Friday, February 27, 2015

Deal Me In 2015: Story #4 ("Marie: Blue Cadillac" by Michael Malone)

Every other week I draw a random card to determine what short story I will read for the Deal Me In Short Story challenge. My list of short stories is hereJay at Bibliophilopolis hosts the challenge.

This week I drew the 2 of Spades, which corresponded to the story titled "Maria: Blue Cadillac" from a book of twelve stories about Southern women, Red Clay, Blue Cadillac. The stories are all written by Michael Malone. It shows how much I admire his writing when I purchase a book of his short stories, all very Southern in flavor, or so the reviews say. I usually avoid Southern literature.

"Marie: Blue Cadillac" by Michael Malone

I am discovering that a person's reactions to a short story is a very personal thing. (Sounds obvious but I am new to this.) In reviews I have read on this book of short stories, some reviewers pick this as the best story, others don't like it at all. 

On my first read of this story, I did not care for it at all. It felt like it had no structure. It seemed more like a vignette, like a small snapshot. I had a hard time getting into it and it ended somewhat ambiguously. 

I don't know if I read it too fast or I was too tired, but on a second read, I found it does have more depth.  The characterizations are good; some of the descriptions are wonderful. This story seemed like two stories intertwined. Marie is a beautiful young blonde, driving to Graceland in a blue Cadillac convertible to fulfill her mother's last wish. Braxton is "a high-tech sales rep going home to Memphis for his mama's sake to eat Thanksgiving dinner." His stewardess wife has just left him for a Brazilian oilman. They end up spending a few hours together.

January Magazine featured a very long article by J. Kingston Pierce on Michael Malone's books, including an interview, in December 2002. Here is a extract from the interview related to Red Clay, Blue Cadillac.
Can you tell me what, in your mind, distinguishes Southern women from those reared in other parts of the United States?
They're like women in other parts of America, just more so. As Gloria Steinem said about Ginger Rogers: She was doing everything Fred Astaire was doing, just doing it backwards in high heels. Well, Southern women are doing and enduring what other women have to do and endure, but (at least until recently) they had to do it in heels and hats and white gloves and makeup and a sweet smile, with maybe a glass of bourbon and a cigarette to get them through the magnolia part of being a steel magnolia. The women in Red Clay, Blue Cadillac are all very strong people. Sometimes they have to pretend otherwise.
By the way, I hear that Sourcebooks had another title in mind for this collection of stories.
They wanted to call it All the Wrong Women, but I told them that you obviously don't know Southern women. Just because they murder their husbands doesn't make them bad people.
That statement -- "white gloves and makeup and a sweet smile" -- is so true and very disturbing. My feelings about that subject probably mean I would benefit from reading more books about and set in the South, not less.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Years of Blogging

Today is the third anniversary of my first blog post. I went back and read that post. This was the paragraph that described my reading interests at the time.
I read mainly mysteries. And have been since my late teens and twenties. I enjoy vintage mysteries and newer mystery series. I prefer more traditional mysteries, but there are thrillers I have enjoyed, and the line between mystery and thriller is often blurred. My favorite vintage mystery author is Rex Stout. Currently my favorite contemporary writer of mysteries is Elizabeth George. And I am often inspired by reading mystery blogs to try new authors and sub-genres. 
I was surprised. Rex Stout is still my favorite vintage mystery author, but Elizabeth George is entirely off my radar. Her latest mysteries have been very, very long and the stories don't maintain interest for that length.

So which authors have become my favorites in the last three years?

My second entry on the blog was a review of Berlin Game by Len Deighton, and in March 2012  I reviewed (very briefly) Mexico Set, London Match, and Winter by the same author.  Since then I have read five more books by that author.

Other authors I really enjoy are John Lawton and Olen Steinhauer.  In the last year I discovered Mick Herron, reading one from each of his two series. I am sure there are others I am forgetting at the moment.

