Sunday, October 31, 2021

Skeleton Key: Jane Haddam

This book is the 16th book in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. I read this book in October because the story is set at Halloween. It starts on October 27th and continues through to the end of October, so the holiday atmosphere is there although not necessarily any celebrations. So it really wasn't very Halloweeny, not spooky or creepy, but a good mystery. This was a reread and it was a good choice from the series. 

Kayla Anson is a very very rich 19-year-old heiress; her father left his entire fortune to her, writing her mother, Margaret Anson, out of the will. She lives with her mother in a mansion, but only until she can get away to college. She and her mother hate each other. Bennis Hannaford, a well-known fantasy writer, also from a very rich family, is visiting Margaret to request the loan of a piece of art for a showing in Philadelphia. Bennis doesn't like Margaret very much either. While staying at Margaret's house, Bennis finds Kayla's dead body in the Anson's garage. So Bennis is stuck in Litchfield, Connecticut for a while, although it is pretty clear she had nothing to do with the death.

Bennis calls in Gregor Demarkian, her lover, and volunteers him to work with the Resident Trooper in Littlefield to be a consultant on the investigation. Gregor is a well-known retired ex-FBI profiler, so he is always welcome as a consultant. 

This series started out sort of on the cozy side, with some kind of focus on a holiday in each book, but later in the series the books became darker and more focused on issues. Skeleton Key is the last book (I think) to have a holiday focus. Bennis's and Gregor's continuing relationship always plays a part. They both live in the Armenian-American neighborhood in Philadelphia that he grew up in, and that area is sometimes a focus of the books, but not this one.

Except for the first book, Not a Creature was Stirring, every book in the series starts with several vignettes featuring characters who are prominent in the story and may or may not be suspects. Thus we get an introduction early in the book to the key players. Unusually, in this case, the lead up to the murder takes place in that first section, and Bennis and Gregor are involved from the very beginning. 

The setting in this case is a small town in Connecticut, but this small town has a lot of rich residents, and the country club is the focus of the social life of those people. Young female friends of Kayla Anson are at the age to be debutantes but their parents are more excited about that than the girls. Because of the small town setting, there is a good cross-section of character types involved in the crime, if only on the periphery of it. And that is fascinating. 

In the end, Gregor is able to identify the person guilty of the crime and knows why, but there is no evidence to convict the culprit. This is probably fairly realistic but not very satisfying. Still, the other elements of the story are entertaining and kept me interested until the end. Fortunately I remembered none of the story so it all felt new to me.

I started reading this series in 2005 and read the first twenty books in a short time. Since then I have only read four more in the series. There are six books left and I want to read more of them. 

Jane Haddam is the pseudonym of Orania Papazoglou. She wrote five novels in a different series and two standalone novels under that name. She was married to William L. DeAndrea, who also wrote several mystery series and standalone novels.

Another good read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).


Publisher:   St. Martin's Press, 2001 (orig. pub. 2000)
Length:      359 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Gregor Demarkian, #16
Setting:      Litchfield, Connecticut
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Ray Bradbury

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are young boys, aged thirteen years old, and ready for some new experiences. Will is more cautious, Jim is willing to take chances. When a carnival arrives in town after midnight, they escape from their bedrooms and watch it being set up. They gradually see the evil in the carnival that can change people and transform them into unrecognizable versions of themselves. 

The carnival that threatens the town is Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, and the main antagonist is Mr. Dark, or the Illustrated Man, who can control the freaks in the carnival via his tattoos. He works in league with the Dust Witch, and their goal is to gather more souls to power the carnival. And the carnival has an especially scary merry-go-round that can add or take away years from a person's life.

Will's dad, Mr. Charles Halloway, is a quiet and melancholic man. On this occasion he steps up and helps the boys and the town out of a very scary situation. 

My Thoughts...

The set up of the situation in the first half of this book did not hold my interest. It was too poetic and too drawn out. At the middle point as the situation turns from bad to worse and Mr. Halloway is alerted to the problem, I got more interested and the story finally pulled me in. However, I never did get fully immersed and sense the horror of the situation.

I liked the themes of childhood, aging, parenthood. Although books are not a big part of the story, scenes set at the library where Will's dad works are prominent in the story.

This is my husband's book and he loves it. The gorgeous, poetic descriptions work very well for him. He especially likes the small town setting in autumn.

