Thursday, July 30, 2020

Detour: Martin M. Goldsmith

I believe I first heard of this book at the crime segments blog in 2016. I purchased the book in the next month or so, but it took me until now to read and review it (and watch the film adaptation). Detour is a very short novel about a man hitchhiking across the United States, whose life takes a major detour as a result of his trip, thus the title.

The story starts in the middle of the trip. Alex Roth, a violinist who at one time had hopes of being a classical musician, has left New York to join his girlfriend in Los Angeles, and has made it as far as New Mexico. He has no money and hasn't eaten for a while, but he lucks into a ride with a man who is going all the way to Los Angeles. Things go wrong very quickly.

Then the narrator switches to Sue Harvey, the girlfriend. Alex has painted an idealized version of her, even though she left him a week before their wedding to go to California to try to make it big in Hollywood. As she tells her story since arriving in Los Angeles, we see that she is not who Alex thinks she is. 

I loved the switching back and forth of narrators. It is not overdone but it gets across the two versions of reality that Alex and Sue have. When I was reading the first section narrated by Alex, I thought the story was so-so, but when we get to Sue's version of their relationship and her ambitions, the story gets much more interesting. Eventually, Alex gets involved with Vera, a woman who is also hitchhiking to Los Angeles. She is a real piece of work.

Detour was published in 1939, and made into a noir film starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage in 1945. Martin M. Goldsmith wrote the screenplay, but the director, Edgar G. Ulmer, cut the story down to only 65 minutes (per this article at Combustible Celluloid). I liked the book much more than the movie, but I think you have to look at them as being in two different universes. I like the dimension that Sue adds to the story in the book, and she barely shows up in the film. But the film presents a very effective story, Ann Savage is exceptional in the role of Vera. 

Resources:

  -----------------------------

Publisher:  Black Curtain Press, 2013 (orig. pub. 1939).
Length:     145 pages
Format:     Trade Paperback
Setting:     USA
Genre:      Mystery, Noir
Source:     I purchased this book.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors that I have read at least 10 books by





Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a Freebie, and we can come up with our own topic. I am actually returning to an earlier topic, Authors I've Read the Most Books By. My version will be my Top Ten Authors that I have read at least 10 books by. Keep in mind that I only have records for the last 19 years. But that works fine because these are my current top ten authors, and tastes change over time.
And here's my list:

Rex Stout (54 - 47 Nero Wolfe books plus 3 Tecumseh Fox books plus 4 standalone mysteries)

The Nero Wolfe series began in 1934 with Fer-de-Lance; the last book in the series, A Family Affair, was published in 1975, shortly before Stout's death. I have reread every book in the series several times over the decades.

Nero Wolfe is a lover of orchids and fine food, who supports himself as a private detective, charging exorbitant fees. Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the stories, is both his assistant and a private investigator, and he does most of the legwork. The series combines a genius armchair detective with a hard-boiled detective, and you get the best of both worlds.



Agatha Christie (28 plus)

I love both of Agatha Christie's main sleuths: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Originally I was irritated by Poirot's self-importance and conceit, but now I find him very charming. And I especially enjoy the books that Hastings narrates. I have other favorite characters that show up in more than one book (Colonel Race, Inspector Japp, Superintendent Battle). And all of the standalone books that I have read so far have been very good.



Emma Lathen (23 plus 4 as R.B. Dominic)

John Putnam Thatcher, senior vice president and director of the trust department of Sloan Guaranty Trust on Wall Street, is the protagonist of Lathen's 24 book series. Banking on Death (1961) is the first in the series, and I reread it in 2017 because the story is set around Christmas. Most of the books are focused on one type of business that is using the services of the Sloan, and the story shares many facts about the running of the specific types of businesses, and the financial relationships. Emma Lathen is the pen name for two American authors: Martha Henissart and Mary Jane Latsis.



Margery Allingham (18)

I think I have only read books from the Albert Campion series. Allingham has a beautiful way of telling a story and creating interesting characters. Albert Campion is a wonderful character, of course, but there is also Albert's manservant, Magersfontein Lugg, a former burglar who has done prison time and has criminal contacts. Campion ages as the series goes on and the character changes over time. And the female characters are well done, intelligent, strong, and independent.




