Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Amuse Bouche: Anthony Bidulka

I found this story to be a fast-paced mystery that held my interest and left me eager to continue with the series. I liked the main character. Russell Quant is a private detective, and to this point in his career he has had small, nondescript cases. Now he has a case where a wealthy client has hired him to find his missing lover, Tom Osborn. The client, Harold Clavell, and Osborn were going to be married in a private ceremony, and Osborn just never showed up. The evidence points to Tom having run off to France, where the two were supposed to spend their honeymoon. Quant takes a trip to Paris to find the missing man... and some answers for his client.

There were several aspects of Anthony Bidulka's writing that I enjoyed. The story is told in first person, which works well in private detective stories. The details of the everyday lives of gays and lesbians are included in an unobtrusive way. Russell is gay (and unattached) and he is investigating the disappearance of another gay man's lover. Another enjoyable aspect is the use of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as the setting. Knowing very little about any province in Canada, I liked the introduction to the area.

A small thing, but I really liked Russell's dog and Russell's relationship with the dog and that Russell has a normal, non-work life with friends and pets. He feels like a real person dealing with a real, although somewhat exotic, case. I mean, he gets to jet off to France.

I have some small criticisms, but none that ruined my enjoyment as a whole. I thought the book was too long. Not sure what I would shave off, but parts of it went on too long. He either spent too much time in France, or the resolution should have been tied up sooner.

This wasn't my usual type of mystery. I don't normally choose light, humorous mysteries. Note that I am not saying it is lightweight, just light in tone. Comments I read prior to reading Amuse Bouche indicated that there is a lot of humor. I did not find the book that humorous. This is not a criticism. I think I am lacking some fundamental humor gene. Regardless, I liked the upbeat feel of the book. Keeping in mind that this was Bidulka's debut novel, I am sure I will enjoy Russell's other cases. There are seven more in the series.

At, Anthony Bidulka talks about his writing...
I knew a little about travel and food and wine. I knew about Saskatchewan. I knew about being a gay man on the Canadian prairies. I knew about seeking new directions, following passion, which is what Russell Quant does in the books. It turns out this was the successful combination for me, and just the thing to create a series that truly distinguished me from my colleagues.
If you are like me and wonder what "amuse-bouche" means, here is one definition from
This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite.
And this is the perfect title for this book, because this is a taste of Bidulka’s approach to writing and mystery, and whets the appetite for more.

As a last thought, this is from Anthony Bidulka's page at Amazon (US).
One of my favourite sayings is: Life is short, but it can be wide. I try to remember to do whatever I can to make my life wide, wide with people and places and extraordinary experiences. And I am grateful for every second of it so far and every second of it yet to come. 
I think that attitude is reflected in his writing, and I admire that.

Monday, February 25, 2013

One Year of Blogging

Today is the one year anniversary of my first blog post. In my first post, I said:
I have wanted to have a place to post book reviews and thoughts about books for years, but never got past my inertia to get it going. Recently, I have been motivated to join some reading challenges and having a blog seems the best way to be involved. So, here I am.
I am glad I got motivated (with the help of my husband) to start the blog, and I am continuing to use it for the same goals, one year later. I am still joining challenges, even though I now realize the work involved. And I am enjoying writing up my thoughts about all of the mysteries I read. And some non-mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My husband has been my proofreader. He has shared his books and his knowledge in many areas. If only I could write as concisely and to the point as he does.

What has been a surprise is how rewarding it is to get acquainted with other bloggers and how much blogging has expanded my universe of books and genres I want to read. I am grateful to bloggers who have inspired me with their posts and supported me as I took my first shaky steps into blogging.

Another surprise is how much work it is to keep up with a blog.  And I don't put near the effort into it that some of my fellow bloggers do. Even with all the work, I would not give up the fun, the sharing, and the creative outlet. So, I am looking forward to continuing the blog and working on improving my writing and organizational skills.

