Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Reading Summary for March 2021

I read eight books in March, in addition to short stories from various sources. One of the books was nonfiction, and the remaining were crime fiction. Of the crime fiction books I read in March, four were vintage mysteries (before 1960) and three were contemporary novels. This was another month where I read three books by Agatha Christie, all in the Hercule Poirot series. I am very close to finishing all the novels in that series. 

Nonfiction / Self Help

Essential: Essays by The Minimalists (2012) by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

This book could be considered self help or personal development, with a little bit of philosophy thrown in. The authors of this book have a blog, The Minimalists, which has been going for over ten years now. If you are at all interested in minimalism, this book may be interesting. 

Crime Fiction

Cat Among the Pigeons (1959) by Agatha Christie

This novel in the Hercule Poirot series is set primarily at the prestigious Meadowbank School for Girls in England, but the action begins with international intrigue in the fictional country of Ramat. I enjoyed the story. My review is here.

Three Act Tragedy (1934) by Agatha Christie

This is the ninth Hercule Poirot novel, following Murder on the Orient Express. There is a large cast of characters, but the main ones are the renowned actor, Sir Charles Cartwright, now retired; Mr. Satterthwaite, his friend; Dr. Bartholomew Strange, a specialist in nervous disorders; and Miss "Egg" Lytton Gore. The gentlemen are all older; Miss Lytton Gore is a much younger friend. The structure is like a play; the first act is Suspicion, the second act is Certainly, and the third act is Discovery. This began too slowly for me but I ended up liking it overall.

Dead Man's Folly (1956) by Agatha Christie

This was the third Hercule Poirot novel that featured Ariadne Oliver, the mystery writer, as a character. In this case, she has been invited to run a Murder Hunt game for the village summer fête, and Poirot is invited to give the prizes away. Miss Oliver has a key role in the story, but she shows up at the beginning, fades into the background for a good while, and then comes back to help a bit at the end. As always, a good read, but not one of Christie's best.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street (2013) by Adrian McKinty

This is the second book in the Sean Duffy series set in Belfast in the early 1980's, during the Irish Troubles. I read this for Reading Ireland Month at 746books. Based on these two books, it is a very good series. My review is here.

The Secret Place (2014) by Tana French

This is the fifth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series and my second read for Reading Ireland Month.  I have enjoyed all the books in the series, so far. My review is here.

Stage Fright (2003) by Christine Poulson

This is the second book in a series about academic Cassandra James, the head of the English Department at Cambridge University's St. Ethelreda's College. In this one, the story centers around a stage production of East Lynne. I loved this story; the characters are fantastic, the pacing is good, and there is just enough tension. See my review here.

The Rubber Band (1936) by Rex Stout

This is the third book in the Nero Wolfe series, and I have read it several times. This time I read it in preparation for the 1936 Club and will be reviewing it soon.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Malice: Keigo Higashino

Description from the book cover:

Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he's planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.

At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka's best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka.

This story is told in first person by two different characters. One is the policeman investigating the murder and the other is a suspect, Osamu Nonoguchi, a friend of the victim. 

I liked the way the story was written; the structure is unusual. The first six chapters alternate between the suspect's written account of his activities (and thoughts) and Detective Kaga's accounts of the investigation. There is a chapter of interviews from people who knew Hidaka and Nonoguchi when they were middle school students. Then the last two chapters are Detective Kaga's accounts as he wraps up the investigation. 

Malice is not a thriller, but more of a character study. The investigation takes Detective Kaga back to the school days of the victim and his friend. The novel explores the how and why of the murder less than who did it. I like this kind of story and it was a very satisfying read. 

My husband read this book shortly after it was published in the US in 2014. Here is his review at Goodreads:

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


In Japan, ten novels featuring Detective Kyoichiro Kaga have been published. This is the 4th book in the series but only the first book translated to English. The eighth book in the series, Newcomer, has also been translated into English. 

This was the second book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2014 (orig. pub. 1996)
Translator:  Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
Length:       276 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Kyoichiro Kaga, #4
Setting:       Japan
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Borrowed from my husband.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: A Tale about a Tiger and Other Mysterious Events by S.J. Rozan

In 2009, Crippen & Landru published nine of S. J. Rozan's early short stories in A Tale about a Tiger and Other Mysterious Events. The stories in that collection were first published between 1994 and 2001. I recently purchased a hardback edition of that book and have since read four of the stories. 

