mind you, over a book that is leagues from the brilliant writing of an Oscar Wilde, a Virginia Woolf, or a T.S. Eliot: Diana Souhami, in her introduction of the novel's Virago Press edition, rightly describes it as "unsensational" in both language and content and goes on to state:
"Radclyffe Hall was no stylist. Her prose is lofty and lacking in irony. She distrusted innovation in literature or art, and shunned what she saw as the modern heresies of Edith Sitwell, Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle or Gertrude Stein. In her writing she invokes the Lord with discomfiting frequency and uses words like 'betoken' and 'hath.' [...]
The Well of Loneliness has aspects of a pathological case history, religious parable, propaganda tract and Mills & Boon romance."
Decidedly more blunt, Virginia Woolf even found the novel unreadably dull: "[O]ne simply can't keep one's eye on the page," she wrote to a friend, suggesting that the book's very dullness as such was apt to successfully mask any indecency actually lurking in its pages. And while I wouldn't go quite so far as Woolf, I do agree with both her and Souhami on the nature of the writing -- oscillating between plain vanilla blandness on the one hand and excessively overwrought emotions on the other hand -- and on the elements identified by Souhami (equal parts pathological case history, religious parable, propaganda tract and Mills & Boon romance). If this book hadn't set out to do what, in 1920s and 1930s England was a complete and utter "no-no" -- to not only topicalize homosexuality but to boldly put it forth as equally worthy and deserving of acceptance and respect as heterosexual love --, this book would be long forgotten. As in so many similar cases, it is not this novel's literary merit that has bestowed on it its lasting impact, but its topic and, at least as much (or even more so), society's reaction to that topic. For those reasons alone, it is still a worthwhile read all these centuries later.
I read this for the "H" square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.
One of our most popular authors has gone off the rails, and is killing beloved characters!*
We need a group of dedicated investigators to solve the crime, and stop the killer before he (or she) can kill again!
*The murderer is only killing characters that belong to other authors. The murderer does not have any objection to using a weapon/crime scene that is attributable to the author. Each victim can only die once, but crime scenes/weapons can be reused.
RULES OF PLAY
I have introduced the suspects and the crime scene cards already. Tomorrow I will reveal the weapons that the killer has to choose from, and then on Wednesday, I will show you the identity of the possible victims. There are a total of 40 cards, 10 cards per element, that will be combined to create the solution to the crime.
I think it is helpful to imagine the game play as a card game, where you acquire a card by reading a book that fits the card criteria and then you play the card in an effort to identify one of the essential elements. Once you tie a book to a card, the book has been used. You can't re-use the book to acquire a second/third/etc card, even if the book would fit the card criteria. Choose your cards wisely - the card criteria are purposely broad.
Like many card games, you get points for play!
20 points: Playing a card and being the first to identify one of the elements.
10 points: Playing a card to collect an element that has already been identified.
5 points: Playing a card that eliminates a possibility.
15 points: Successfully replaying a card to identify an new element.
Players are responsible for calculating their own points - however, I will keep track of the players who make a successful identification in the bingo group. I want to encourage people to play cards, rather than hang back and let the other players do the work, which is why players get points for an unsuccessful play.
Each opportunity to play a card will be called a round. We will have rounds on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Play will occur in the bingo group, on the thread that has been set up for the purpose of tracking rounds.
Players can play a card once they earn it, but they can only play one card per round. I will close the round at approximately 5:00 p.m. PST and will announce the results approximately an hour later. Once I close the round, all new plays go into the next round.
There is only one murderer. However, until the murderer is identified, he/she may continue the spree, creating new victims/weapons/crime scenes. Identification of the murderer freezes game play.
I will announce the addition of new elements both in the bingo group and on my blog. I may also offer clues and/or hints, if the fancy strikes me.
I will open a thread in the bingo group for readers to form teams/partnerships. If you are in a team/partnership, you and the other members share points/collected elements. However, with respect to points, your points totals will be divided by the number of members of the group, as a handicapping mechanism to even out play.
WINNING THE GAME
There are three ways to win the game:
Speed winner: The speed winner is the person or team who completes the game first, by solving the primary murder. This is independent of points.
