Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mysteries in June and Pick of the Month

My total number of mysteries read this month was down drastically from the previous month.  I  finished only four mysteries, although I  also read two mystery reference books. Not sure why my reading was down, I enjoyed all the books. Work was intensive and demanding; maybe I came home with less energy and little desire to use my brain.

The mystery reference books were: Whodunit? A Who's Who in Crime & Mystery Writing by Rosemary Herbert and Hatchards Crime Companion, edited by Susan Moody.

The mysteries I read this month were:
  1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 
  2. An Empty Death by Laura Wilson 
  3. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout 
  4. The Information Officer by Mark Mills 
The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Kerrie encourages bloggers to link summary posts for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month. My problem this month is that I liked all of the crime fiction reads. It is difficult to pick one to recommend as the most outstanding book. 

An Empty Death and The Information Officer are both historical novels set in World War II. Murder on the Orient Express was published in the same year as Fer-de-Lance. So all of my mystery reading for the month was set during or prior to World War II. Refer to my reviews to see why I like them so much.

I have not reviewed The Information Officer by Mark Mills yet so I will give a brief overview. The story is set on the island of Malta during World War II. The island is under siege and all its inhabitants are threatened day and night with bombing raids. The protagonist is in charge of reporting on the events of the war on Malta and controlling and influencing the morale of the islanders. I liked how the book blends history and a whodunit.


Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout is my favorite mystery book ever, so by rights it should be my pick. This is the first book in the Nero Wolfe series, narrated by my favorite mystery character, Archie Goodwin. The story is complex and entertaining.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June Quarterly Checkpoint for Mt. TBR Challenge

This quarter I have read sixteen books that count toward the 2012 Mt. TBR Reading Challenge. Combining that with the six books read for this challenge in March (I started late), I have completed a total of twenty two books.

Since my goal is 25 books from my TBR stacks, I am feeling confident that I will reach my goal. This year I had already set a personal goal to read more books from my stacks and buy less, before I saw this challenge and decided to join. But I say that every year. I firmly believe participating in the challenge has made a difference. I could increase my goal to 40 or 50 books. We will see.

Books I have read (with links to reviews):
  1. Second Violin by John Lawton
  2. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo 
  3. Dying Light by Stuart MacBride
  4. A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
  5. The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep by Lawrence Block
  6. Cop Hater by Ed McBain
  7. In the Woods by Tana French
  8. A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  9. Political Suicide by Robert Barnard
  10. The Guards by Ken Bruen 
  11. The Light of Day by Eric Ambler 
  12. A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard 
  13. Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-fifth Street by William S. Baring-Gould 
  14. Spy Hook by Len Deighton 
  15. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 
  16. An Empty Death by Laura Wilson 
Of these book, the one that featured my favorite character is Spy Hook, part of a nine book series by Len Deighton. The character is Bernard Samson, an intelligence officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He is the narrator of the story. I enjoy Bernard Samson's company almost as much as Archie Goodwin, the first person narrator of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. And that is high praise.

I am doing pretty well with this challenge. One challenge I am not so successful with is the New Authors challenge. The goal is to read authors that are new to me. Four of these authors are new to me: Jo Nesbo, Ed McBain, Tana French, Ken Bruen. I am reading another new author now: Mark Mills.  And I need to read 15 new authors before the end of the year. I guess I am on track if I can read five new authors in each quarter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

F is for Fer-de-Lance

Rex Stout wrote 33 novels and 41 novellas about the private detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. The novellas are published in 14 books; each book has two, three or four novellas.  The books are narrated by Archie. The series began in 1934 and the last book in the series, A Family Affair, was published in 1975, shortly before Stout's death. Over the forty plus years this series was published, the protagonists did not age at all, but they were always placed within the context of the time that the book was written. 

I am featuring Fer-de-Lance, the first book in the series, in the Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012.  Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter F.

I have read all of the mysteries that Rex Stout wrote, and I have read all of the books in the Nero Wolfe series multiple times. Obviously, I am a confirmed fan. Recently I read Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-fifth Street: The Life and Times of America's Largest Private Detective, a fictional biography of Rex Stout's detective character Nero Wolfe.

So much has been written about Rex Stout and the Nero Wolfe series. I will concentrate on what I like about this book in particular and his writing in general.

Archie is my all-time favorite fictional character. Jacques Barzun, in A Birthday Tribute to Rex Stout, says:
If he had done nothing more than to create Archie Goodwin, Rex Stout would deserve the gratitude of whatever assessors watch over the prosperity of American literature. For surely Archie is one of the folk heroes in which the modern American temper can see itself transfigured.
I consider Fer-de-Lance to be an example of the best of Rex Stout's plotting. His books have been criticized for poor plotting. I have never noticed that, but then I am usually paying more attention to the relationship between Wolfe and Archie and the clients are always interesting. I read the books more to join into the Wolfe household for a few hours than for the mystery.