I have discovered Canadian authors that I really enjoy. My favorites are L. R. Wright, Maureen Jennings, and John Brady. But again, too many good ones to list them all.

I have added more science fiction and fantasy books to my reading in the last couple of years, as I discovered challenges featuring those genres. I especially enjoy books that combine mystery plots and science fiction or fantasy, such as the Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters or the  PC Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.

The best thing about blogging continues to be the community of book bloggers who share discoveries and ideas. As someone who always has a book going and devours mystery novels, it is wonderful to be able to communicate with and learn from others who share my passions.  I thought I knew a lot about older mystery novels (pre-1960's) before I started blogging, but blogging opened my eyes to how much I do not know about mysteries written during that time period.

For this post, I have featured two old editions of books I purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale 7 or 8 years ago. Both are in very bad condition but appeal to me. The Rex Stout is a book club edition. I plan to read them sometime this year. Of course, the Rex Stout book will be a re-read.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Calling: Inger Ash Wolfe

Excerpt from the dust jacket description:
Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef has lived all her days in the small town of Port Dundas and is now making her way toward retirement with something less than grace. Hobbled by a bad back and a dependence on painkillers, and feeling blindsided by divorce after nearly four decades of marriage, sixty-one-year-old Hazel has only the constructive criticism of her old goat of a mother and her own sharp tongue to buoy her. But when a terminally ill Port Dundas woman is gruesomely murdered in her own home, Hazel and her understaffed department must spring to life. 
This book is set in northern Canada, in Ontario. Usually, there is not a lot going on in Port Dundas, crimewise. It is a small town, and the small town relationships and expectations are an element in the story. Hazel and her staff are not adequately supported by her superiors in Toronto when violent crime comes to Port Dundas.

The author describes Hazel, the main character:
Hazel Micallef was a 62-year-old interim police chief on a small-town force, an investigator by training, who lived with her mother, the larger-than-life ex-mayor of the town. Hazel was divorced and not particularly likeable, with an imposing body that was racked by pain. She was intelligent, tenacious and, because convinced of her own moral rectitude, in constant conflict with others.
If all this novel had was Hazel's character, it would still be great. But the novel has much more; the supporting cast of characters that she works with (or against) also push the novel up a notch. There are established members of the police department of Port Dundas who have worked with Hazel for years and new arrivals sent to help out with the overload. Even the glimpses we get of some of the victims or other persons who have dealt with the killer are convincing, realistic portrayals.

The novel is a serial killer story and thus not my favorite type of read. I usually find that serial killers are too obsessed or crazy to provide the kind of tension I like in a novel. The actual identity is often not the issue but how to stop them. The deaths are often grotesque, disgusting, and dwelled upon more than I am comfortable with. Whether the subject matter and the manner of the deaths in this book would be offensive to some readers, I am not sure. I did not find this one very offensive in that area.

This novel had me entranced from the beginning. The story was compelling and the twists and turns made the 371 pages seem like half of that. Highly recommended, unless you really cannot take serial killer books.

Inger Ash Wolfe is a pseudonym for Canadian author Michael Redhill. He announced he was the author of the Hazel Micallef series in July 2012, the same month that the third book, A Door in the River, was published.



Publisher:   Harcourt, Inc., 2008
Length:       371 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Hazel Micallef #1
Setting:      Ontario, Canada
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Books of 1955: Murder in the Raw by William Campbell Gault

William Campbell Gault started out writing stories for pulp magazines. According to the entry for this author in Paperback Confidential by Brian Ritt, he was writing for the "spicy" pulps and sports pulps in the 1930's and wrote for the detective pulps in the 1940's and 1950's.

Gault's first novel was Don't Cry for Me, published in 1952. It won the Best First Novel Edgar for that year. In 1955, he published Ring Around Rosa, the first in a series of novels featuring Brock Callahan, an ex-LA Ram football player, who becomes a private detective in Beverly Hills, California. That novel was later published under the name Murder in the Raw. The paperback edition I read had that title.

