7879

Currently Reading

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection
Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
The Golden Age of Murder
Martin Edwards
Merlin Trilogy
Mary Stewart
Progress: 340/928 pages
Grandmother Spider
James D. Doss
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle

Recently Added

The Tales of Max Carrados - Stephen Fry, Ernest Bramah
The Sinking Admiral - Simon Brett, The Detection Club
The Coffin Trail - Martin Edwards
"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
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.