Fer-de-Lance was not Wolfe's first book, but it was his first mystery. It amazes me that it was so well done. The story is complex and entertaining. From the beginning, he had the relationships of Wolfe and Archie developed. The other characters (the client, the acquaintances and relatives of the victim) are all well developed.

The books are full of great quotes, I will select just one from this book, a comment from Wolfe to Archie:
I understand the technique of eccentricity; it would be futile for a man to labor at establishing a reputation for oddity if he were ready at the slightest provocation to revert to normal action.

I like that the Nero Wolfe series is really about a family. Archie is Wolfe's employee, and he is definitely his own man. Wolfe is in his fifties; Archie is in his early thirties. They disagree on a lot. But both of them look out for each other and will go to great lengths to help when the other is in trouble.  Throughout the series, the same group of characters inhabit the brownstone on West Thirty-fifth Street: Wolfe and Archie; Fritz, the cook; Theodore Horstmann, the orchid expert (Wolfe has plant rooms on the top floor of the brownstone). All of them depend on Wolfe's talents as a detective to support the household. Archie is often the one who has to goad Wolfe into taking on a case.

There is also an established group of operatives that work with Archie and Wolfe when cases demand more manpower: Fred Durkin, Saul Panzer, Orrie Cather.  They each have their strengths and idiosyncrasies.  This is not true so much in Fer-de-Lance. But even at this point, Fred Durkin has been working with Wolfe long enough to ask him for a favor, and Fritz and Theodore's quirks are evident.

These are my favorite Nero Wolfe novels (other than Fer-de-Lance):
1938: Too Many Cooks
1939: Some Buried Caesar
1940: Over My Dead Body
1946: The Silent Speaker
1958: Champagne for One
1962: Gambit
1963: The Mother Hunt
1968: The Father Hunt
I also like the trilogy in the omnibus Triple Zeck, which includes And Be a Villain (1948), The Second Confession (1949) and In the Best Families (1950). These all feature Wolfe's dealings with the crime boss, Arnold Zeck.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Beginnings: The Coming of the Third Reich

Today, I have a submission for Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader.

The guidelines of the meme are: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Don't forget to include the title and author of the book.

The first sentences in my book are
Is it wrong to begin with Bismarck? On several levels, he was a key figure in the coming of the Third Reich.
An interesting beginning. The reason that I am reading this book is because I know so little about the history of Germany and I am very interested in  Germany during World War II and how Hitler came to power. Thus, I don't know the answer to the question asked at the beginning of the book, but it works fine for me.

The book I am reading is The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans.

This is a very long book, and I am a slow reader, especially non-fiction that is dense with information and ideas. It is going to take me a while to get through this one.

Check out the other posts for book beginnings at Rose City Reader.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

E is for An Empty Death

An Empty Death by Laura Wilson is the second novel in a mystery series set in World War II London, and in the years following the war.

I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Innocent Spy (published as Stratton's War in the UK), but An Empty Death went beyond that one in characterization, plotting, and pacing. Both novels give a vivid picture of the wartime years in Great Britain, and how the war affected family life in particular. This one, set in 1944 after several years at war, focuses on the deprivation that was experienced during those years. There was very low availability of food and basic goods like cloth for clothing, razor blades for shaving, etc.

I don't want to imply that this is a book to read mainly for the World War II setting (which I have been known to do). This novel also provides a very good mystery. You think you know what is going on, and then it surprises you. The pacing in this novel really picks up at the half way point. And it leads to several unexpected events and twists in the plot. The characters are interesting and believable.

I have read reviews that quibble with the believability (or accuracy) of some of the major plot points, and they may be right. For me, I was so focused on the characters and the mystery that it never occurred to me to worry about whether these things could really happen. One character takes on various occupations and fools others into believing he has the background and credentials. I had no problem believing that he could be successful at this. Maybe I watch too many TV mysteries.

There are two later books in the Ted Stratton series, and those are both set in the postwar years. To my knowledge, they have not yet been published in the US. At Petrona, there is an overview of the series, and mention of three other authors of similar works (two very new to me).

Laura Wilson has written eleven novels, many of them being historical mysteries. The Lover, published in 2004, is based on an actual serial killer in London during World War II, called the "Blackout Ripper." I plan to seek out several of her earlier novels also. There are summaries of all of Laura Wilson's novels and excerpts at her website.