What I learned from reading this: I should have started with another novel or a book of short stories from Bradbury's works. In a Reading Pathways article for Bradbury works, Something Wicked this Way Comes was the last book on the list due to its difficulty and complexity. The first book on the list was The Halloween Tree, a children's book by Bradbury, which I read and reviewed three years ago. It was also more on the poetic side but a lovely children's story. Many years ago I read Fahrenheit 451, but I have forgotten much about it and plan to reread it. 

Next year maybe I will try some of Bradbury's short stories, such as The October Country (suggested by Rick Robinson at Tip the Wink) or The Martian Chronicles.

Another good read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).


Publisher:  William Morrow, 2001. Orig. pub. 1962.
Length:     289 pages
Format:     Hardcover
Setting:     Illinois
Genre:      Fantasy / Horror
Source:     Borrowed from my husband.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Thirteenth Tale: Diane Setterfield

Vida Winter is an author who has had much success in her writing. She has also always concealed the truth about her past–her birth, her childhood, and how she escaped her past. At the time this novel begins, she is old and facing death, and she has decided to tell the true story of her origins. She picks Margaret Lea to write the story. Margaret has written short biographies of a few authors; Vida has researched her and thinks that they could work well together. 

Margaret lives with her mother and father and works in her father's antiquarian book store in London. She enjoys what she does and has not looked for any life outside of the book store and her family, even though she and her mother have a strained relationship. 

Vida Winter writes to Margaret requesting that she write her biography. Margaret visits Vida at her home in Yorkshire. The project is intriguing, but Margaret does not know how much to trust to Vida's veracity. She knows that Vida has invented many stories about her life. Margaret also has mysteries in her life, mysteries she would like to solve. Eventually she is convinced to write Vida's biography and to live with her while they are working on it.

There are two narratives in The Thirteenth Tale. Vida narrates the story of her family and her childhood during sessions with Margaret. Margaret narrates her story of working with Vida to write the biography and her separate research on Vida's past and her home, Angelfield, plus her research into the mysteries in her own life. 

My thoughts:

I have long had the idea that I don't like gothic novels. Maybe my tastes have changed or broadened, but lately I have read several books with gothic elements and enjoyed them a lot. The Thirteenth Tale was a page turner, although parts of it moved slowly. It took me a while to read although it was only a bit over 400 pages long. I loved the journey that Margaret takes to uncover the mysteries in her life and in Vida's, and I loved the ending. It was a very emotional reading experience for me. And the writing was very good; it was a joy to read.

I have read that this book borrows heavily from several classic books (such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Rebecca). Any of those that I read were read long ago, so I did not recognize this. And I am not sure why this would be a bad thing. Obviously, with one main character being a writer and the other working in a book store (and very serious about her reading time), this is a book that will appeal to book lovers, with lots of references to books and authors. 

I was not sure which genre this book fits in. I think it was marketed as a mystery and many readers at Goodreads categorize it that way. There are mysterious elements and there is a crime, but there is no investigation of a crime. There are elements of romance, but that element doesn't overwhelm the story. Just enough romance for me. 

This was another good read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).


Publisher:  Atria Books, 2006.
Length:    406 pages
Format:    Hardcover
Setting:    UK, London, Yorkshire
Genre:     Gothic Mystery
Source:    On my TBR for 15 years.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "Lantern Marsh" by Poppy Z. Brite

This is my kind of sweet, tame Halloween tale. Not too scary, but a little creepy. And with an environmental message on the side.

The story begins:

"The marsh brooded on the outskirts of town. We children sometimes played there during the day, poling flat-bottomed boats through the dark water, choked with swamp hyacinth, stranding ourselves on any of the hundreds of tiny islands. By day the marsh was a place of filtering, shifting patches of sunlight, cypress and live oak bearded with Spanish moss...

At night the lanterns took over."

Three kids (Bronwen, Phil, and Noel) live in Lantern Marsh, a town near a beautiful marsh. All of them are intrigued by the marsh, but Noel is obsessed with the marsh and its lights. Every night the lights hover above the marsh. The teachers say that it is caused by marsh gas, but none of the kids believes that.

Noel also despises a local businessman, Mr. Prudhomme, who owns half the marsh and wants to take it over and develop the land. Years later, when they go off to college, Mr. Prudhomme very nearly succeeds at doing this, but Nick carries through on his promise to stop the development. The ending is mildly creepy.