S.J. Rozan is the author of the Lydia Chin / Bill Smith mystery series. That is one my favorite contemporary mystery series. Bill Smith is a white private investigator in his forties who lives in Manhattan; Lydia Chin is an American-born Chinese private investigator in her late twenties who lives in New York’s Chinatown with her mother.  They are not partners but they often work together on cases. The element that I have always liked about this series is that the narrator of the books alternates. The first book was narrated by Lydia; the second book was narrated by Bill; and so on.

In A Tale about a Tiger and Other Mysterious Events, six of the stories feature either Lydia Chin or Bill Smith or both. These are the four stories I have read:

  • "Film at Eleven" features both Lydia and Bill; they are hired to expose a murderer who was acquitted when he was tried for the crime. 
  • "A Tale about a Tiger" is the longest story at 41 pages. Shun Shang Xian sells Chinese herbal remedies. He wants Lydia to find a man who is illegally hunting and killing tigers to use in bogus remedies. Lydia brings in Bill to help.
  • In "Hoops", Bill is hired to prove that a high school basketball player did not kill his girlfriend and then commit suicide.
  • The fourth story I read, "Seeing the Moon," did not feature Lydia or Bill. It was set in the art world.

I enjoyed reading more about Lydia Chin and Bill Smith in the short story format. 

Here is a list of the stories:

  • "Film at Eleven", pp 9-41 (Chin and Smith)
  • "Hoops", pp 42-74 (Smith)
  • "Seeing the Moon", pp 75-93 (Jack Lee)
  • "Passline", pp 94‑108
  • "Night Court", pp 109‑114 
  • "Subway", pp 115‑143 (Chin)
  • "A Tale about a Tiger", pp 144‑186  (Chin and Smith)
  • "Childhood", pp 187-213  (Smith)
  • "Double-Crossing Delancey", pp 214‑240 (Chin)

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Secret Place: Tana French

From the book cover:

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls' boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. 

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder Squad–and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. "The Secret Place," a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.


Holly Mackey, daughter of a policeman and student at St. Kilda's, brings the new piece of evidence to Stephen Moran, a detective in the Cold Cases division who would really rather be in the Murder Squad. Stephen and Holly have a previous relationship from an earlier case that her father, Frank Mackey, was personally involved in.

Stephen takes the information to Conway in the Murder Squad, who was the primary on the case the year before. They immediately go to St. Kilda's, and start interviewing the girls who had access to The Secret Place at the relevant time. 

The action all takes place in one day. The story is told in alternating narratives. The first is in first person, from the point of view of Stephen Moran. The second narrative (in third person present tense) follows the eight girls, boarders at the school, in the year leading up to the crime and all the way up the point where Holly turns in the photo.

First I will start with what I liked about the book. I especially like the characters in French's books; sometimes it seems like the character exploration is just as important as solving the mystery. Most of the eight students that are important to the story are interesting. Scary kids, not what I remember teenage girls being like when I was in a very non-posh high school in Alabama (in the 1960s), but still interesting. Miss McKenna, headmistress of the school, is a good character. Her primary concern is the reputation of the school, and she is having a very bad day. We don't see a lot of her, but she is important to the plot.

The depiction of the two detectives is very well done. Stephen Moran is the narrator of the portion of the story about the investigation and the interrogations. We know about his goals, his fears, and his good and bad points (at least from his point of view). The reader knows less about Antoinette Conway because we are getting only Stephen's assessment of her and the situation, but she is an intriguing character and she grew on me. And then there is Holly's father, Frank, a policeman in the Undercover Division, who becomes involved later in the story. He is quite a character.

The school setting is excellent. The school takes boarders, the girls board four to a room, and there are two sets of four very close friends that are under suspicion. The girls' families are mostly very well-to-do and the girls are used to getting what they want. 

The rest of my comments are more neutral than negative...

I feel emotionally wrung out when I finish books by Tana French. The ending is usually a downer. The murder is solved, life goes on, but no one ends up happy at the end. That is OK now and then but I would not want a steady diet of that kind of reading.

This book was about 450 pages and took me five days to read. The pacing was good but I had to really focus to keep up with all the characters and the two alternating narratives. 

I do have a bone to pick with the author related to the introduction of some supernatural elements that never seemed to go anywhere or fit into the book. That distracted me and nearly took me out the story completely. However, some readers liked that aspect a lot.