The author and her dog, Freeway

This post is my contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet community meme for this week. Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter E.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Beginnings: An Empty Death

Today, I have a submission for  Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader.

I enjoy participating because it forces me to stop and think about the book, why I like it (or not). And then I check out other posts and get some ideas for other types of books I may want to read. I tend to stay in the mystery genre, and it is good to consider other options.

The guidelines of the meme are: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Don't forget to include the title and author of the book.

Visit the post at Rose City Reader and view the other links and get a glimpse of books you may not be familiar with.

The first lines of my book:
June 1944, Fitzrovia: The night was bright – a bombers’ moon – but the planes were far away. The other side of London, the man thought. He glanced round the rubble-strewn site.
Right away I am drawn into the story. Mainly because I am hooked on historical mysteries with this setting: World War II and London. This is one of my favorite time periods and places to explore in my reading. I will always give this type of novel a shot.

The book I am reading is An Empty Death by Laura Wilson.

I have read the previous book in this series, The Innocent Spy (published as Stratton's War in the U.K.),  and I found it a very good read.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express was published in 1934, it featured Hercule Poirot, the dapper, egotistical, and very intelligent and perceptive Belgian detective.

From the synopsis of the book at the official Agatha Christie website:
Travelling on the Orient Express, Poirot is approached by a desperate American named Ratchett.  Afraid that someone plans to kill him, Ratchett asks Poirot for help.
Thus begins an intriguing tale of a murder investigation in an enclosed environment, this time on a train. The plotting is superb, and there is subtle humor in the relationship between Poirot and the director of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon Lits (also a Belgian). I found Christie's handling of the denouement, and the reactions of the "spectators" as the culprit was revealed, very moving, providing an emotional ending.

It is obvious I enjoyed this book, but I did read it after seeing the movie based on the book, and thus I knew the story from beginning to end. [I thought I had seen the movie recently, but in truth in had been nearly 3 years.  I still remember it vividly however.]

The movie is a good adaption, following the book very closely, and beautifully and tastefully done. Reading this book, I was paying more attention to how the story is told, how the author fools the reader until the very end. The fact that I could enjoy it so much, even though I knew the ending, speaks to how well Christie tells a story and entertains us.

In the film Albert Finney stars as Poirot. Other well-known actors in the film are: Martin Balsam, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman (who received an Oscar for her performance), Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York and Anthony Perkins.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
A-Z Challenge
Vintage Mystery Challenge
Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge

Monday, June 11, 2012

D is for Len Deighton

This post is my contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet community meme for this week. The letter is D, and this gives me the opportunity to feature an author I really enjoy reading. Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other D entries.

This is the year I discovered Len Deighton.  A couple of years ago I researched his books and wondered why I had never pursued them. When I attended the Big September Book Sale that I go to yearly, I picked up as many of his books as I could: The IPCRESS File, the first four Bernard Samson books (the Game, Set, and Match trilogy, plus Spy Hook), SS-GB, and Winter. So I was set.

The first book I read this year was The IPCRESS File. I have to admit I was disappointed. I found the book confusing and disjointed. I read many reviews afterwards. There were other people who had the same problems I had, but the vast majority loved it, and it is on many lists of iconic spy fiction.  Maybe on a re-read I will appreciate it more, and I just purchased the next two nameless spy books because I have read so many good reviews and articles.

This excerpt from an article at The Guardian describes a similar reaction from Kingsley Amis:
His first novel, The Ipcress File, was framed as a story told by the narrator to the Minister of Defence, who is cut off sharply when he tries to elicit an elaboration of a point:

    ''It's going to be very difficult for me if I have to answer questions as I go along," I said. "If it's all the same to you, Minister, I'd prefer you to make a note of the questions, and ask me afterwards."
    "My dear chap, not another word, I promise."
    And throughout the entire explanation he never again interrupted.

In an excoriating essay written in 1964, Kingsley Amis suggested that the reason for this was that the minister had fallen asleep. But later he changed his mind somewhat: in a letter to Philip Larkin in 1985, he wrote that Deighton's work was "actually quite good if you stop worrying about what's going on".
Moving on to the other books, I read Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match in February of this year. I immediately became a Len Deighton fan.  And a Bernard Samson fan (the protagonist of the novels).  My brief reviews are here and here.

