Sunday, December 1, 2019

November 2019 Reading Summary


In November, I read only crime fiction novels. And a good number of the books I read were related to Christmas (three books set at Christmas, and one following Christmas into the New Year). Two books were published before 1960, four were published between 1961 and 1999, and two were published after 2000.

These are the books I read:

Death After Breakfast (1978) by Hugh Pentecost
I read the Pierre Chambrun novels by Hugh Pentecost years ago, and remember them fondly. Chambrun is the manager of a luxury hotel in New York and the stories are narrated by Mark Haskell, the hotel’s public relations director. Per Goodreads, this is the 13th in the series of 22 books. My thoughts here

Motherless Brooklyn (1999) by Jonathan Lethem
This was my first experience reading anything by Jonathon Lethem and this book is certainly different. It is described as a "riff on the classic detective novel." Leonard Essrog works for Frank Minna at a limo service / detective agency. When his boss is killed, he decides he will find out who did it. The catch is that he has Tourette's Syndrome and communication with others is challenging. I liked the book and want to try other books by this author.

The Hunting Party (2019) by Lucy Foley
A group of friends from Oxford vacation together at an isolated luxury hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands, continuing a New Year's tradition that started ten years ago. The estate is beautiful but during inclement weather it can be cut off from the world. The friends all have secrets, as do the manager, the gamekeeper, and the caretaker. As we expect, this is a recipe for disaster. The dilemma of being snowed in is a standard Christmas mystery trope. This book was an engrossing read although sometimes I was confused by the multiple narrators.

Nothing Lasts Forever (1979) by Roderick Thorp
The film Die Hard (1988) was based on this novel. If anything, the book has more violence than the film, and the book is definitely darker. The story is set at Christmas, and much of the action is very similar, but characters and relationships are different. Regardless, I liked the story very much. As usual, the novel reveals more about the characters and their background than the film.



The Christmas Egg (1958) by Mary Kelly
This is a "seasonal mystery" published by the British Library in its Crime Classics series. The author was new to me and she did not publish very many mystery novels. It was different, and concentrated on interesting characters, which I liked. I do hope to find more books by this author.

Off Minor (1991) by John Harvey
This month I returned to the police procedural series starring Charlie Resnick, written by John Harvey. This is the 4th book in the series; I read the first three books in 2008 and 2009. This one is about child abductions, not a pleasant subject, but a good entry in the series. 



The Black-Headed Pin (1938)
by Constance and Gwenyth Little
Leigh Smith's father died and she was left with no money at all. After moving to a big house in the country, miserly Mrs. Ballinger offers her a job as companion and housekeeper, or as "Smithy" puts it, "general slave." The fun begins when Mrs. Ballinger invites her young relatives to a house party for Christmas. The authors were sisters, born in Australia; their family later moved to East Orange, New Jersey. Their books were all standalone mysteries. This is a very funny mystery and I will be looking for more books by these authors.

Magpie Murders (2016) by Anthony Horowitz
This is a book within a book, and in this case we get two mysteries for the price of one. The first book starts with Susan Ryeland, an editor, reading a mystery by one of her clients for the first time. That story is set in the late 1950s in a small town in England, and features a private detective somewhat like Hercule Poirot. I liked this book, it was a page turner, and both parts of the story were entertaining on many levels. 


15 comments:

  1. I liked The Magpie Murders too, Anthony Horowitz is a very good writer. He created and wrote my all time favourite TV detective series, Foyle's War. I also like the sound of The Black Headed Pin. You had an excellent reading month, Tracy.

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    1. Foyle's War is a big favorite of mine too, Cath. I wish it could have had more seasons. I also like Midsomer Murders, another TV series he was connected with. I did not used to like humorous mysteries, but I liked Black-Headed Pins very much, so I guess my tastes have changed.

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  2. My husband and daughter both like THE FERAL DETECTIVE by Lethem.

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    1. It was probably the reviews I read of that book that got me interested in trying other books by Lethem, Patti. And then I read about the film adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn being released so decided to start there. I will be trying The Feral Detective sometime also.

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  3. I liked Magpie Murders, Tracy, and I thought it was quite clever. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The rest of your November looks good, too, and you've reminded me I need to revisit the Pierre Chambrun novels...

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    1. I agree, Margot, Magpie Murders was very clever. I will be reading more Pierre Chambrun books myself, although I would like to find some earlier ones.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed the Magpie Murders, Tracy. I hope to read the Lethem and John Harvey books sometime.

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    1. It was good to get back to the John Harvey series, Col. I have a few more books in that series, and then a few in the Frank Elder series.

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  5. Oh my gosh, Tracy! So much to read and comment on here, and I am utterly fascinated. So much so that I feel my fingers groping for my Nook to order several of these books! Thanks so much for this post.
    I'm leaning toward The Christmas Egg and The Hunting Party at the moment. Thanks for posting. And still waving a flag, waiting for your retirement moment! Best wishes, tracy!

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    1. I really liked The Christmas Egg, Judith, it is not a typical vintage mystery (although I like plenty of typical mysteries too). I think you would like The Hunting Party although it certainly has its share of unsympathetic characters. I liked the ending of that one a lot.

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    2. And I forgot to say, Judith, that I have less than 3 weeks left until retirement. Although they will be extremely hectic weeks at work. I am very excited.

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  6. I was a big fan of The Magpie Murders too. It went over very well with our mystery book group. And, I love Foyle's War and rewatch the whole thing from time to time. I did like The Hunting Party, but it also annoyed me in spots. Know your retirement is coming up soon. Good luck with everything!

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    1. The only thing I did not like about Magpie Murders, Kay, was the length but I don't think it could have been shorter. I was irritated with some parts of The Hunting Party too but by midway through it had me hooked.

      Yes, my retirement is so close I can taste it. I am anxiously trying to finish documentation before I leave, and I have to work with a consultant my last week, so not as relaxing a time as I would have liked.

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  7. Very nice Reading Month, Tracy; it sounds that you enjoyed them all. Can't always say that. Hmm, where to start? I thought The Christmas Egg was just okay, but I already don't recall why I didn't like it better. Perhaps character? I did like The Magpie Murders, and thought there was going to be a sequel. Not sure if there was. And then "funny mysteries". I have a problem with that, murder isn't funny, but some humor is alright. So a split decision on that.

    I have so many books stacked up right now, and hints that more will arrive on Christmas, that I'm drawing in goodness. One at a time...

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    1. I had read recently that there is supposed to be a sequel to Magpie Murders, Rick, but I have not been able to find much about it.

      I pretty much agree with you about not mixing humor with murder, but I think mysteries like this are not meant to be taken seriously, so not very realistic. But I had a good time reading this, so who knows? I will try another one and see what I think.

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