Points winner: The points winner is the person or team that ends the game with the most points. Game play ends when all open investigative questions are resolved.
Diligence winner: The diligence winner is the person or team who solves all of the crimes first.
PLAY BEGINS ON THURSDAY
I'm working on the game right now, and will be posting more over the next few days. However, I can see a bit of confusion already developing!
Players won't be "playing" as suspects or victims. I don't want to deter anyone from using their imagination, so feel free to adopt a persona for your game play, but the general way that the game will work is that the participants need to identify the suspect, the victim, the crime scene and the cause of death by posting guesses, and then they will need to "collect" the appropriate card. I will be responding to the guesses with a "right" or a "wrong."
So, for example, the solution to the crime might be:
So, let's say that player 1 wants to make a suspect guess. Now, let's say that player 1 reads for the Arthur Conan Doyle card, and makes his/her guess. That guess is wrong, and it tells everyone that they can cross ACD off their list of suspects.
Now player 2 reads a book that fits the Agatha Christie card, player 2 can post "Agatha Christie" as their guess. That guess is right. The suspect identification part of the game has been completed.
So, If I respond with a "wrong," everyone will know that they can cross out that possibility.
If I respond with a "right," then you can cross out all of the other possibilities.
If another team identifies the suspect, your team still needs to "collect" the card by completing one of the tasks on the card. Only ONE team member needs to do this. The remaining team members can continue to read for the other crime elements.
Until someone identifies the suspect, he/she can continue his/her crime spree by adding victims/crime scenes/causes of death to the game play. This will be done at random by me, because I am the mastermind! ;)
And remember, the suspect authors are WILD CARDS. You can read any of their novels and use them for any guess. If you want to use a Sherlock Holmes short story, you need to read enough stories to get to novel length (240 pages/60K words).
WAYS TO PLAY THE GAME:
We are going to start with everyone playing the same game. You can team up with other players and get the benefit of their reading, or you can play alone. Everyone will know what the other investigators have discovered, but if you are playing alone, you still have to complete the card before you can "collect" the element. If you are playing as a team, you can strategize however you want! And I encourage strategizing!
The game ends when a player or a team has collected all of the cards that are in play. Once someone collects all of the cards, that game ends. Depending on how long each game takes, we may do another round or two.
The suspects will NOT kill their own character. So, if the suspect is J.R.R. Tolkien, you can knock Samwise Gamgee off of your victim list. The authors are killing other writer's beloved characters. They do, however, have no compunction about using their own settings/weaponry.
Feel free to ask questions below!
Generally, the game will work like a game of clue, with one player - me - holding the solution to the mystery, and the other players working to solve the crime.
Guesses will be taken on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Each player can only make one guess per day - you can "reserve" completed tasks for later guesses. There are four elements you need to collect in order to win - the suspect, the victim, the cause of death and the location of the crime scene. In order to place a guess, you need to finish one of the tasks for that item.
In addition, reading a book by one of the suspects functions as a wild card & you can use that book (one time only) to fulfill any task and make any guess. The only qualification is that it needs to be a novel-length-equivalent (240 pages/60,000 words).
For example, if you want to guess "Arthur Conan Doyle," as the suspect then you will need to complete a book that fuflills one of the tasks on his card:
Depending on the level of interest, I will probably divide the players into teams of 3 detectives and have multiple games going at the same time so teammates can all work together to try to solve their crime.
In order to solve the crime, the team must have at least one team member who has finished each element, but you can divide them among the team members (i.e., one person has finished the task for suspect, one has finished victim + crime scene, the third team member has finished cause of death + suspect) Each team member must complete one of the four elements.
I have no idea how quickly the game will move, so we may end up doing multiple rounds.
Ever since Tigus mentioned his old Murder Mystery Game, I've been wracking my brains for a way to adapt it to a Booklikes Reading Game.
And By George, I think I've got it.
What this game is:
A fun-filled opportunity to solve a crime - by reading books!
A game that can be played either individually, or in teams!
What this game is not:
A game where you must read mysteries. Multi-genre play is absolutely available!
Game play will begin as close to March 1 as I can get the game ready. Rules and game ephemera forthcoming!