Len Deighton (15)

Now we get to one of my favorite spy fiction authors. I have read all nine of the Bernard Samson series, plus Winter, a historical novel which features characters from the Samson series. He is probably best known for his Nameless Spy series. I have read four of those and I like them, but they are not my favorites of his books. And the great thing about him is I still have at least ten books of his to read.




Jill McGown - 13

Jill McGown wrote 13 novels in the Chief Inspector Lloyd and Sergeant Judy Hill series, plus five standalone novels. I have only read the books in the series, and I read them all in 2007. The books do not follow a formula. Lloyd and Hill, and their ongoing relationship, are the mainstays of the series, but each book takes a different approach to telling the story.



S. J. Rozan - 12

I was very excited when S.J. Rozan published the 12th book in the Lydia Chin / Bill Smith mystery series last year. That is one my favorite contemporary mystery series and the previous book was published in 2011. Bill Smith is a white private investigator in his forties who lives in Manhattan; Lydia Chin is an American-born Chinese private investigator in her late twenties who lives in New York’s Chinatown with her mother.  They are not partners but they often work together on cases. The element that I have always liked about this series is that the narrator of the books alternates. The first book was narrated by Lydia; the second book was narrated by Bill; and so on. With that approach, each book reveals more about the personality and the backstory of the two protagonists.


Olen Steinhauer - 11

Another of my favorite spy fiction authors. Steinhauer has written twelve full-length novels and I have read all but one of them. His first five novels were historical novels (the Yalta Boulevard series set in a fictional Eastern bloc country) and not strictly spy fiction but there were some espionage elements. After that he began the Milo Weaver series. Weaver is in the CIA; in the first book he is in the "Tourist" division, a group that does dirty work for the CIA.



Peter Dickinson - 10

Peter Dickinson has written over fifty books for adults and children. Many of his books for adults are mysteries. My favorite book by Dickinson is King & Joker, an alternate history set in an England where George V's elder brother did not die but lived to become King Victor I, and is later succeeded by his grandson, King Victor II. I am also very fond of his unusual mystery series featuring Superintendent Jimmy Pibble. 



Charles McCarry - 10

I discovered the spy novels by Charles McCarry in 2009 and read them all in a few months (including the two political thrillers that are only peripherally related). Most of the novels written by Charles McCarry are about Paul Christopher, an intelligence agent for the CIA (called "the Outfit" in his books). Some of them go back and forth between events around the World War II years and the 1960's, exploring Christopher's youth and family history. Those nine books were written between 1971 and 2007. McCarry also published The Shanghai Factor in 2013 and The Mulberry Bush in 2015.



Other authors I have read a good number of books by...

Bill Pronzini - 25
Ruth Rendell - 25
Jane Haddam - 24
Robert Barnard - 22
Patricia Moyes - 19
Ngaio Marsh - 16
P. D. James - 16

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Plants in the back area

A few weeks ago, I featured photos from our outings to the plant nursery.

Since then we have been working on weeding and potting and clearing out stuff. This is one side of the yard before we cleaned up. A lots of weeds, the lemon tree, a perpetually overgrown escallonia bush by the fence, a pot of geraniums and a sage plant, hidden in the overgrowth. On the other side it was all weeds.



Plants we had gotten from the nursery...




After some weeding and some potting, that side looks better:


The geranium and the sage, which is taller now:




Rosie the cat looks over the work as it progresses. 



We are experimenting with begonias, which mostly like shade. At certain times of the year we have nothing but shade but in the summer much of the back area is in full sun most of the day.



So most the rest of what we have bought need full sun or can deal with it. We are planning on mostly plants that attract butterflies or hummingbirds. And succulents.

Cuphea, which is the chief hummingbird attraction.

Agastache

Upright Verbena, loved by bees and butterflies.


Succulents


More succulents.

Geraniums, still my favorite.



Friday, July 24, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times No. 17

I am participating in the Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times meme, hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. This week I am featuring books on one of my husband's shelves in the glass front bookcase we share. 

If you click on the image of the shelf, you will be able to read more of the titles.



Topping the stack are the three books in The Last Policeman Trilogy. This series follows the activities of policeman Hank Palace in a pre-apocalyptic world. An asteroid is headed for earth, and from the beginning of the series the reader knows that it will be devastating. In the first book, The Last Policeman, Hank was still a detective with the police force, new to the job, and motivated to continue investigating cases. Three months later, in Countdown City, like almost everyone else on earth, he had no job and no prospects, but he took a case for an old friend.  In the final book, World of Trouble, Hank goes on an odyssey to try to locate his sister before the asteroid hits.