NOTE: The cover above is a gratuitous paperback mystery cover featuring a skull. I love this cover and I may never read the stories in the book... since short stories are not my thing. Although there are some stories by authors I like: Ruth Rendell, Rex Stout, Isaac Asimov, Bill Pronzini, and others I am less familiar with.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee

I read this book for two reasons. At one point I thought I should read it (I read mostly mysteries and don't read much other fiction).  I bought a copy which sat on my shelf looking at me reproachfully because I never read it. Then I saw the Social Justice Theme Read at Resistance is Futile. To Kill a Mockingbird was a featured book and a group read was planned, so I decided this was my opportunity.

I assume most people are familiar with this novel, and I don't need to discuss its literary merits. Nor do I think I am qualified. The novel was published in 1960. As described at Wikipedia:
It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.
Here is an overview, from the review:
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.

Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding.
Not every reader loves To Kill a Mockingbird, but it has been praised by many over the years and hailed as a great novel. I don't remember if I read it in my youth. Or even if I saw the movie. But I knew the basic story before reading it, so there is a good chance that I did one or the other.

I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book. It feels too real, too personal.  I did not grow up in a small town in Southern Alabama in the 1930's. I did grow up in a large city in Alabama in the middle of the state in the 1950's. The experience was close enough, and I don't really like being reminded of it.
I read two reviews at Goodreads that mention (in a lot of detail) the reviewers' relationships with their fathers. I think this book does lead one to ponder such things. In some ways, my father was a lot like Atticus. Atticus was a lawyer; my father was a shipping clerk. But they both struggled to support their families. Atticus did not hunt and he did not like guns. My father hunted when he was young and loved guns all his life. But my father was a family man; his primary goal in life was to care for and to provide for his family. We had little money, but my mother did not work outside of the home until I was in college. And he did share Atticus' attitudes about race and equality; he was pro-integration in Alabama's schools when that was a very unpopular attitude in the South. Thus I grew up naively thinking that most people believed in equality for all skin colors, and was shocked to find out differently in my teens.

I think this is a good book, and very beautifully written. It is definitely a book I recommend. Even if a reader does find faults in it, and there are some, it is still worth reading. There is more to this book than just the theme of racial intolerance and injustice. It gives a realistic picture of small town Alabama in the Depression years.

If you are looking for a book on social injustice and the civil rights movement in the southern states, I recommend There Goes My Everything by Jason Sokol. I read that book several years ago and it was also very painful to read. This description is from the dust jacket:
There Goes My Everything traces the origins of the civil rights struggle from World War II, when some black and white American soldiers lived and fought side by side overseas (leading them to question Jim Crow at home), to the beginnings of change in the 1950s and the flared tensions of the 1960s, into the 1970s, when strongholds of white rule suddenly found themselves overtaken by rising black political power. Through it all, Sokol resists the easy categorization of whites caught in the torrent of change; rather, he gives us nuanced portraits of people resisting, embracing, and questioning the social revolution taking place around them.
Various views of To Kill a Mockingbird that I found interesting:
I am looking forward to watching the movie soon. I want to compare and contrast, and see how the various players are depicted. And I am looking forward to watching all the extras on the DVD copy that we have had around for a while.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Tourist: Olen Steinhauer

Spy novels are a favorite sub-genre for me. Olen Steinhauer is an author I have read and liked. So I was predisposed to enjoy this book, and I was not disappointed at all.

Milo Weaver works for the CIA, in the Department of Tourism. "Tourists" are described as undercover agents with no identity and no home. Milo is not the James Bond type, although there are plenty of thrilling escapades and violence. But we see the other side of this spy's life, the family he wishes he could spend more time with.

The book opens with Milo in obvious trouble both physically and emotionally. By the time the opening events have played out, it is obvious that Milo cannot continue as a Tourist, a spy sent to take care of any problem at the whim of his handler. Thus Milo moves into a desk job and acquires a family and an almost normal life.

A few years later, events conspire to bring him back into Tourism...

Spy thrillers are full of manipulations and lies. The reader and the characters never know who to trust. One character who also works for the CIA says:  "You work years teaching yourself to trust a few people. Not many, but just enough to get by. And once you do trust them, there's no going back. There can't be. Because how else can you do your job?" And when that trust is betrayed, everything falls apart. No one trusts anyone, and not many deserve trust.