Next I read Winter, which is described as a prequel to the Bernard Samson series. Although it is not a mystery, some of the characters do get involved with the intelligence community during World War II.  It actually fits well between the Game, Set and Match trilogy and Spy Hook, because Spy Hook includes characters that are in Winter. This is the story of a family in Germany from 1900 to 1945. It is a very ambitious book and it did not grab me as much as the others, possibly because of the length. (My review here.) On the other hand, my current reading subject of choice is World War II and England and Germany, and it fit right in. It motivated me to read Richard J. Evan's The Coming of the Third Reich, which I am doing right now.

Spy Hook

And the last fiction book I completed was Spy Hook. This continues the story of Bernard Samson, an intelligence officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Like most spy fiction I have read, there is a large cast of characters, some continuing from the earlier novels, some new. Samson has personal relationships with old friends from Berlin and business relationships with other intelligence officers, and has to balance his loyalties and determine who he can trust. Family relationships are a big theme, probably one of the reasons I like the series. There is a  lot of traveling and investigation in this one; some of the earlier ones focused more on the day-to-day office experience of the intelligence officer.

I am deliberately avoiding much mention of the actual plot and what drives a lot of Samson's actions, because that could hamper the enjoyment of earlier books in series, if you have not read them. I do recommend reading them in order, and starting with Berlin Game. This one has a cliff hanger ending, which normally would annoy me, but since I know I will be continuing with Bernard's story, it worked well for me. I enjoy Bernard Samson's company almost as much as Archie Goodwin, the first person narrator of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. 

Further reading

A list of all the Bernard Samson novels with year published:

1. Berlin Game (1983)
2. Mexico Set (1984)
3. London Match (1985)
4. Spy Hook (1988)
5. Spy Line (1989)
6. Spy Sinker (1990)
7. Faith (1994)
8. Hope (1995)
9. Charity (1996)

I do have plans for reading more Deighton this year. I will complete the Bernard Samson series, I hope. I have ordered Spy Line and Faith, and will be looking for Spy Sinker. I will definitely read XPD, and probably SS-GB.  Both of those are alternate histories. My husband read SS-GB a few months ago and rated it highly. And if there is time, the next two novels in the nameless spy series: Horse Under Water and Funeral in Berlin.

There are many more books by Deighton.  More in the nameless spy series, other fiction and non-fiction books.

This post is already much longer than I intended, so I will end with a couple of links.

The Deighton Dossier is just an amazing resource on Len Deighton and his books. There is so much more to know about him than I can cover here.

There is a nice review of Winter at Simon's Book Blog.  The blog appears to have reviews of most of Deighton's books.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Beginnings: A Train Ride

Most Fridays, I participate in Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader. This week my entry is for a vintage mystery.

The guidelines of the meme are: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Don't forget to include the title and author of the book.

Visit the post at Rose City Reader and view the other links and get a glimpse of books you may not be familiar with.

The first two sentences of my latest read is:
It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria.  Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.
This beginning evokes thoughts and images of exotic locations and travels in faraway lands. The book delivers, although the most of the action (or detection) takes place inside the train. I am about a third of the way through and enjoying the trip very much.

The book is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

I have not read anything by Agatha Christie for a long time. I read a lots of her books when I was younger. I have seen the movie based on this book, so I know the plot, but I am finding that this book is so enjoyable to read that it doesn't matter.

Monday, June 4, 2012

C is for The Cambridge Theorem

Again I am participating in the Crime Fiction Alphabet community meme. This week we are up to the letter C, and I am eager to see what other participants have covered. Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other C entries.

My choice is The Cambridge Theorem by Tony Cape. This is a first novel by an author who produced four mysteries between 1989 and 1996. This book is a combination of police procedural and spy fiction. Right up my alley. I read the book in January of this year, before I started this blog.

The description on the book cover sums it up well:
"When Simon Bowles commits suicide, no one is surprised. A graduate student at Cambridge University, Bowles had a long history of depression. But as Detective Sergeant Derek Smailes soon discovers, he also had an extraordinary knack for solving historical mysteries. His most recent project: Uncovering the identity of the fabled “fifth man” in the notorious Cambridge spy-ring of the 1930s. Could Bowles possibly have solved that mystery? And could his solution—his “theorem”—have brought about his death?"
It is obvious from the beginning that there is something brewing related to the Cambridge spies, but it is not clear if it actually has anything to do with the demise of Simon Bowles. Every one else involved considers the death of the graduate student to be a suicide... but DS Derek Smailes isn't so sure. He gets interested and follows up on some inconsistencies.

The title of the book refers to the student's extracurricular activities: using mathematical logic to solve problems. In this case both the possible existence of a fifth Cambridge spy and the solution to the Kennedy assassination.  The plot centers on the investigation into a possible conspiracy to cover up a murder, and whether this relates Simon Bowles' investigation into the Cambridge spies or not. 