Next is Malice by Keigo Higashino. Higashino is the author of the Detective Galileo Series, featuring Manabu Yukawa (“Detective Galileo”), a brilliant physics professor, and police detective Kusanagi, set in Tokyo, Japan. I have read two in that series.

However, I have not read Malice, a book in Higashino's Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga series. But now my husband's review at Goodreads reminds that I need to get to reading it very soon.


Here is the text of his review:
Malice is another meticulously plotted mystery/procedural from Keigo Higashino, author of incredibly clever The Devotion of Suspect X. This relatively brief book doesn’t waste time in getting the plot going (the murder on which everything hinges happens almost immediately) and also efficiently introduces the characters (of which there are really only five: police detective Kaga, writer friends Hidaka and Nonoguchi, and Hidaka’s two wives (one is deceased). Each first person section is an interview or account or interrogation or confession and at times it can be a bit confusing. The book has virtually no action with clever detective Kaga assembling and reassembling motives and alibis in an effort to ascertain the why of the crime. Well done.

The four books at the bottom of the stack are all from the Sweeney St. George series by Sarah Stewart Taylor

  • O' Artful Death (2003) [set in Vermont]
  • Mansions of the Dead (2004) [set in Boston, Massachusetts and Rhode Island]
  • Judgment of the Grave (2005) [set in Concord, Massachusetts]
  • Still As Death (2006) [set in Cambridge, Massachusetts]

I read the first three books in 2006, so my husband must have read them around the same time. Per the author's website: "The series features a young art historian who specializes in gravestone and funerary art -- the art of death." The entire series is summarized at the website. This was the perfect series for my husband, who is very interested in gravestones and cemeteries.

For those of you who like mysteries set at Christmas, the first in that series is set around Christmas. I had forgotten that and honestly don't remember how much that enters into the plot. See a review of O' Artful Death at Carstairs Considers.

Sarah Stewart Taylor has come out with a new book, The Mountains Wild. Maggie D'arcy is a homicide detective on Long Island, divorced with a teenage daughter. She travels to Ireland to follow up on the disappearance of a friend that happened over tweny years ago. My husband has purchased a copy. Reviewed at Lesa's Book Critiques.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bleak House: Charles Dickens

I feel ambivalent about this novel. I enjoyed reading much of it, but it was a difficult read, and seemed too long. It was first published in 20 monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853, which was probably an enjoyable way to read it, but how did readers of the time keep up with all the characters? It took me nearly three weeks to read, although I did read other books at the same time, unusual for me.

The story centers around a case in the Court of Chancery, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The case has something to do with the resolution of conflicting wills, which I never truly understood, and the case has been in the court for many years. John Jarndyce of Bleak House takes on the custody of two wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, who are distant cousins and beneficiaries in one of the wills. At the same time he becomes guardian to Esther Summerson, an orphan who becomes Ada's companion.


The story is told alternately by Esther in first person, and by an omniscient narrator.  In addition to following the characters living at Bleak House, there are other important plots and many of them tie together later in the book. One features Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Honoria. Lady Dedlock has a secret she wants to keep from her husband at all costs, and the evil lawyer Mr. Tulkington is determined to find out what that secret is. Another subplot I enjoyed involved the Jellyby family. Mrs. Jellyby is a philanthropist who spends all of her time gathering funds to set up a mission in Africa, while ignoring and neglecting the needs of her own family. Her eldest daughter, Caddy, serves as her secretary (unwillingly) and becomes a good friend of Esther.

There is a murder mystery within this long novel. I knew that before I started reading it, but I had expected it to play a small role. In fact, it is an interesting and engaging part of the story, and the detective, Inspector Bucket, is a very good character.

I have complained about the confusion of too many characters in other books, but this book overflows with characters. On the Wikipedia page there are two lists of characters, with 21 major characters and about 40 minor characters. I highly recommend the Wikipedia page for a description of the characters, but I would avoid reading the synopsis of the story before reading the book, because it starts out with a big plot spoiler.