In this first book in the series, Callahan has just started his PI business and still wonders if he has it in him to go back to a year or two more of football. Although he has some contacts with the police in the area, in general they give him a hard time. Brock is doing his best to be an honest detective and stay within the law.

The basic story is that Callahan sets up his business and the first client who walks into his office is Juan Mira, a retired Filipino boxer. Juan wants to hire Callahan to find his missing girlfriend, Rosa Carmona, a dancer in a nightclub. Callahan does not want to take his money; he thinks Juan just wants him to make his girlfriend return to him. Juan talks Callahan into trying to find Rosa and things rapidly get more complicated.
Juan stood about five-four and would now weigh about a hundred and thirty. He wore a neat and creamy tropical weave suit and white buck shoes and a big-brimmed leghorn hat with an extremely colorful band. There are not many Miras in Beverly Hills; Juan was out of his league.
The cover of my edition describes the book as a hard-boiled classic. This book seemed to have less sex and violence than many books in that genre.

Brock often referred to his car as his "flivver." I am familiar with the word but haven't seen it used a lot, in books of any vintage.
My flivver is what is known as the Victoria model and it has really deluxe upholstery in white and green plastic. Tufted and buttoned and with beaded edges, I was so proud of it. 
I opened the door and turned sick.
Somebody had really worked the upholstery over with a knife. It was slashed viciously, both the front and rear seats. It was ruined.
The definition of "flivver" from the Urban Dictionary:
A 1930s (Great Depression era) slang term for a old, dilapidated, and/or otherwise ragged-out automobiles; appears commonly in 1930s literature like Jack Conroy's "The Disinherited."
Many of the books written by Gault feature sports. In addition to football, there is boxing, racing, and golf. In the mid-1960's and the 1970's he turned to juvenile fiction, often featuring sports, which was more lucrative. In the 1980's he returned to the Brock Callahan series and other crime fiction novels.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I am glad I finally sampled this author's work. I will be looking for more in the Brock Callahan series and also plan to try some of his other mysteries.



Publisher:   Charter Books, 1988 (orig. pub. 1955 as Ring Around Rosa)
Length:       191 pages
Format:       Paperback
Series:        Brock Callahan, #1
Setting:       Beverly Hills, California
Genre:        Hard-boiled mystery
Source:       Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2013.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2015 (4th Year)

This is the fourth year I will be participating in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. I have been working on the challenge in spirit since January 1st  but today I join in officially.

My goal this year will be  Mt. Ararat: 48 books. As I look back at the last three years, my total of books read from my TBR piles, boxes, shelves is always around 50, so 48 is fairly safe. I usually read around 100 books a year, so I don't know why my count of TBR books is only about half of that. This year I plan to pay closer attention to that.

I am always complaining about my TBR piles but really the problem is that I keep buying books. How can I resist, when I see other bloggers' recommendations for books and authors that I had missed before of maybe just forgotten about?

You can check out the rules at this post. The goals start at 12 books and go up to 150+ books. Bev is allowing re-reads to count this year, but only under certain conditions.

I have already made a good start on the TBR piles, because I am reading only from my TBR piles in January - March 2015 for the TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge at James Reads Books. The only exceptions have been two ARCs from NetGalley and there will be one or two more of those.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cookie's Case: Andy Siegel

Summary from Open Road Media:
Tug Wyler is embroiled in the mysterious medical malady of a sexy stripper who slipped on a banana peel during her signature act
Cookie, an angel in stiletto heels, is by far the most popular performer at Jingles Dance Bonanza. To her devoted audience, she’s a friend, therapist, and shoulder to cry on, all rolled into one. While meeting an old pal at the club, Tug doesn’t expect to pick up a new client but quickly realizes the gallant Cookie—dancing in a neck brace, each leg kick potentially her last—is in need of a committed champion.
Righting wrongs is never a simple task for Tug, a sharp-witted and unorthodox trial lawyer who repeatedly finds himself in the middle of unusual cases and causes. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. Believing that Cookie is the victim of a spine surgeon with a sloppy touch, Tug takes her case. But as he seeks both medical remedy and a fair shake for Cookie, he realizes—a tad too late—that sinister sights are now trained on him. In Cookie’s Case, this offbeat attorney will go farther for justice than he ever has before.
When I start reading a book full of quirky characters, I usually decide immediately that I am not going to like the book. I like my fiction relatively realistic, or at least with characters I can identify with. I know there are many quirky people in real life, but they are scattered around, mixed in with us normal folks. In some novels, including this one, just about everyone we run into is quirky.