Milo's main desire is to continue his family life and he wants to shield them from the side-effects of his job. As he runs into roadblocks that prevent him from leaving Tourism, the reader gradually learns more about all the relationships in the book ... How he and his wife got together and Milo's background and his childhood are revealed in pieces throughout the book. I enjoy this kind of story telling.

At one point, Milo goes on a long-planned vacation even though he knows that there is trouble brewing in his department. Even his wife knows that things are not right.
She had booked them into a long, red-roofed atrocity called Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, where even the lobby was set up with stanchions and padded ropes to arrange the crowds into orderly lines, as if this were another ride. Restaurants of no recognizable real-world cuisine threaded through the complex, and after each long day of chasing Stephanie to the various attractions they collapsed in these places, ordering nachos or spaghetti, and then wandered out to the crowded "beach" that bordered the man-made lake.

Despite an initial onrush of sarcasm, by the second day Tina was much less annoyed by Disney Reality. There was something narcotic about the easy predictability and the soft, cushioned safety that surrounded them at every moment. Ignoring the sudden outbursts of children, there was no chaos here, no unpredictable variable. There was nothing even remotely connected to the miserable stories of the planet's shadow side, that parallel world in which her husband worked.
If you like spy thrillers or want to give one a try, I recommend this one. It is the first book in a trilogy, and all the books of the series  have been well received. 

If you shy away from spy thrillers, you might find Steinhauer's other series a better fit. Some of those novels do have some of the elements of espionage fiction, but are historical fiction as well. The author describes them as "five novels that traced the history of an unnamed, fictional Eastern European country during its communist period, from 1948 until 1989, one book for each decade. The novels began as crime fiction, morphing gradually into espionage." There is not one main character but the characters are linked from one book to another.

The titles are, in order of publication:
The Bridge of Sighs
The Confession
36 Yalta Boulevard
(The Vienna Assignment in the UK)
Liberation Movements (The Istanbul Variations in the UK)
Victory Square

Friday, February 15, 2013

Crooked House: Agatha Christie

Crooked House was published in 1949. The story is set following World War II. A couple that met in Egypt during the war has reunited in London. However, their plans to marry are interrupted by the death of her grandfather. This is the first non-series book by Christie that I have read since I began my quest to read all of her mystery novels.

From the synopsis of the book at the official Agatha Christie website:
Three generations of the Leonides family live together in a large, if somewhat crooked looking, house. Then the wealthy patriarch, Aristide, is murdered.  Suspicion falls on the whole household, including Aristide’s two sons, his widow – fifty years his junior – and even his three grandchildren.
The story focuses on a family that is very close. Each is protective of the others, even though they may see each other's faults. Each member is strange, in their own way, and thus the introduction to each member of the menagerie is entertaining. Some mystery readers fault Agatha Christie because of her characters (too stereotypical, too cardboard?), but I have not seen that in the books I have read. This one seems to be the perfect blending of puzzle, plot, and characters.

The revelation of the culprit is surprising and shocking, but when you return to the story you can see all the clues leading in that direction.

I liked everything about this book. I have no complaints. But here is a list of the attributes that I particularly appreciated:
  • The story is told in first person, by Charles Hayward, who wants to marry Sophia Leonides. I generally enjoy books told in the first person, because you get closer to the character. And it justifies not knowing some facts or being in the dark about some subjects, as long as that is true for the narrator.
  • It is a love story, but the love story does not dominate. As the reader, I wanted the love story to end well, but as with all the mysteries by Christie that I have read, I was never sure what was coming.
  • The story features a strong woman as a central character, and I always appreciate that. Especially in a vintage mystery.

I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that. Links to other reviews for this month will be found here.

Also submitted for the Vintage Mystery Challenge (Jolly Old England).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Devil in a Blue Dress: Walter Mosley

The first book in Mosley's Easy Rawlins series, Devil in a Blue Dress, has an interesting setting:... 1948, post WWII, a black neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a black man who moves to Los Angeles, California from Houston, Texas to look for a better life after serving in the military during World War II. He gets involved in a search for a beautiful white woman because he needs the money to pay his mortgage, and ends up trying to save his life by figuring out what is going on.