As I mentioned previously, I had difficulty reading this book. But I did not want to take a year to finish it like I did with Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. I preferred the chapters told by Esther; they had more focus and initially they were more interesting. So I would pace my reading by reading up to a point where Esther's narration starts again. There was a point where I was having difficulty reading more than one chapter a day, but that only lasted a few days, fortunately. And then towards the end, I wanted to keep reading along because I wanted to know the ending, how it all turns out.

I would like to share Colin Dexter's thoughts on this book from an article at the The Guardian. The story of how he came to read Bleak House for the first time is very entertaining, so I recommend reading the entire article.
I have since religiously read the novel from beginning to end three times, and with ever-increasing delight and understanding. It was, and is, the greatest novel of the lot. Why? First, the quality of the writing; second, the complexity of the plot; third, the extraordinary insight and honesty of the characterisation.

Here are reviews at other blogs to check out:




 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Vintage Books, 2012 (orig. pub. 1853).
Length:     866 pages
Format:     Trade Paperback
Setting:     England
Genre:      Fiction, Classic
Source:     I purchased this book.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Awkward Squad: Sophie Hénaff

A police detective, Anne Capestan, has been suspended for six months and expects her superior, Buron, to end her employment. Instead he gives her a new department made up of misfits and rejects from other areas, and provides little in the way of supplies. They don't even have a siren for the car allotted to them. The event that caused Capestan's suspension was related to excessive force on the job, leading to a death; thus she cannot carry a firearm.

This is Sophie Hénaff's first crime fiction novel. Originally published in France in 2015, it was translated to English in 2017. The premise is similar to The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (set in Denmark), with a much larger cast. This novel is set in France, and it is more humorous in tone.


Capestan's group is given all the cold cases for the region, and her superiors don't expect them to be solved. Some examples of her new squad are: Lieutenant José Torrez, known as Malchance, whose last few partners have all been injured or died while working with him; Commandant Louis-Baptiste Lebreton, formerly of internal affairs; Capitaine Eva Rosière, author of detective novels which have been developed into a TV show; Capitaine Merlot, an alcoholic; and Lieutenant Évrard, a compulsive gambler. In the boxes of case files that they are allowed to work on they find two unsolved murders.

There are amusing scenes, as the members of the new group learn to work with each other and they set up their new location. The group has not been given real offices, but a spacious apartment in a building where no one will see them. Setting up the apartment, complete with wallpaper and comfortable sofas, is handled with humor. Each person in the group brings unique characteristics even though they have not worked out well in other departments. Sometimes these are comical or disagreeable characteristics but somehow they pull together and use their skills to support the cases they work on.

However, with all the humor, the cases are taken seriously, and most of the detectives assigned to the squad are eager to do well in this job in hopes of getting back to their old jobs. The story is paced well, and there are twists and turns along the way. My husband bought this book and loaned it to me after he read it; we both enjoyed it and plan on reading the second book in the series, Stick Together.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:   MacLehose Press, 2018 (orig. pub. 2015)
Translated from the French by Sam Gordon
Length:      260 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Awkward Squad #1
Setting:     France
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     Borrowed from my husband.



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

14th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

The Canadian Book Challenge was started in 2007 by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set and hosted by him for its first 10 years. Now the challenge is hosted by Shonna at Canadian Bookworm. I participated in the 6th, 7th, and 12th Canadian Book Challenges, and now I am back for more.

The goal is to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day, July 1st, 2020, to Canada Day eve, June 30th, 2021. Reviews posted online are required. That is the hard part for me, but I will manage.


What constitutes a Canadian book?

Canadian books can include any genre or form (picture books, poetry, novels, non-fiction, plays, anthologies, graphic novels, cookbooks, etc), can be written by Canadian authors (by birth or immigration) or about Canadians.

See the FAQ sheet for more information. The sign up post is HERE.

My reading plan:

I have already read one book by Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light, set in the province of Quebec.

My last post featured seven books by Canadian authors, and I plan to read all of those books. That  post is HERE.

Other than those books, I plan to stick with books I already own. Authors that fit that description are:

Brenda Chapman
Rachel Cusk
Vicky Delany
Jeff Lemire (graphic novels)
J. Robert Janes
Maureen Jennings
Dietrich Kalteis
Margaret Millar
Sam Wiebe
Eric Wright
L.R. Wright

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times No. 16


I am participating in the Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times meme, hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. This week I have gathered a few of my books by Canadian authors. 

I am planning to join the Canadian Book Challenge at Canadian Bookworm soon and I thought I would share some books I plan to read. One of them I just bought recently; the others have been on the shelves for a while. I have listed the books in order by year of publication.