The farther I got into this book, the more I had to revise my prejudices. Tug Wyler may be dealing with a weird family, and more than one bizarre set of clients, but he is a nice guy and some of his clients are lovable and fun to be around.

It is the character of Tug Wyler that makes this book so enjoyable. He is the type of lawyer that is generally called an ambulance chaser, but he has a good heart. My favorite case in this book is the pro bono case he takes on while working on Cookie's case. Robert is a mentally disabled man living with his grandmother, who is concerned that he learn a trade and be able to support himself when she is gone. Tug is interested in representing Robert on a case related to a car accident which injured his ankle.

This book is humorous and that kind of mystery doesn't appeal to me and most of the humor just passes me by. Nevertheless, I am glad I got the opportunity to read and review Cookie's Case. There is more depth to the story than I expected, and a couple of twists at the end. I am not saying I am going to go for a steady diet of comic novels with unbelievable, bizarre circumstances, but I will look for a copy of Suzy's Case, the first book in the series. And I hope that Andy Siegel continues to publish books.

Per the Open Road Media website: "Andy Siegel is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in New York City. A graduate of Tulane University and Brooklyn Law, he grew up on Long Island and now lives in Westchester County. In 2008 he was elected to the board of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association."


Publisher: Road, 2015
Length:       281 pages
Format:      ebook
Series:       Tug Wyler Mysteries, #2
Setting:      New York City
Genre:        Legal mystery
Source:      Provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Deal Me In 2015: Story #3 ("The Case of the Shaggy Caps" by Ruth Rendell)

Every other week I draw a random card to determine what short story I will read for the Deal Me In Short Story challenge. What are the odds that I would pick two Ruth Rendell stories in a row? Last week I read a story by Ruth Rendell and the protagonist was Inspector Wexford. I had forgotten that I had included two stories by that author in my list, and that both featured her series character.

It was a happy accident, because it gave me the opportunity to compare the stories. This story is from Murder on the Menu, but it was first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in November 1977. By 1977, nine Inspector Wexford novels had been published. One of Rendell's most well-known standalone novels, A Judgement in Stone, was published in 1977. The story that I read (review here) two weeks ago, "The Mouse in the Corner," was first published in 1991 so they were written 14 years apart.

"The Case of the Shaggy Caps" by Ruth Rendell

Wexford partners with Inspector Burden, and their relationship is one of the best parts of this series. Here is Rendell's description of the two in this story:
Wexford, getting on for sixty, was a tall, ungainly, rather ugly  man who had once been fat to the point of obesity but had slimmed to gauntness for reasons of health. Nearly twenty years his junior, Burden had the slenderness of a man who has always been thin. His face was ascetic, handsome in a frosty way. The older man, who had a good wife who looked after him devotedly, nevertheless always looked as if his clothes came off the peg from the War on Want Shop, while the younger, a widower, was sartorially immaculate.

In this story, Hannah Kingman's death was the result of a fall from the balcony of a 5th floor apartment in a high rise. Wexford has been on a holiday in Italy, and Burden has been handling the case, which was initially thought to be suicide. Then Hannah's brother comes in and accuses Hannah's husband of attempting to poison her a week before her death at a dinner party. The party was attended by only four people, Hannah, her husband, the brother, and the husband's ex-girlfriend. Burden was convinced that something fishy is going on but the evidence doesn't agree.