The character development is very good. Easy is human with frailties and strengths, and I felt his confusion and pain and fear. Living a life as a black man in LA at that time was challenging, to put it mildly.
"California was like heaven for the Southern Negro. People told stories of how you could eat fruit right off the trees and get enough work to retire one day. The stories were true for the most part, but the truth wasn't like the dream. Life was still hard in L.A., and if you worked every day you still found yourself on the bottom."
Easy has plenty of friends and acquaintances in the area, many of them transplants from Houston. One friend is Mouse, who he has avoided for years because of his extremely violent and amoral behavior. Yet, Easy feels he has to call on Mouse for help in this situation.

I read this for the Social Justice Theme Read at Resistance is Futile. Thus I was more tuned in to the issues of racism than I might have been otherwise. I found I was paying more attention to examples of his treatment as a black in a white world. I wish I could say it was shocking to me, but even in today's world, it is not surprising to hear of discrimination and police brutality such as described in this book. And so many times, the way blacks are treated with disrespect is almost unconscious.
"A job in a factory is an awful lot like working on a plantation in the South. The bosses see all the workers like they're children, and everyone knows how lazy children are. So Benny thought he'd teach me a little something about responsibility because he was the boss and I was the child.
The white workers didn’t have a problem with that kind of treatment because they didn’t come from a place where men were always called boys. The white worker would have just said, ‘Sure, Benny, you called it right, but damn if I can see straight right now.’ And Benny would have understood that. He would have laughed and realized how pushy he was being and offered to take Mr. Davenport, or whoever, out to drink beer. But the Negro workers didn’t drink with Benny. We didn’t go to the same bars, we didn’t wink at the same girls."
Another place where racism and prejudice played a big part was in the military service in World War II. I knew this. Even so, the brief descriptions of this period of Easy's life were most appalling to me. Prior to the beginning of World War II, the United States Army was segregated. Many black soldiers were not allowed to participate in combat and were relegated to support jobs. Only as the war neared its end did they allow blacks to join in units at the front.
"They said we didn't have the discipline or the minds for a war effort, but they were really scared that we might get to like the kind of freedom that death-dealing brings." 
And then he returns to a country where he is still subject to discrimination.

This taste of Walter Mosley's writing has me eager for more. Which is a good thing since I have copies of the next three in the series, plus the first book in the  Leonid McGill series.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Old Man's War: John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi was published in 2005, and I am just now reading it. I wish I had done so sooner. Of course, now I have several more books in the Old Man's War series to read... so maybe it is just as well I waited.

This book is military science fiction. That may have been related to why I put off reading it for so long. The book was not what I expected. Which probably says a lot about my lack of experience with reading in the sci-fi genre.

The set up for the book: John Perry is seventy-five years old and he is leaving the planet Earth behind to fight for the Colonial Defense Forces on other planets. And how can he do that at his age? Because the CDF will reverse the flow of aging. No one on Earth knows how this is done, but the volunteers are willing to risk military service and its dangers for a chance at a new life.

Several of the science fiction books I have read in January and February deal with colonization of other planets as a remedy for existing problems on Earth. Each handles it in different ways. In this case, the development of the military to protect colonists is explored, including themes related to senseless violence and the mindset of the military. I do not see that the military is glorified; neither is it vilified. Moral dilemmas are examined. I like that the book does not seem to preach or offer answers. It poses questions and allows the reader to chew on the issues while enjoying a good story.

I also appreciate the characterizations in this book, especially the main character who tells the story. He is a pretty normal guy, intelligent, thoughtful. This makes him easy to relate to, to sympathize with.

I found the themes relating to age most interesting. Being at an age when I can sympathize with a decision to extend one’s life or at least experience the end of one’s life in better condition... it hit closer to home.

Scalzi was clearly influenced by and paying tribute to Robert A. Heinlein, as he indicates in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book. Many reviews note a similarity to Starship Troopers by Heinlein. I have not read that book (but have seen the movie, which I understand is not all that close to the book). I now have added Starship Troopers to my want list.

This is my first e-book of 2013 and only the 3rd book I have read on an e-reader. The book is still in print in a mass market paperback edition and a trade paper edition. And of course as an e-book.

A list of Scalzi's publications at his website, Whatever.