I read this story in Halloween Horrors. That book is a 2010 reprint of October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, ed. by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish, published in 2000.

I also read a few more stories from this anthology, but none of those engaged me. They were not bad, just not the type of story I enjoy. Some combine horror with sadness, some were bland and somewhat silly. I will probably put this book on the shelf and try more stories in it next year.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

#1976Club: A Little Local Murder

Robert Barnard (1936 – 2013) was a British author who published mysteries from 1974 through 2012. He wrote over 40 novels and I have read about half of them. A Little Local Murder was his second novel. I selected it for the 1976 Club because I want to compare it to books he wrote after 2000. 

From the Pan Macmillan website, here is a description for a 2016 reprint of A Little Local Murder:

The news that Radio Broadwich is to make a documentary on Twytching for broadcast in America spreads through the small village like wildfire. Mrs Deborah Withens, Twytching's resident doyenne and arbiter of good taste, takes it upon herself to control the presentation of her 'county town' and assumes responsibility for picking those that will take part, provoking fierce rivalry amongst the villagers.

One resident who is reticent to participate in the fuss is Inspector George Parrish . . . until the murder of the first villager chosen, and a rash of poison pen letters uncovering secrets Twytching's leading citizens had fervently hoped were buried, force him to get involved. 

Mrs. Withins, the snobby wife of the Council Chairman, is determined that Twytching should be considered a town, not a village, but this is the quintessential village mystery. The village is filled with characters from a Midsomer Murders episode – gossips, a dotty vicar, and my favorite, a snarky supercilious school teacher. And this book was written well before Caroline Graham's books or the TV show. (Note: I do love Midsomer Murders; we are rewatching the entire series for the third time.) 

My favorite characters in this story are the policemen in the village – Inspector Parrish, Sergeant Stephen Feathers, and Sergeant Betty Underwood. That may be because the reader gets more insight into those characters, especially Inspector Parrish. None of them have a lot of experience with murder cases and they make a few mistakes along the way, but Inspector Parrish has a good handle on the case and the people he is dealing with. The process of tracking down those who received the poison pen letters and their connection to the murder was quite entertaining.

Barnard has written many different kinds of standalone mysteries. Some are satires and more humorous and light; some are serious and dark. Often the characters are quirky and somewhat unsympathetic, as in this book. But almost always the ending is a complete surprise. And this one has a fantastic ending, very unexpected and chilling.

Barnard also wrote two mystery series, both police procedurals. I have enjoyed books from both of those series.

Thanks to Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings for hosting the 1976 Club this week.


Publisher:   Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983 (orig. publ. 1976)
Length:      190 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      UK, a small village
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Classics Club Spin #28

The latest Classics Club Spin has been announced. I have chosen twenty books from my classics list. This list of twenty books is the same as my last Spin List, with only one addition to replace the book I read for the last spin. 

It may be difficult for me to fit in a book from my classics list during November because I am going to be focusing on novellas for Novellas in November. Most of the books on this list of twenty are short, quick reads, so maybe that won't be a problem.

On Sunday 17th October, 2021, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The goal is to read whatever book falls under that number on my Spin List by 12th December, 2021.

So, here is my list of 20 books for the spin.

  1. Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe   [209 pages]
  2. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith [249 pages]
  3. Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier  [410 pages]
  4. The Sign of Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [167 pages]
  5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Quiet American (1958) by Graham Greene   [180 pages]
  8. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers
  9. The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame 
  10. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L'Engle
  11. Beast In View (1955) by Margaret Millar
  12. The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy   [200 pages]
  13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl
  14. My Ántonia (1918) by Willa Cather
  15. Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood
  16. Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker    [420 pages]
  17. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
  18. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James Cain
  19. The Invisible Man (1897) by H.G. Wells
  20. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson

Thursday, October 14, 2021

#1976Club: Catch a Falling Spy

I love spy fiction, and especially Cold War spy fiction. Len Deighton is one of my favorite authors in that genre. When I saw that one of his spy fiction novels was published in 1976 and I had not read it, I picked it to read for the 1976 Club. Deighton's first five fiction books featured an unnamed British spy. Three of those books were later made into films starring Michael Caine. The spy was given a name in the films: Harry Palmer. This book was the seventh and last book by Deighton that featured an unnamed spy, but he is not the same spy as in the earlier books. Not that it matters.