The Long November (1946)
by James Benson Nablo
Introduction by Brian Busby of The Dusty Bookcase. Reprinted by Vehicule Press as a part of the Ricochet series.

From the description on the back of the 2014 reprint edition:
The Long November is the story [of] Joe Mack, son of the grittier side of Cataract City – Niagara Falls – and his struggles to make something of himself; all for the love of well-to-do blonde beauty Steffie Gibson. It’s about rum running booze, Chicago beer trucks, Bay Street sharpshooters, the mines of Northern Ontario and fighting the Nazis in Italy.  It’s also about the women, the many women – married, unmarried and widowed – who shares Joe’s bed.

The Keys of My Prison (1956) 
by Frances Shelley Wees 
Introduction by Rosemary Aubert

Description from the book cover:
That Rafe Jonason’s life didn’t end when he smashed up his car was something of a miracle; on that everyone agreed. However, the devoted husband and pillar of the community emerges from hospital a very different man. Coarse and intolerant, this new Rafe drinks away his days, showing no interest in returning to work. Worst of all, he doesn’t appear to recognize or so much as remember his loving wife Julie. ... Is it that Julie never truly knew her husband? Or might it be that this man isn’t Rafe Jonason at all?
Originally published in 1956 by Doubleday, The Keys of My Prison is one of several suspense novels Wees set in Toronto. This Ricochet Books edition marks its return to print after fifty years.
The Stone Angel (1964)
by Margaret Laurence

This book was recommended to me by Patricia Abbott of pattinase.

In The Stone Angel, Hagar Shipley, age ninety, tells the story of her life, and in doing so tries to come to terms with how the very qualities which sustained her have deprived her of joy. Mingling past and present, she maintains pride in the face of senility, while recalling the life she led as a rebellious young bride, and later as a grieving mother. Laurence gives us in Hagar a woman who is funny, infuriating, and heartbreakingly poignant.
Set in the fictional town of Manawaka in the Canadian province of Manitoba, based on Laurence's hometown, Neepawa.

A Necessary End (1989)
by Peter Robinson

This is the 3rd book in the Inspector Banks series. The author, Peter Robinson, is Canadian (born in the UK, but emigrated to continue his education in Canada) but the series is set in Yorkshire, England. Five of the novels in the Inspector Banks series have been awarded the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel.

From the description at Goodreads:
A peaceful demonstration in the normally quiet town of Eastvale ends with fifty arrests—and the brutal stabbing death of a young constable. But Chief Inspector Alan Banks fears there is worse violence in the offing. For CID Superintendent Richard Burgess has arrived from London to take charge of the investigation, fueled by professional outrage and volatile, long-simmering hatreds.



A Killing Spring (1996)
by Gail Bowen

This is the 6th book in a mystery series about Joanne Kilbourn, a political analyst and university professor who gets involved in criminal investigations. Set in Saskatchewan. Family and relationships play a large part in these mysteries. There are now 19 books in the series, published between 1990 and 2020.

This story begins as the head of the School of Journalism at the university where Joanne Kilbourn teaches is found dead, in embarrassing circumstances. Further misfortunes occur in Joanne's life, including a student who complained of sexual harrassment and then stops coming to class. Joanne looks into the student's disappearance.



City of the Lost (2016)
by Kelley Armstrong 

I first saw mention of this book at Cath's blog, Read-warbler. I love books set in  cold, isolated areas. Don't know why.

Two women have problems that they need to escape. People are looking for them and threatening them. They escape to a town in the Yukon wilderness. Per the book's description: "You must apply to live in Rockton and if you're accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council's approval."

That concept intrigues me, although it is possible the story will be too over-the-top for me or too violent and dark. But definitely worth a try. There are now five books in the series.


In the Dark (2019)
by Loreth Anne White

The premise of this book (eight guests invited to a luxury vacation in an isolated location) sounds very similar to two other books I have read recently: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. In fact, Agatha Christie's book under the name The Ten Little Indians is mentioned in this book. This story is set in northern British Columbia.




Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The High Window: Raymond Chandler

This was Raymond Chandler's third novel, and it is the third I have read. There is no particular reason to read them in order. I suppose I have been doing that to follow how his writing style changes over time.