This is another substantial and enjoyable story, where Wexford and Burden solve a mystery, although they may have trouble proving that they are right. The story is fairly long, about 28 pages in the paperback that I read. Even at that length there is not much room for characterization beyond the two investigators, who have an interesting relationship. Burden has his prejudices, and Wexford is the voice of reason.

My Deal Me In list of short stories is here. Jay at Bibliophilopolis hosts the challenge. Every week he gathers links from participants. If you are interested in a wide variety of short stories (and sometimes essays and poems), try his latest Wrap Up post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Wandering Soul Murders: Gail Bowen

Brief introduction to this book at Goodreads:
Murder is the last thing on Joanne Kilbourn’s mind on a perfect morning in May. Then the phone rings, and she learns that her daughter Mieka has found the corpse of a young woman in an alley near her store. So begins Joanne’s chilling collision with evil in Gail Bowen’s riveting third mystery, The Wandering Soul Murders.
In the early books of the Joanne Kilbourn series, Joanne is a political analyst and a writer. Her position makes it possible for Bowen to highlight political and social issues in her books. Joanne is a widow with four children and family comes first with her. The latest addition to the family is a young girl who she adopted. Taylor was the daughter of a close friend who died. Her oldest child, Mieka, has left college to start a business, a concern for Joanne. Because she cares so much, for her family and for others, Joanne sometimes makes questionable decisions. Her vulnerability and her determination make her an interesting character.

The subject matter in these novels is certainly not cozy. The deaths in The Wandering Soul Murders are horrifying, but not graphically portrayed. The first victim was working temporarily as a cleaner in Mieka's new business. It turns out she had been a prostitute.. There are more deaths, and Joanne's searching for answers turns up hints of child prostitution.

All the Joanne Kilbourn mysteries that I have read feature murders of very close friends or the cases involve close family relationships. It seems that it is dangerous to know Joanne. This is one of the problems I have with amateur sleuths. Yet her close involvement with the victims does lend validity to her decision to strike out on her own to find out more about the victims and the crimes.

Setting is very important in Bowen's books. The descriptions and use of the Saskatchewan locations are interesting and contribute to the feel of authenticity. The writing and characterization pulled me into the story.


Publisher:   McClelland & Stewart, 2011 (orig. pub. 1992)
Length:       214 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Joanne Kilbourn #3
Setting:      Saskatchewan, Canada
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy..

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Monuments Men (film)

Recently I reviewed the non-fiction book The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel.  As I said in my review, I had mixed feelings about the book. It wasn't an easy read but I liked learning about the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program and the efforts to preserve and recover pieces of art and other cultural artifacts during and following World War II.

My husband and I were interested in the film of the same name, a fictionalized version of events in the book. On initial viewing we were disappointed. I suspect that our expectations were too high. On a second viewing we enjoyed it more, even though it still has its problems.

The basic facts in the film are true. How the group was put together was fairly accurate although I think I read that George Stout did not get to choose the men he was working with. But a lot of dramatic license was taken with many of the events, and I did not care for that. It was a very light movie, with little substance.

The characters in the film do not have the names of the real persons who did the work. For most of the characters, you can make an educated guess as to which character in the movie corresponds to the real life person profiled in the book. In some cases, there was no correspondence.

The film would have been better served by using less well known actors. The character played by George Clooney in the film corresponded to George Stout and I think he fit the role very well. But pairing him with Matt Damon made portions of the film seem like another version of Ocean's Eleven. I love Bill Murray and Bob Balaban, and the other actors were very good, but I could not forget who they were and see them as real persons in a wartime setting. There was a lot of humor in the film. There is humor in real life too, but in this case I felt like it trivialized the importance of the story.

Cate Blanchette was marvelous in the role of Claire Simone, an employee at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris who had records of the location of many of the artifacts that were spirited out of Paris. The real-life person was Rose Valland, and I would have liked to see more of her role emphasized, without throwing in a hint at romantic involvement (which did not happen).