This novel felt like a world tour. It starts out in the Algerian Sahara Desert and returns to that spot for the denouement.  In between we visit multiple spots in the US and France and Ireland. The story is narrated by the unnamed British agent. It was originally published in the UK as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy.

In Algeria, the narrator and his partner in this mission, Major Mann of the US Secret Service, meet with Professor Bekuv, a Russian defector. The two agents are charged with getting Bekuv to the US and determining if he really has the information he is offering in return for asylum in the US.

In New York the agents try to get more information out of Bekuv. He demands that they bring his wife to the US to be with him, but our pair of agents are not committing to that. Then it turns out that a highly placed CIA operative has already gotten her over to the US, and the two are reunited. Bekuv is ditzy, focused more on communication with aliens in outer space and not interested in strategic scientific pursuits. His wife seems to be running the show. 

Mann and the UK agent meet up with Mann's wife and a friend of theirs, Red Bancroft. Red had shown up at a cocktail party earlier and the unnamed narrator finds her very intriguing and attractive. This foursome, plus the Bekuvs, head for the Catskills to celebrate Christmas. [If I had known this was set around Christmas time, I might have saved it for a December read.] They take the Bekuvs to Mass on Christmas Eve, and as they leave the church, Mrs. Bekuv is stabbed. By whom? For what reason? 

The agents want to know who Bekuv has been getting information on US scientific research. Mrs. Bekuv supplies the name of his contact: Henry Mann, an ex-CIA agent now living in France (and coincidentally an old friend of Major Mann). And at this point we are only at the one-third point in the book. So the rest of the book is spent chasing down leads from the intell they get and determining what to do with the Bekuvs. Is their decision to defect genuine?

My thoughts:

Happily, I liked this book best of all of Deighton's unnamed spy novels. This book (like others by Deighton) is often described as complex and confusing but it was fine with me. A more frenetic and active adventure than most cold war stories I read, but a lot of fun. The partnership between the UK agent and Major Mann adds interest and humor. They work well together.

This book highlights one of the costs of a career in the secret service. It is very hard to have a relationship of any depth or length. The British narrator falls for Red Bancroft, but she has needs and ambitions of her own. A major theme is the complexity of relationships of any type in spy fiction and the inability to really trust anyone.

I have noticed now that I am drawn to novels with defections and the problems surrounding them. I have read two other books about defections written in the 1970s. I wonder if that was a time when defections were of special interest? Robert Littell's debut novel, published in 1973, The Defection of A. J. Lewinter, is about the defection of a US scientist to the USSR. Charlie M (1977) by Brian Freemantle is about a Russian KGB official who wants to defect to the US.

The author:

Len Deighton. born in 1929, is best known for his novels, but has also written works of military history, screenplays and cookbooks. I have read all nine of the Bernard Samson series, plus Winter, a historical novel which features characters from the Samson series. I have read four of the Nameless Spy series and I like them, but I still prefer the Samson series. 

I am enjoying reading and reviewing novels from 1976 this week for the 1976 Club, hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings


Publisher:   Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1976 
Length:       268 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      Algeria, US, France, Ireland.
Genre:        Espionage thriller
Source:      I purchased my copy in 2015.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

#1976Club: Home to Roost

Home to Roost by Andrew Garve isn't a straightforward mystery or detective story, more of a suspense novel. This is the first book I have read by this author. I was fascinated by this book, and I will be reading more of Garve's novels. This is the first book I read for the 1976 Club, hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings.

These are the first sentences of the book:

This is an account of how Max Ryland got himself murdered, and what happened afterwards. For obvious reasons, the manuscript will not see the light of day until all the people concerned are dead and forgotten; I have taken steps to ensure that. You may think, dear reader, that as a story it builds up rather slowly but -- so does a hurricane.

Walter Haines narrates this book. He has written an account of his marriage to Laura Franklin and what happens afterward. First he gives us some background of his early life. He starts out as a newspaper reporter, but leaves that to try writing novels, and eventually does well enough to support himself with his writing. Then he meets Laura. They get married, and the early years of their marriage are happy. After a few years their marriage becomes shaky, for a variety of reasons. 