In The High Window, Marlowe is called in by a wealthy widow, Elizabeth Bright Murdock, because a coin in her late husband's coin collection is missing. She thinks that her daughter-in-law took it, and she wants Marlowe to find it. You would think that she could ask her son about it, but apparently no one in this family talks to anyone else. The coin that is missing is a Brasher Doubloon, in mint condition and very valuable.

I did not like this novel as much as the previous two in the series: The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely. This is still an excellent book, it just doesn't match up to the first two he wrote. Marlowe is a wonderful character. But in both of the earlier novels I found other characters to like and sympathize with. In this one none of the characters were particularly sympathetic and we don't get to know them very well. There are a lot of characters, and they were hard to keep track of. However, the dialog is terrific, even if I didn't care for the characters.

The plot in The High Window was confusing (at least to me, other reviewers disagree), but that is nothing new for Chandler. By the end, however, what seemed like a mish-mash of really weird characters is explained, and the ending is satisfying. There are some good points made about being able to trust the police (or not), and he interacts with two policemen who are pretty good guys, although it is not immediately obvious. The story portrays the wealthy and elite of Los Angeles and those from the seamy side of the area. Philip Marlowe lives somewhere between.

The Foreward by Lawrence Clark Powell in The Raymond Chandler Omnibus talks about the representation of Los Angeles in literature and particularly the books of Raymond Chandler.
Raymond Chandler wrote with classical dispassion of a romantic and violent society. He was neither for nor against L.A.; his vision was not dazzled by the neons which rainbow the Southern California night. He had the X-ray eye that penetrates blacktop and fog (smog didn't come until the 1940's–Chandler's L.A. is of the two previous decades). He had the gift of tongue; he was a poet. Metaphors flowered for him in language suited to the exotic people and places he was describing with Flaubertian meticulousness. Chandler didn’t moralize, satirize, deplore, or lament; he saw, selected, and said, in language that lives.  The reader is left to his own conclusions about tlie morality of the Southern California milieu.
The inhabitants are all there to the life–garage men, room clerks, carhops, grifters, grafters and house dicks, the idle rich and their butlers, houseboys and chauffeurs–a marvelous menagerie of Southern Californians, differentiated in appearance and speech, pitilessly portrayed yet without malice. Chandler had lived among them most of his life–he was one of them, he and his alter ego, Philip Marlowe–and he memorialized their brutal and violent actions with redeeming compassion.
Where this novel does live up to the earlier promise of the two previous ones is in the beauty of the writing. I am not particularly fond of the metaphors and similes; sometimes they work for me, sometimes they fall flat. Regardless, his writing is superb.

There are two adaptations of this book. First it was made into a Mike Shayne movie with Lloyd Nolan, Time to Kill, in 1942. Later, George Montgomery starred in The Brasher Doubloon, in 1947. I haven't seen either of these, but I would love to.

See Also...

Reviews at A Crime is Afoot and Crime Segments.


-----------------------------

Publisher:   Ballantine Books, 1971. Orig. pub. 1942.
Cover art by Tom Adams.
Length:      204 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Philip Marlowe, #3
Setting:      Los Angeles
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copies. The omnibus has been on my TBR for eight years.



Friday, July 3, 2020

What did I read in June 2020?


I read 10 books in June. Half were crime fiction, half were nonfiction or other genres. Some of my reads were for the 20 Books of Summer list or for my Venture Forth Summer Reading prompts, but four were spur of the moment reads. Four books were published in 2018, 2019, or 2020, and that is very unusual for me. 

Only three books were from my TBR pile. One was borrowed from my son, one from my husband. The remainder were new purchases in 2020.

I am not sure I am happy with the low number of vintage or older mysteries I am reading, but I had a great reading month overall.

Nonfiction

North Korea Journal (2019) by Michael Palin
This is a day by day diary of Michael Palin's visit to North Korea for a travel documentary. We watched the documentary after we had all read the book. I knew little about North Korea. The documentary was not an in-depth analysis, but what I learned in this book and the documentary was an eye-opener for me. It was a good read. 
Flu (1999) by Gina Kolata
The subtitle of this book is "The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It." There is much more time spent on the search to find a specimen of the virus strain in the years following the pandemic than on the pandemic itself. I cannot fault the book for that since it is plainly stated on the cover, but I did expect more time spent on the events in 1918 than on medical research during the next eight decades. Don't get me wrong, it is all very interesting and well written, a compelling read. I am now reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, published in 2004.