Yet, regardless of any criticisms I have, overall this was a good book, rewarding and with good character development. I liked it a lot. I think I would enjoy rereading this someday. 

See Moira's review at Clothes in Books, John's review at Goodreads, Barbara Fister's review at Reviewing the Evidence.

This is my second read for Reading Ireland Month at Cathy's blog at 746books.


Publisher: Viking, 2014
Length:    452 pages
Format:    Hardcover
Series:     Dublin Murder Squad
Setting:    Dublin, Ireland
Genre:     Police Procedural
Source:   Purchased in August 2020.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Stage Fright: Christine Poulson

 Description from Christine Poulson's web site ...

During her maternity leave, Cambridge academic Cassandra James gets involved in a production of EAST LYNNE. There is as much drama behind the scenes as there is on stage. The director is desperate to revive his flagging career. The maker of a fly-on-the-wall documentary is equally desperate to launch his. The crisis is reached when the leading lady disappears before the first night. Cassandra thinks it is more than stage fright, for Melissa has left six-month-old Agnes behind. Cassandra’s struggles to uncover the truth lead her deeper and deeper in a maze of illusion and deceit. Someone close at hand is not what they seem. Cassandra and her baby are in grave danger . . .

Professor Cassandra James is the head of the English Department at Cambridge University's St. Ethelreda's College. As this book starts, she is working with a theater group that is putting on a version of East Lynne, a Victorian sensation novel by Ellen Wood. Cassandra has rewritten the play to modernize it, and thus is taking part in the rehearsals. Shortly before opening night, the leading lady disappears. 

Melissa, the leading lady, is Cassandra's friend. They have bonded because their babies were both born prematurely at the same time and were in the hospital together. Thus when Melissa disappears, her husband Kevin (also the director of the play) calls Cassandra, thinking she may know something about her disappearance. He has to worry about his wife, the care of their infant daughter, and how to continue with the play, all at the same time. And he is suspected by the police when Melissa isn't located quickly.

My thoughts:

I loved everything about this book. Cassandra narrates the story. She seems like a real person, with faults and fears. She also is portrayed well as the mother of a young baby. Sometimes it seems like in fiction the child disappears and you don't get the feeling of the mother / child bond or the responsibilities that go with it. You always know that the baby comes first with Cassandra, and also see the fatigue and concerns of a 39-year-old new mother. 

Cassanda lives on the fens near Cambridge, a beautiful setting that is used very well. Kirkus described this book as "an academic cozy with attitude." There isn't a lot of violence but plenty of tension, which builds towards the end. I was surprised by the resolution of the story, and thought it was very effective.

The theatrical setting is an added bonus, with descriptions of the restored theatre, the rehearsals, and the way the play seems like it will never come together and then it does at the end. 

I have to admit that I did not know much about East Lynne, the novel or it stage and film versions. So of course I looked it up and that was interesting too.

This is the second book in a series of three. You can read and enjoy this one without reading the first one, but I do recommend reading the first one, Murder is Academic. They are both excellent books, in a lovely setting. 

This book fits in with the theme of Reading the Theatre at Entering the Enchanted Castle. Check out more on that topic here.

Also see reviews of Stage Fright at Clothes in Books, I Prefer Reading, and Reviewing the Evidence.


Publisher:   Thomas Dunne Books, 2005 (orig. pub. 2003)
Length:       240 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Cassandra James, #2
Setting:      Cambridge
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Three Stories from Cosmic Corsairs

I first heard about this book at Rick Robinson's blog, Tip the Wink. I loved the idea of space pirates. I haven't read a lot of science fiction, so I had not encountered space pirates in my reading. Rick also generously sent me his copy of this short story collection to read. The stories are very good so far.

From the back of the book:

Rousing adventure, derring-do, brave heroes battling scurvy galactic vermin: we have here a treasure chest of tales of the greatest pirate adventure grounds of all time—the unruly outer reaches of space itself!

Do ye long for adventure in the far reaches, matey? Do ye yearn for space and treasure? Well, come aboard! Your crewmates include Robert Silverberg, Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, Larry Niven, Fritz Leiber, Sarah A. Hoyt, James H. Schmitz, and more.

Cosmic Corsairs was edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio. There are 15 stories in this book. Seven were published for the first time after 2000, some of those published for the first time in this book. The other eight stories were published in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1980's. Thus, a lot of variety.

So far I have read only three of the stories.

"Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette was first published in Fast Ships, Black Sails (2008). Black Alice Bradley is an engineer on the Lavinia Whateley, a pirate spaceship and a living creature. Alice feels protective towards the spaceship, and has nicknamed her Vinnie. After taking on risky cargo from another ship, the crew and the Lavinia Whateley are in danger from other alien ships. Alice tries to protect Vinnie and herself.

"A Relic of the Empire" by Larry Niven is part of Niven's Known Space Universe. Dr. Richard Schultz-Mann is a xenobiologist doing some research on a planet. Some pirates in an old spaceship stop by and try to extort some information from him. The pirates have superior manpower and weapons; Mann has knowledge of the planet and the environment on his side.

“Postmark Ganymede” by Robert Silverberg was first published in Amazing Stories, September 1957. This was a fun story, less serious than the other two. Preston has been moved from the Space Patrol Service to the Postal Service, and he is mad. He will be delivering mail to the colony on Gannymede. This becomes more challenging than he expected.

My favorite story of these three is "A Relic of the Empire." Lots of good stories left to read.

See George Kelley's review of Cosmic Corsairs for comments on more of the stories and a list of the stories.

Monday, March 15, 2021

I Hear the Sirens in the Street: Adrian McKinty

Back in August 2018, I read the first book in the Sean Duffy series, The Cold Cold Ground, set in Belfast in the early 1980's, during the Irish Troubles. I Hear the Sirens in the Street is the second book in the series, which was originally intended to be a trilogy, but has stretched out to six books. Duffy is a Catholic cop in a primarily Protestant police force. 

Synopsis from the author's website...

Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close. Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood – however faint – that always, always connects a body to its killer. A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance. So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat …

This novel is a great read. Sean Duffy is a likable character, a good cop who always wants to solve his case, to the point of stubbornness and ignoring the instructions of his superiors. There are lots of references to the events and fads of the times, and music and books that he enjoys.

The Falklands War begins during this novel, which does help place this story in the context of the time setting, at least for someone like me who was an adult at the time.

There are the grim realities of the life of a "peeler" (policeman) in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This is Sean getting ready for a day at work:

I turned off the radio, made coffee, dressed in a black polo neck sweater, jeans and DM shoes, went outside. I checked under the BMW for any mercury tilt explosives but didn’t find any. Right about now seven thousand RUC men and women were all doing the same thing. One or two of them would find a bomb and after shitting their pants they’d be on the phone to the bomb squad, thanking their lucky stars that they’d kept to their morning routine.

I stuck on the radio and listened to Brian Eno on the short drive to the barracks. Wasn’t a big fan of Eno but it was either that or the news and I couldn’t listen to the news. Who could, apart from those longing for the end times.

The solving of the crime is somewhat problematic, as the case drags on and on and Sean won't let go of it. That does lead him to getting involved with John DeLorean, by way of Sir Harry McAlpine, who is related to a man whose death they are investigating. I was not familiar with the story of DeLorean and his car factory in Northern Ireland, near Belfast. So that part was very interesting, and I looked up more about John DeLorean when I was done with the book.

So, I really enjoyed this book. A decent mystery, and I gained more understanding of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and learned about John DeLorean. Of course, this leaves me wanting to get the third book in the series... and I don't need to be adding any more books to my TBR piles.

There are lots of reviews available but I wanted to share Rob Kitchin's review from 2013, at The View from the Blue House.

It is Reading Ireland Month at Cathy's blog at 746books and this is my first read for that event. I picked a very good read for that event, and soon I will be starting The Secret Place by Tana French.


Publisher:  Seventh Street Books, 2013.
Length:      318 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Sean Duffy #2
Setting:      Belfast, Northern Ireland
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      Purchased at the Planned Parenthood booksale, 2019.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Cat Among the Pigeons: Agatha Christie

This novel in the Hercule Poirot series is set primarily at the prestigious Meadowbank School for Girls in England, but the action begins with international intrigue in the fictional country of Ramat. Prince Ali Yusuf and his pilot, Bob Rawlinson, are plotting their escape from the revolution that is brewing in Ramat. Bob is entrusted with Prince Ali's jewels, which he is to bring out of the country, to keep them out of the opposition's hands and to deliver them to someone outside of the country. The two story lines come together, although the focus is on the girls school setting.