At a cocktail party they meet the charming and well-known actor, Max Ryland. The three become friends, and Walter and Laura visit Max's weekend home on the coast, where he has a sailboat. Soon, Max has enticed Laura to leave Walter. Nothing unusual in that, except that very shortly it is obvious that Max has been using Laura, and she leaves him also. A few weeks later, Walter goes on a vacation to Portugal to attempt to recover from the end of his marriage to Laura. When he returns, he finds that Max Ryland has been found dead at his house on the coast.

It turns out that Max is a real cad and has many enemies, and there are plenty of suspects, but Walter is at the top of the list. Unfortunately, for the police, Walter's alibi is very good. Then another man confesses to the murder, and Walter decides to confess also, saying that he does not want someone else to pay for his crime. He provides proof that he could have carried out the crime. Neither man will withdraw their confession. 

My thoughts:

This is a very short book, under 200 pages, with a very complex plot that can be confusing, but it a concise story with no padding thrown in. I enjoyed it a lot and found many things to like.

Although the subject is serious, the story is told with subtle humor, in the descriptions of Walter's life and the events leading up to the disintegration of his marriage.

At least in this book, Andrew Garve was a very good plotter and could tell a good story, but wasn't strong on developing characters. However, since the story is told in first person, we do get to know Walter Haines, the narrator, very well. 

The ending of this book is ambiguous, and some reviewers criticize that aspect. In this case, that aspect did not bother me at all. I feel that the author leaves it up to the reader to decide, and that worked for me.

Andrew Garve is a pseudonym of Paul Winterton, who wrote over 40 detective and adventure books between 1938 and 1978. This was close to his last published book. Paul Winterton also wrote as Roger Bax. I have more of his books to try, No Tears for Hilda and Murder through the Looking Glass by Andrew Garve, and Blueprint for Murder as Roger Bax. All of those are from much earlier in his writing career.

Also see:


Publisher:  Penguin Books, 1978 (orig. pub. 1976). 
Length:     182 pages
Format:     Paperback
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Crime fiction
Source:    I purchased this book.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Stranger Diaries: Elly Griffiths

This is a modern mystery story with gothic elements. I bought it on the first day of the Planned Parenthood book sale, and I started reading it within a day or two. Gothic stories haven't appealed to me in the past, but I enjoyed this one. 

There are three main characters who share the narration of the story. All three are interesting, with very different points of view on life. Clare is an English teacher at a high school; a close friend at work has been brutally murdered. Harbinder Kaur is a policewoman working on the investigation of the death of Ella Elphick, Clare's friend. Georgia is Clare's fifteen-old-daughter, who is a student at the high school that her mother teaches at.  Some of Clare's sections are told via entries from her diary, which does play an integral part in the story.


What did I like?

For me it was a slow read, but every night I was eager to get back to reading the book. The gradual unfolding of events and examination of the key players kept me interested throughout.

I liked the structure of the book with the story told from the viewpoint of three characters. The main story was framed by a ghost story, which is slowly revealed throughout the book. 

Clare and Georgia have a great dog, Herbert, named after a dog in the framing ghost story. The mother / daughter relationship was interesting. Clare doesn't seem to have a clue about her daughter's interests and a lot of her activities, probably pretty normal for the parent of a teenager.

There are many, many references to books sprinkled throughout the story. Mostly older or classic books and authors. That feels natural with Clare being an English teacher and Georgia's interest in writing and reading.

I like all three main characters, but Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur was my favorite. I look forward to the next book in the series.


Although the solution to the murder seems to come out of nowhere, I should have expected the outcome.

Most of the story is told in present tense. The narration by Clare and Georgia are told via present tensely, mostly. The sections from Harbinder's point of view are in past tense.

The story takes place in October through early November, with many references to Halloween, so this was the perfect read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).


Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Length:    338 pages
Format:    Hardback
Series:     Harbinder Kaur #1
Setting:    UK
Genre:     Mystery
Source:   Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2021.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "The Black Pumpkin" by Dean Koontz

In the month of October, for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril), I am planning to read several short stories from Halloween Horrors, an anthology of spine-tingling stories compiled by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish. For my first selection, I just dived into the first story in the anthology, which was by Dean Koontz. This is my first experience reading that author.