I read this book as a part of the 2013 Sci-Fi Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings. The event began in January and runs through February. The Review Site can be found here; check out other bloggers reviews and related posts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Last Houseparty: Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson has written over fifty books for adults and children. Many of his books for adults are mysteries. His first book, Skin Deep (aka The Glass-sided Ants' Nest) featured Detective Inspector James Pibble of Scotland Yard and won the 1968 CWA Gold Dagger. The second book in the series, A Pride of Heroes, published the following year, also won a Gold Dagger. Much of his fiction for children is science fiction or fantasy.

The James Pibble series was only six books, published between 1968 and 1979. The remaining mysteries written by Dickinson are stand-alone novels.

The Last Houseparty, published in 1982, moves back and forth between the early 1980's and 1937 and 1940. At times this can be disorienting, but I enjoy that type of structure in a novel. The story is about an aristocratic family which has fallen on hard times and most of it is set at a grand English estate owned by Lord Snailwood. The description of both time periods is well done. I would not describe the characters as likeable, but they are interesting. The characters in Dickinson's books are often strange.

Peter Dickinson is one of my favorite authors. I haven't read a book by him in quite a while, and I was looking forward to this one. I enjoyed it all the way until the end. And then I was disappointed. But don't let me scare you off. This is what Ruth Rendell had to say about this book (from Peter Dickinson's website):
The Last Houseparty is so subtly done and so cunningly constructed that I felt I wanted to read it twice in order to get the full satisfying joy of it, I could have read it a third time immediately afterwards without hardship. He sets new standards in the mystery field that will be hard to live up to.”
Do I recommend reading books by Peter Dickinson? Yes, emphatically. His prose is beautiful. His stories are intriguing. 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. The story is told from the point of view of his teenage daughter, Princess Louise.

Do I recommend reading The Last Houseparty? Yes, with reservations. The subject matter is related to an unpleasant crime, against a child. Some readers don't want to read about that type of crime. It is not dwelled upon and I did not find it disturbing. The ending was somewhat unsatisfactory to me.  I don't regret reading it myself, but I don't want to push this book on unsuspecting readers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Smoke: Tony Broadbent

This story features Jethro, a cat burglar in London after World  War II, and his family and friends. Since Jethro spends a portion of his time in criminal pursuits he gets mixed up with some very scary people. And then he is called upon to take part in some espionage.

From the description on the back of my copy of the book:
It's 1947, and London, having toughed out the War, is being half-crippled by the Peace. It's the coldest winter in living memory, everything from bread to soap to underwear is rationed, and even beer, by official order, is watered down.
I enjoy reading about this time period. Two other series that cover this period and this setting are John Lawton's Inspector Troy series and Laura Wilson's DI Ted Stratton series. Each of these series depict a time of deprivation and loss. The Inspector Troy series centers more around the wealthier, upper class citizens of London; the DI Ted Stratton series features the average citizens. In the Jethro series, we get a picture of the criminal elements of London. Although a lot of the story is light-hearted, there are parts of it that are not for the squeamish.

There were a lot of things to like about this book. Jethro is an entertaining narrator. He uses a lot of slang, and there is a glossary at the end of the book. Although I don't know the slang, especially for the tools of the trade for a cat burglar, I did not have to use the glossary too often. The picture of London of the time was well done. Per this interview at Murderati, the story has been carefully researched by the author. The interview is fascinating, and full of interesting information.

But I did have some problems with the book. Although I was willing to take the depiction of Jethro's life as accurate, there were inconsistencies and characters that did not jell for me. Jethro was too much of a romantic, which I could not take seriously.

There were also times I wished the story was moving along faster. I liked the background on the tricks of the trade, and his work as a stagehand, but I felt like the story dragged at times. Too much description and background, too little action.

Neither of these were serious problems. The good outweighs the bad, and overall I enjoyed  the book and want to continue the series. The second book takes place in 1948, the third in 1949. I am interested in seeing further depiction of London at this time and see how successful the author is at continuing this series.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Case of the Angry Actress: E. V. Cunningham

I enjoyed this book most for the setting in Southern California in the 1960's. The book was published in 1967. I lived in Southern California in the 70's and I remember the smog and how different it seemed from my home state of Alabama.