Overall, I am glad that both the book and the film adaptation are available. Many people who will not read the book might see the movie. I am glad this information is being publicized more, even though it would have been nice if it had been done when more of the original Monuments Men were still alive.

The most important thing for me to say about this film is that I wish my father could have seen it. My father was a World War II veteran who served in the Air National Guard for many years following the war. He was called up and sent to France and Germany for a year when the Berlin Wall went up. He was proud of serving his country and he loved art. He loved to go to museums and he visited several when he was in France and Germany that year. I have many childhood and adult memories of him looking through and reading books of European art and the history of World War II. He would have loved this film.

At this article asks How Accurate is The Monuments Men?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Monuments Men: Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter

The full title of this book is The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

At the beginning of the book, Robert M. Edsel describes the Monuments Men:
The Monuments Men were a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, or MFAA. Most of the early volunteers had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job description was simple: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.
... Of the initial sixty or so that served in the battlefields of North Africa and Europe through May 1945, the primary period covered by our story, most were middle- aged, with an average age of forty. The oldest was sixty- six, an “old and indestructible” World War I veteran; only five were still in their twenties. Most had established families and accomplished careers. But they had all chosen to join the war effort in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, and to a man they were willing to fight and die for what they believed. I am proud to introduce them to you and to tell, as best I can, their remarkable stories.
Finally I am reviewing this book two months after I finished reading it. I put it off because I had such mixed feeling about the book. I am very interested in World War II history in general and the looting of art in particular. I was glad to see this book get such wide attention so that more people would know about the Monuments Men. My husband introduced me to this subject; he was the one who bought the book, then gave it to me when he finished it. But I really had not understood the magnitude of the loss of art during World War II (both from personal collections and from museums and churches) until I saw the documentary The Rape of Europa.

The stories of individual men performing heroically to save art are amazing. I enjoyed the personal stories of the jobs and families the men left behind. Most of the men featured in this book volunteered for the work, and had to join the military and put their lives at risk to do it.

However, I did not find it a compelling read. It took me many months to finish it. Part of that is just because nonfiction in general is not an easy read for me. Many reviewers describe the writing style as plodding and tedious. Others loved the book. I suspect the level of enjoyment in reading this book may be somewhat dependent on knowledge and interest in the topic. Some reviews criticized the book because the author invented dialogue. I actually don't remember that so much.

I plan to read The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas, and then view the documentary again. Robert M. Edsel was a co-producer of the documentary.

We have watched the movie based on this book twice and I will be doing a post on that soon.

Other resources:

At the Smithsonian website.

Katie at Doing Dewey liked this book more than I did. As did Bill at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan.


Publisher:   Center Street, 2009
Length:       426 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Genre:       History, non-fiction
Source:      Received from my husband.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Darkest Hour: Katherine Howell

From the author's website:
Paramedic Lauren Yates stumbles into a world of trouble the night she discovers a killer and his victim in an inner Sydney alley. When the killer threatens to make her life hell if she tells the police what she’s seen, she believes him – he’s Thomas Werner, her sister’s violent ex, father to Lauren’s niece, and not a man to cross.
                But when another victim of a stabbing reveals to Lauren with his dying breath that Werner attacked him, too, she finds herself with blood on her hands and Detective Ella Marconi on her back. Ella is keen to cement her temporary placement in the homicide squad and views Lauren as the perfect witness for this latest murder because she can testify to the victim’s last words.
                Ella soon realises Lauren is hiding something, however, and while her colleagues label her suspicion an obsession, she begins her own investigation. But the harder Ella pushes, the more Lauren resists, and the worse the threat from Werner becomes, putting them both in increasingly serious jeopardy.
You can tell from the description above that the story is fairly complex. It is actually even more complex than the summary implies. The nearly 500 pages of the novel are packed and I have no complaints about that.

I read Katherine Howell's first book, Frantic, in one day, which is very unusual for me. This book was longer and I had less available time, so it took two or three days, but it still had good pacing and kept me eager to come back for more.