I enjoy spy fiction for the stories of corruption and betrayals. Police procedurals are a favorite sub-genre for me. With elements of both, this book kept me entertained for all of its 430 pages.   However, it was the development of the main character, Derek, and his backstory, that pushed up another level for me. The exploration of why he is a policeman and his complex relationship with his father and how this drives his actions was well done.

The book is set in the early 1980's, and was published in 1989. The copy I have was published by Felony & Mayhem and I discovered it at a wonderful independent bookstore that has an extensive mystery collection. There are three more books by Tony Cape (per Fantastic Fiction) and as far as I can tell, they all are continuations of the Derek Smailes series. The second and third are available at a reasonable price (used, online), but finding the fourth one is more difficult.  I would like to know more about the author, Tony Cape, but was unsuccessful in my research.

More information related to the book:
Online article about the Cambridge spies at BBC News
At Felony & Mayhem
A review by B. Morrison

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Fall from Grace: Robert Barnard

This book is the eighth book in a series of mystery novels about Detective Inspector Charlie Peace. He first appears in the fourth book in the Perry Trethowan series, Bodies.  At that point he is not a policeman. Later he gets his own series.

In this book, Charlie has recently moved with his family to Slepton Edge, a village in Yorkshire. He and his wife are getting to know others in the community. At the same time, his wife's father has moved to the same village, an uncomfortable situation for both he and his wife. Her relationship to him is strained, and neither of them like him very much.

Even though the series is in the police procedural sub-genre, this entry is not really a police procedural, focusing more on their family life and relationships, and community relationships.  Charlie and his wife become involved with a murder that takes place in their village, but it is outside of his turf, and he is warned off by the detective in charge. For various reasons, Charlie feels it is important for him to do some investigating, and he tries to do this without stepping on any toes.

Charlie is black and his wife is white; they do run into some prejudices in their interactions with the community. The inter-racial aspects are noted in this mystery, but that is a side issue. The various members of the community are all interesting types, as usual, and provide some humor. Others are very sinister. This is a cozy with an edge.

The last book by Robert Barnard that I read (and reviewed here) is Political Suicide, a satirical look at politics in the 1980's. In A Fall from Grace, one of the secondary characters is involved in politics at the local level, and Barnard pokes some fun at the political process here too.

Barnard's novels often touch on uncomfortable aspects of community life and challenge our expectations. The review at Kirkus Reviews decribes this book as  "an exquisitely troubling portrait of parenting, teaching and the pack mentality."

I enjoyed this book. It does end abruptly; there is a resolution but it is implied, not explicit. It works for me, and unusual endings are usual in Barnard's novels. I have the next two in the series waiting to be read; I just have too many books I want to read. And I want to read another non-series novel by Barnard soon too.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge

A-Z Challenge

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Challenge

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mysteries in May and Pick of the Month

Last month I began summarizing my monthly reading... or at the least my mystery reading. In May, I read more books than the previous month and they were all very good.

In 2002, I began writing down every book I read, non-fiction, fiction,  all genres. In a lined journal. I wish I had done that all of my adult life. I find I am enjoying writing in my blog partly because I like thinking about what I liked and why. And to be able to go back and remind myself.

Books I read in May (with links to reviews)...
  1. In the Woods by Tana French
  2. A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  3. Political Suicide by Robert Barnard
  4. The Guards by Ken Bruen 
  5. The Light of Day by Eric Ambler 
  6. A Fall from Grace by Robert Barnard 
  7. Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-fifth Street by William S. Baring-Gould 
  8. Spy Hook by Len Deighton
The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. It is entertaining to see what others have read during the month and what they liked.

Two of the authors I read this month were new to me, Tana French and Ken Bruen. I am glad I gave both of them a try, and I will read more books by those authors.

Only one of my books was a vintage mystery. I have got to pick it up in that area. Although the non-fiction book about Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe covers a lot of books from the vintage years.

It is difficult this month picking the one book I liked the best.  I was very impressed by The Guards by Ken Bruen. I wasn't expecting to like it that much, given the subject matter. But my last read of the month was Spy Hook by Len Deighton. That book is the 4th of nine books about Bernard Samson, and I love that series. From the first page to the last, I was enjoying the read and being able to spend more time with Bernard, my favorite spy.

Thus my Pick of the Month for May is Spy Hook by Len Deighton. I have not reviewed that book; I just finished it last night. But I have reviewed Berlin Game, the first novel in the series, and my favorite. And the 2nd and 3rd in the series: Mexico Set, and London Match.