Historical Fiction

Marking Time (1991) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalet Chronicles is a series of five books that follow the members of one family from 1937 just prior to World War II through 1957. The first book, The Light Years, covers 1937-1938. There is large cast; the parents plus four children (three brothers, one unmarried sister) and the grandchildren, who range from 5 or 6 to teenage at the start of the series. Marking Time begins in September 1939 and ends in winter 1941. It focuses most on the teenage grandchildren, telling the story from their point of view. Most of the family is living outside of London due to the bombing, although the oldest son is running the family business in London. I am enjoying this series and hope to do a post on the first two books soon.

Science Fiction

The Consuming Fire
 (2018) by John Scalzi

This is the second book in a science fiction trilogy about an empire of worlds connected by travel via The Flow. My review of the first book in the series, The Collapsing Empire, is here. I enjoyed this sequel just as much as the first and will be reading the third book soon.

Dragonsdawn (1988) by Anne McCaffrey

I am new to the Dragonriders of Pern series. The series can be read in chronological order or publication order. I guess you could just hop around but I would not. Richard Robinson at Tip the Wink explains the differences in his post Reading Pern. Dragonsdawn is the first novel chronologically and it worked well as a starting place for me. 

Crime Fiction

Slight Mourning (1975) by Catherine Aird
#6 in the Inspector Sloan series. Inspector C.D. Sloan is not a flashy policeman. He quietly investigates crimes with the "help" of his usual sidekick Constable Crosby. In this story, they look into the death of a man who dies in a car crash after a dinner party. I plan to read all of the books by Catherine Aird that I can find. I think this is the first time we meet Sloan's wife. I do like to know a bit about a policeman's personal life. 


The Ivory Dagger (1950) Patricia Wentworth

#18 in the Miss Silver series. For those not familiar with the Miss Silver mysteries, Maud Silver is an elderly sleuth. The stories are similar to the Miss Marple series but Miss Silver is actually a private detective. I enjoy these stories. My review here.

An Air That Kills (2019) by Christine Poulson

#3 in the Katie Flanagan series. Flanagan is a  medical researcher and this latest book in the series is very topical, about problems in a lab where research on the influenza virus is taking place. It is a fantastic book, I loved it. My review here.



Aunt Dimity's Death (1992) by Nancy Atherton

Lori Shepherd thought that Aunt Dimity was a fictional character that her mother invented for bedtime stories when she was a child, until she gets a letter from a law firm telling her that she is named in Dimity Westwood's will. In order to get her legacy, Lori has to go to Dimity's cottage in England and research the letters between her mother and Dimity. This is a very light read and not much mystery to it but I did enjoy it and I may read more in the series. (There are now 24 books.)
 

The Last Tourist (2020) by Olen Steinhauer

#4 in the Milo Weaver series, which was originally intended to be a trilogy. The first three books were published in 2009, 2010, and 2012, and eight years later Steinhauer adds a further story. When the series starts, Milo Weaver is a "Tourist," working for the Department of Tourism, a clandestine group of CIA-trained assassins. I liked this one. Olen Steinhauer cannot write a bad book in my opinion. But Books 1 and 3 in the series were the best ones.

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Ivory Dagger: Patricia Wentworth

Although I read some books in the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth when I was younger, in 2017 I returned to the series, first reading The Clock Strikes Twelve. Since then I have read four more books in that series, and now I am a confirmed fan of the Miss Silver books. I find them entertaining and I like the picture they provide of the time that they were written in. 

For those not familiar with the Miss Silver mysteries, Maud Silver is an elderly sleuth who is often called in when a crime occurs, usually murder. Unlike Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's sleuth, Miss Silver is a private detective. She always brings her knitting along when she takes on a case. She seems to be the intuitive type of detective, almost psychic in her ability to see through people and pick up on clues in their behavior and mannerisms. She often works with the police, and she demands respect from them.


In this story, Sybil Dryden connives to marry her step-daughter Lida to the cruel but wealthy Herbert Whitall. Lida and Sybil visit him at his country house for a weekend, and after a dinner party, there is a death. The police assume the culprit is either Lida, who is found with a bloody knife standing over the body, or the man she was previously engaged to, Bill Waring. Miss Silver comes on the scene to help out. 