In the paperback edition that I read, there were 350 pages and Hercule Poirot shows up after 250 pages. That is a pretty late entry for our hero. I did like the way he is pulled into the story, which I won't reveal because it is too close to a spoiler, but it makes sense that he can't come in before that. In fact, that part of the story is a high point in the novel for me. There is a lovely reference to an earlier novel. Yet I still missed his presence in the earlier parts of this story.

I enjoyed this book, but there are some negatives. There are a total of 33 novels featuring Hercule Poirot and, even though I love Poirot, all of them cannot be at the highest level. I would rate this one lower. I loved the girls school setting, but the espionage story was a bit too unrealistic for me. And there were too many coincidences. However, Cat Among the Pigeons still had lots to like. 

Julia Upjohn and Jennifer Sutcliffe, two students at the school, are very good characters, and I liked their letters home which moved the plot along. Julia is clever and notices things, Jennifer is more focused on herself, but together they are a good pair. Julia's mother is a good character also, although with a very small part to play. I liked the references to her traveling by bus in Anatolia... which I thought was a fictional place but actually existed.

Miss Bulstrode, the impressive head mistress, is dedicated to the school but looking to retire and to find a replacement. It is through her thoughts about this process that we learn many tidbits about the faculty and staff and the running of a school. 

Robert Barnard describes the book in A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie (1980)...

"Girls' school background surprisingly well done, with humour and some liberality of outlook. Some elements are reminiscent of Tey's Miss Pym Disposes. Marred by the international dimension and the spy element, which do not jell with the traditional detective side. Fairly typical example of her looser, more relaxed style."

Do I recommend this book? I do, although I would not recommend it for someone starting out reading Christie or the Poirot series. Christie always has something to offer, and many reviewers count this among their favorite books by Christie.

For other viewpoints or more details about the story, see reviews at Clothes in Books, crossexaminingcrime, and ahsweetmysteryblog


Publisher: Berkley Books, 2000. Orig. pub. 1959.
Length: 352 pages
Format: Paperback
Series:  Hercule Poirot
Setting: UK
Genre:  Mystery
Source: Purchased in January, 2021.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Bullets and Other Hurting Things, edited by Rick Ollerman

From the description at Down & Out Books:

In a career spanning nearly four decades, Bill Crider published more than sixty crime fiction, westerns, horror, men’s adventure and YA novels. In this collection 20 of today’s best and brightest, all friends and fans of Bill’s, come together with original stories to pay tribute to his memory. Authors include: William Kent Krueger, Bill Pronzini, Joe R. Lansdale, Patricia Abbott, Ben Boulden, Michael Bracken, Jen Conley, Brendan DuBois, Charlaine Harris, David Housewright, Kasey Lansdale, Angela Crider Neary, James Reasoner, James Sallis, Terry Shames, S. A. Solomon, Sara Paretsky, Robert J. Randisi, SJ Rozan, and Eryk Pruitt.

I personally have enjoyed books from Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and a Western, Outrage at Blanco, set in Texas in 1887. I was happy to see this book of short stories honoring him.

I started reading this book of short stories on Monday. I have only read six of the stories but they are all good, so that bodes well for the rest of them.

In "Innocence" by William Kent Krueger...

Nick and his 4-year-old daughter Pet (short for Petula) are traveling in Minnesota. They stop at a motor court in a tourist town. They meet a pretty waitress, and Nick daydreams about staying with her, settling down, fishing at the lake together. But there are other considerations ....

In "Night Games" by Bill Pronzini...

Brennan is an investigator who  specializes in industrial espionage, and is willing to cross the line when necessary. He is searching for his quarry and the money he has taken on a small island off the coast of Washington.

In "Promise Me" by Joe R. Lansdale 

Two hit men are planning to kill an accountant who has taken a large amount of money from the company he works for. Surprisingly, he is at his house waiting for them. The ending was very good.

In "Pretty Girl from Michigan" by Patricia Abbott

Chet Plummer, Chief of Police in West Lebanon, Michigan, is looking into the brutal murder of pretty Lena Lefkowski, who worked in the pet department of Grueber's Department Store. Although he has to call in detectives from Traverse City to help out, in the end he solves the crime with a little help from his mother. I loved this story; it was very clever.

In "Asia Divine" by Ben Boulden

Detective Mike Giles of the Tooele County Sheriff's Office in Utah is investigating the death of a woman whose body was left in a bus in a junkyard. This story includes two of Bill Crider's favorite things, Dr. Pepper and alligators.