Some quotes from the book:
Detective Sergeant Masao Masuto, of the Beverly Hills Police Force, did not live in the “poor” section of Beverly Hills. He lived in a cottage in Culver City and considered himself most fortunate to be possessed of the cottage, a good wife, three children, and a rose garden upon which he lavished both love and toil. He secretly dreamed of himself as a gardener who devoted all of his working hours to his garden.
Mulholland Drive was a high rib out of a sea of yellow smog. To Masuto, as always, the sight was unreal and hideous, and his eyes burned.
Plot and characterization are the two main things that I look for in a novel. This book has a fast-paced interesting plot. The mystery here centers around the death, possibly a murder, of a Hollywood producer. He died during a dinner party at his house, which four other couples attended, in addition to himself and his wife. All of the men in attendance share a history with a young actress named Samantha.

Where this novel was lacking was in the characterization. All of the characters, including Masuto, are stereotypes. I did find a lot to like about Masuto, but there was little depth to any of the other characters. The women were all young and beautiful, and most were married to their husbands for the money. Some of the women suspects eventually move from the one-dimensional portrayal to show their strengths to a certain extent.

This book does include some political and social commentary, focusing on the treatment of Masuto by suspects and witnesses. They treat him with condescension and include racial slurs in their conversations with him. Masuto is nisei, a son of Japanese immigrants to the U.S. , and the suspects are not comfortable dealing with an "Oriental" in a position of responsibility and power. Much is also made of the fact that most Beverly Hills residents are rich and/or powerful and expect the police to handle them with kid gloves.

It is not surprising that these books have such references, since E. V. Cunningham is a pseudonym for Howard Fast, better known for his historical fiction, with themes of human rights. He published his first novel at 19 in 1933. Per his obituary in the New York Times:
His output was slowed but not entirely interrupted by the blacklisting he endured in the 1950's after it became known that he had been a member of the Communist Party and then refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. He served three months in a federal prison in 1950 for contempt of Congress, a charge arising from his refusal to produce the records of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee.
Fast began writing Spartacus, his most famous work, while he was in prison, and self-published it in 1951 following his release from prison. The book was adapted as a film in 1960, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Fast went on to write many more novels.

The Case of the Angry Actress was first published as Samantha. Starting in 1960, Howard Fast published twelve novels of suspense, all having a woman's name for the title. These were published under the pseudonym E.V. Cunningham. Other than the titles, in most cases there was no connection between these novels. Fantastic Fiction indicates that some of them share some characters. See this link for a list of all the E. V. Cunningham titles.

Samantha was published in 1967, and the next mystery featuring Masao Masuto was not published for another ten years. There were seven novels in the series and the last novel in the series was published in 1984.

There is a nice overview of the series at The Cozy Mystery List Blog.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes, but I wanted more from it. The story had charm, but it was lacking in areas. I plan to read the next book in the series for comparison. Would I recommend the book? Yes, if you are looking for a light, entertaining, undemanding mystery written and set in the late 1960s.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reading in January and Pick of the Month

In January I read ten books, which is a lot for me. All of the books except one were under 300 pages and a few were closer to 200 pages, which is why I got so much read. Not all of the books I read were mysteries; two were science fiction. And one was a blend of mystery and science fiction.

The two books that were strictly sci-fi were: Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein and The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov. Both books were vintage sci-fi and I enjoyed them very much.  The End of Eternity is not a mystery but reads like a thriller.

These are the mysteries I read:
  1. The Man Who Liked to Look at Himself by  K. C. Constantine
  2. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
  3. The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
  4. Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough
  5. The Case of the Angry Actress by E. V. Cunningham
  6. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
  7. Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg
  8. The Smoke by Tony Broadbent

The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Bloggers link to summary posts for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month. Check out the link to see the other bloggers picks.

I don't really have a clear favorite this month. I rated all of the books I read at 4 stars out of 5 at Goodreads, and that just means I enjoyed them all. The only one I had any issues with was The Case of the Angry Actress by E. V. Cunningham, which is why I am having a hard time writing a  review for that novel.

I guess I would split my vote between the three vintage mysteries I read this month: Murder at the Vicarage, The Thin Man and The Caves of Steel.