This story again features Frank Abbott and Chief Inspector Lamb. Frank has been elevated to Inspector and is conducting the investigation; Lamb just comes in at the end.

I was at first bothered by the stereotypical characters and relationships, with two older people who are well-to-do and controlling, and a pair of lovers who have been separated. But soon the story turns around, all is not what it seemed, and I got more interested. There were plenty of suspects and I was guessing who did it all the way to the end, which I like.

So, in summary, I would rank The Ivory Dagger lower than the other Miss Silver books I have read, but still a fun read for me. I especially would not recommend that anyone read this as their introduction to the series. I do love the cover, though. It is a reprint edition from 1965, published as a Green Door Mystery by Pyramid.


 -----------------------------

Publisher: Pyramid, 1965 (first publ. 1950)
Length:    221 pages
Format:    Paperback
Series:     Miss Silver Mysteries #18
Setting:    UK 
Genre:     Mystery
Source:    On my TBR pile for many years.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times No. 15

I am participating in the Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times meme, hosted by Judith at Reader in the WildernessThis week I am focusing on a few paperbacks I bought at the last Planned Parenthood Book Sale, which are still in boxes waiting to be cataloged.

Mary Stewart

First, four books by Mary Stewart. I don't particularly care for these covers. While researching books by Mary Stewart, I found I preferred the older covers on the hardcover editions or the covers on newer editions. But I felt lucky to find four books I was interested in and in good condition for $4.00 total, so I am not complaining.





From a brief article at The Guardian, after Mary Stewart's death at 97:

Known for much-loved novels including Touch Not the Cat, This Rough Magic and Nine Coaches Waiting, Stewart was among the first novelists to integrate mystery and romance. She made the archetype of the determined, intelligent heroine her own, thrusting her into daring adventures from which she would emerge intact and happily romantically involved. ....
 
Stewart wrote a trilogy of hugely popular novels about the life of Merlin – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment – a departure from her previous books, along with acclaimed children's books, including Ludo and the Star Horse and A Walk in Wolf Wood.

This post at The Emerald City Book Review discusses three of the books I have. 

This Rough Magic centers around an old house inhabited by a Shakespearean actor obsessed with The Tempest; Nine Coaches Waiting takes its title and organization from a quotation from The Revengers’ Tragedy; The Ivy Tree is named after an old song and has a strain of ancient folklore running through it. 
 
For My Brother Michael, set in Greece, here is a review at Fleur in Her World.

Katrina at Pining for the West has reviewed all four of these books: This Rough Magic, Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree and My Brother Michael.

I had great fun researching for this post. Mary Stewart is of course very well known and probably I read some of her books when I was young, but I wanted to reacquaint myself with what she has written. That took me to articles about Gothic novels and other interesting topics.

Nicholas Blake

I also picked up some paperback editions of books in the Nigel Strangeways series by Nicholas Blake. I read several books by Blake years ago, and recently have read a few more of them.

One of the books is The Beast Must Die, published in 1938, which is often noted as Blake's best mystery.  

That book was reviewed in 1001 Midnights (published in 1986) by Bill Pronzini:

   British Poet Laureate (1968-72) and novelist Cecil Day Lewis, writing as Nicholas Blake, published a score of popular detective and suspense novels from 1935 to 1968, all but four of which feature an urbane amateur sleuth named Nigel Strangeways. For the most part, the Blake novels are fair-play deductive mysteries in the classic mold and are chock-full of literary references and involved digressions, which makes for rather slow pacing. But they are also full of well-drawn characters and unusual incidents, and offer a wide variety of settings and information on such diverse topics as sailing, academia, the British publishing industry, and the cold war.
   The Beast Must Die is considered by some to be Blake’s finest work and a crime-fiction classic. When the young son of mystery novelist Felix Cairnes (a.k.a. Felix Lane) is killed by a hit-and-run driver, Lane, who doted on the boy, vows to track down and kill the man responsible.
 
Pronzini concluded that The Beast Must Die is a good novel but not a mystery classic. 

I had not realized that this is the 4th book in the Nigel Strangeways series (of 16 books). I have read books 1 and 2 in the series, so I am hoping to read The Beast Must Die soon.

Another book by Blake that I picked up at the same time is Head of a Traveler. It is a later book in the series, published in 1949, but it follows another book I have read, Minute for Murder, so I think I could read it soonish too.