After reading the first five stories, I checked out the next to last story in the book by S. J. Rozan, "Chin Yong-Yun Finds a Kitten." 

This one surprised me. It isn't even really a crime story. I am a big fan of S. J. Rozan's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series, but I did not recognize immediately that Chin Yong-Yun from the title was Lydia Chin's mother. This is an entertaining and fun story, told in first person narration by Chin Yong-Yun and it was good to see her character fleshed out more. However, I don't think you need to be familiar with the character previously to enjoy the story.

Of course I will be continuing to read the stories in this book over the next few weeks, and I encourage you to find a copy and read them too. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Reading in February 2021

February was another good reading month. Out of the ten books I read, nine were fiction. Eight were crime fiction, and one was general fiction, a classic of Canadian literature. I read one nonfiction book, a book about books combined with memoir, and completed my second book for the Japanese Literature challenge.

I have been reading lots of books in the Hercule Poirot series lately, and I have tried to limit myself to three a month, but in February I actually read four of them. It is getting so that the plots run together (or maybe it is the titles). It has been a lot of fun though. We have watched the Suchet adaptations of all of the Poirot books I read this month.


The End of Your Life Book Club (2012) by Will Schwalbe

I bought this book mainily because it was a book about books, including various books that the author discussed with his mother while she was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. I did learn about some books and authors I hope to try some day. It was also a very moving book about the relationship between a son and his mother, and I liked that part as much as the discussion of books.  

General Fiction

The Stone Angel (1964) by Margaret Laurence

This book is the first in a series of five books about Manawaka, a fictional town in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Hagar Shipley, a 90-year-old woman with health issues, struggles against being put in a nursing home by her son and his wife. Throughout the book, she looks back on her life, her childhood in Manawaka, and the following years as she marries and has two sons. Hagar is bitter and cranky and has been that way most of her life, but I loved this book and would gladly reread it. This was my favorite book of the month.

Crime Fiction

Appointment with Death (1938) by Agatha Christie

This was the first Agatha Christie book I read this month. Very different from the norm. A family is taking a trip to Jerusalem and Jordan, and Poirot happens to hear two members of the family talking about killing someone. The Boynton family consists of a tyrannical mother and several children, most of them adults. There are some very interesting characters in the area at the same time, especially a young female doctor attracted to Raymond Boynton and an older male psychiatrist. 

Mrs. McGinty's Dead (1952) by Agatha Christie

I found so many things to like about this book from the Hercule Poirot series. Poirot's valet, George, and the mystery author, Ariadne Oliver are included in the story. There is lots of humor. My review is here.

Third Girl (1966) by Agatha Christie

This is a later Hercule Poirot novel, published in 1966. Many reviewers don't particularly care for this story. I will admit that there is at least one plot point which requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but apart from that I found it both a good mystery and an entertaining read. And it features Mrs. Oliver, a plus. I did not guess who did it, although my suspicions were close to the actual solution.

Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie

This was the last book I read in February; it was a  reread. We had just watched the Alfred Finney version of the film for the third time, and I could not remember how closely that adaptation adhered to the book, including Finney's portrayal of Poirot. There was little humor in the film, but the novel also has a more serious tone. This time I read my facsimile edition with the original cover art. My review of the book from 2012 is here.

Murder in the Place of Anubis (1994) by Lynda S. Robinson

This is the first book in a historical mystery series set in the ancient Egypt of the boy king Tutankhamun. I will be continuing to read the series. My review is here.

Detective Stories (1998) chosen by Philip Pullman

This book of short stories was aimed at introducing younger readers (9-11 years old) to mystery stories. However, most of the stories were originally written for adult readers. I found this book a treasure trove of stories by authors I had read or heard of but had not sampled their short stories. There were a few stories I did not care for at all but that is fairly common when reading short story anthologies. After all, each of us has different tastes in stories. This post summarizes my thoughts on the book and links to some overviews of stories in the book.

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (1931) by Georges Simenon

This is the first book by Georges Simenon that I have read in many years. I enjoyed it and am encouraged to continuing reading his books. My review of this book is here.

Malice (1996) by Keigo Higahino

This mystery is a police procedural but the structure is different from most mystery novels. The story alternates between one of the suspect's written account of his actions related to the crime, and Detective Kyoichiro Kaga's notes. It is a very complex story and a satisfying mystery. This was the second book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.