"The Black Pumpkin" by Dean Koontz

Tommy is a twelve-year-old who lives a miserable life. His parents and his older brother Frank mistreat him. And when he and Frank visit a pumpkin patch a day before Halloween, it looks like things are going to get worse. Frank buys a specially decorated pumpkin, painted black and with a disturbing design. The pumpkin carver will take any amount of money that Frank wants to give him, but warns him that "You get what you give." And Frank gives only a nickel.

The story was very scary, tense, and horrifying. And really not my kind of story. Just the way Tommy is treated by his family was horrifying. But... it was well-written and a good read, in the sense that once I started it I could not stop reading. And the ending was pretty good.

In the comments on my R.I.P. post, Todd Mason provided additional information on the Halloween Horrors anthology. It is a 2010 reprint of October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, which was published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2000. The book has 22 short stories of Halloween fiction (some are new, some are classic reprints), plus a good number of short pieces by authors recalling their favorite memories of Halloween and essays on Halloween.

"The Black Pumpkin" first appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine in December 1986. In 1995 it was published in a collection of stories by Dean Koontz, Strange Highways.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Reading Summary for September 2021

September was another very good reading month. This month's reading was all crime fiction. Two books of the eight I read were spy thrillers, but I count those in crime fiction. 

Crime Fiction

The Lady Vanishes (1936) by Ethel Lina White

The Lady Vanishes was originally published as The Wheel Spins in 1936. Two years later the book was adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock, with the title The Lady Vanishes, so many editions of the book have the same title as the film. I had seen the film many times, and now I am glad that I have also read the book. The book is more suspenseful and serious, with more realistic characters, but both are good. See my full review here.

Murder (1987) by Parnell Hall

Murder was the second book in the Stanley Hastings series. Stanley is a bumbling private detective (sort of). His primary work is following up on accident reports where people want to sue for damages, but in the two books I have read, he gets involved in investigations on the side, helping people who need favors or at the request of his wife. This is a humorous series where Stanley handles serious crimes and helps people out. See my review here.

The Chinese Shawl (1943) by Patricia Wentworth

The fifth Miss Silver mystery by Patricia Wentworth. I love the Miss Silver series, and this one was especially good, with the wartime setting. I am trying to finish all the books in this series set during the war or immediately afterward before I move on to later ones or Wentworth's novels that don't feature Miss Silver.

Blackout in Gretley (1942) by J. B. Priestley

This is the second book I have read by Priestley. My husband got it recently and liked it very much. The setting and genre were perfect for me, World War II espionage fiction, with the protagonist trying to locate Nazi spies in a Midlands town in England. 

A Siege of Bitterns (2014) by Steve Burrows

This is the first book in the Birder Murder Mystery Series; the main protagonist is DCI Domenic Jejeune. He is the new DCI in the Norfolk town of Saltmarsh. A TV presenter and ecological activist is murdered, and Jejeune is heading the investigation. Birding is big in the area, and Jejeune is a birder. I loved the passages about birds and the ecology of the area and the mystery was handled well too. Check out Rick Robinson's review at Tip the Wink.

The Stranger Diaries (2018) by Elly Griffiths

This is a modern mystery story with gothic elements. I have never been a big fan of gothic stories, but I enjoyed this one. For me it was a slow read, but I was always eager to get back to reading the book. I liked the structure of the book with the story told from the viewpoint of three characters, and the book framed by a ghost story, which is slowly revealed throughout the book. This was the perfect read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).

Home to Roost (1976) by Andrew Garve

Andrew Garve is a pseudomym of Paul Winterton, who wrote over 40 detective and adventure books between 1938 and 1978. Home to Roost isn't a straightforward mystery or detective story, more of a suspense novel, told in first person by a successful author who writes adventure novels. This is the first book I have read by this author, and I will be reading more of his books. The novel was published in 1976 and is the first book I read for the 1976 Club

Catch a Falling Spy (1976) by Len Deighton

Originally published in England under the title Twinkle Twinkle Little Spy. Len Deighton is one of my favorite authors, and this is a cold war spy novel. The narrator is nameless, although I am not sure he is the same nameless spy as in Deighton's earliest novels. The action starts and ends in Algeria, with hops to France, Ireland, and several locations in the US. A very complex story, not for everyone but perfect for me. Another book I read for the 1976 Club.

The plant shown immediately above is Veronica (Spiked Speedwell). The plant shown at the top of the post is Tibouchina heteromalla (Silver leafed Princess Flower). Both are entirely new plants to me, and we bought them to plant in our yard this year.