I like the format of the Ella Marconi series. Ella is the protagonist, but each book has a new paramedic as a main character. In these first two books, I do see a pattern of romance being an element in the paramedic's story, and I usually don't care for that aspect in mysteries. In this case it did not bother me.

These are definitely thrillers, but not so thrillerish as to be unrealistic. From the beginning we know the identity of the murderer, so the mystery is how the investigation will play out and how Lauren's family will fare as long as Thomas Werner is free.

To recap, the elements I like most are the fast pacing and the two storylines of the policewoman and the paramedic. The two main protagonists are strong women. Both are dedicated to their jobs and concerned about keeping their jobs. That is something I can understand.

Katherine Howell is an Australian crime writer who worked as a paramedic for 15 years. Per the author's website, Tell the Truth, the eighth book in the Ella Marconi series, will be released in Australia on 1st February 2015.

See other reviews at: Reactions to Reading, Mysteries in Paradise, and Petrona


Publisher:   Pan Books, 2009 (orig. pub. 2008)
Length:      495 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Ella Marconi #2
Setting:      Sydney, Australia
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:      I purchased this book.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reading in January and Pick of the Month

January was a good reading month for me, both in numbers and in quality. I also started working on some of my goals for the year.

The 39 Steps was my book for the 1915 crime fiction of the year challenge (hosted at Past Offences). It also started me on the path to reading a book for every year between 1915 and 2015. Moira at Clothes in Books suggested this approach to the Books of the Century challenge, rather than starting at the beginning of the 20th century, which sounded much too challenging to me. The second book I read this year -- As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust -- was published in 2015. A nice start to the year.

Another goal was to get back to reading mysteries by Agatha Christie, and my first for this year was The Secret of Chimneys. This was the first time I had encountered Superintendent Battle. I read three books by Canadian authors, finally making a dent in my goal of reading 13 Canadian books between July 2014 and June 2015 for the 8th Annual Canadian Books Challenge. These books were: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, The Calling, and The Wandering Soul Murders.

I am currently participating in the TBR Double Dare Challenge at James Reads Books. In that challenge I am aiming to read only from my TBR mountain of books through the month of March 2015. I had no problem with this in 2014, and I found it very fulfilling. The only book I read this month that wasn't from my TBR pile was As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, which was an ARC from NetGalley. That category was my exception but only if I had committed to the books before January 1, 2015. Unlocked and Lock In were both purchased late in December 2014, and I like to stick with books that have been in the piles longer than that. But that does fit the definition of the challenge and I was hot to read those books and I needed a Sci Fi book for the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings, which ended January 31, 2015.

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot. I read two short stories, one by Roald Dahl and one by Ruth Rendell, for the Deal Me In 2015 short story challenge at Bibliophilopolis. I am very happy that I joined that challenge.

I also love reading mystery reference books. This month I finished Paperback Confidential: Crime Writers of the Paperback Era by Brian Ritt. I enjoyed this book and expect to refer back to it again and again. I plan to review this book, but just in case it takes me a long time to get to it, here is a description from the Stark House website:
132 profiles of the men and women who wrote the books that became the backbone of the Pulp and Paperback Era from the 1930s through the 1960s. Each profile contains details about the author's life and explores key works, with special attention paid to series characters. Also covered are screenplay and teleplay work, as well as movies based on the authors' stories. 
The books I read this month (with links to reviews):

The 39 Steps by John Buchan
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
Villain by Shuichi Yoshida
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi
Lock In by John Scalzi
The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
Paperback Confidential: Crime Writers of the Paperback Era by Brian Ritt
The Wandering Soul Murders by Gail Bowen

The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. You can go HERE to see more summary posts for the month and choices for favorite crime fiction reads.

This month, it was easy to narrow it down to one novel as my favorite crime fiction read this month. That novel is Lock In by John Scalzi. This is a thriller set in the near future. I have liked other books by this author in the past, and he did not disappoint me this time.