Monday, October 3, 2022

A Killer in King's Cove: Iona Whishaw

 


A Killer in King's Cove is a historical mystery set in British Columbia, Canada right after World War II. The heroine, Lane Winslow, has just moved to Canada from the UK, following World War II, and lives in a small town of mostly older people. The only younger people in the area are a couple from New York who have recently moved there with their two young children. After Lane has settled down in King's Cove, a stranger is found dead in the creek that feeds water to her property. Eventually the death is determined to be murder and Lane Winslow appears to have a connection to this man.

In addition to a historical mystery, the story had elements of espionage and romance mixed in. The espionage comes into it because Lane was a courier who took messages into France during War War II. The anxiety and stress of that assignment and the loss of a lover during the war motivated her to move to Canada in an effort to forget about the war. The romance is very low key, and doesn't get in the way of the mystery plot.

Lane has purchased a home with some land and has ambitions to be a writer; she concentrates on poetry during this book. Although the small town she lives in is somewhat isolated, and provides a limited number of suspects, I did get all the characters confused. Most of the townspeople had been in the town since before World War I and some of the men had gone overseas and fought in the war. Others did not return. For once, a character list at the front of the book would have been useful, although usually I don't find those very helpful.

I like that the main character is a strong woman who will stand up for herself. The two policemen who investigate the crime are from a nearby town, Nelson. Inspector Darling and Constable Ames have a great relationship and I especially enjoyed the parts of the story where they were featured.

The setting in British Columbia was also a plus, and this book illustrated the ways that Canada was affected by both World War I and World War II. 

A Killer in King's Cove was the first in a series. There are now nine books in the series and another book due in 2023, so it seems to be going well. I am interested in where the next book will take Lane Winslow.


About the author, from her website:

Iona Whishaw was born in Kimberley BC, but grew up in a number of different places, including a small community on Kootenay Lake, as well as Mexico and Central America, and the US because of her father’s geological work. She took a degree in history and education from Antioch College, and subsequent degrees in Writing at UBC and pedagogy at Simon Fraser University.  

She is married, has one son and two grandsons, and lives in Vancouver with her artist husband, Terry Miller.

See also these reviews at Staircase Wit and Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan.


 -----------------------------

Publisher:   Torchwood Books, 2016
Length:      432 pages
Format:      Trade Paper
Series:       Lane Winslow #1
Setting:      British Columbia, Canada
Genre:       Historical Mystery
Source:     Purchased in 2020.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

My Son's Books from the 2022 Book Sale

 

For the next couple of book sale posts, be prepared for more variety than usual. My son reads mostly fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction. My husband reads all types of fiction, but leans toward nonfiction.

The Planned Parenthood Book Sale ran from September 16th through September 25th, over two weekends. We visited five times. 

This post showcases some of the books that my son found at the book sale, and there are a lot of gorgeous covers here.



Zero World by Jason M. Hough  (578 pages)

From the book description at Goodreads:

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

I like stories that merge spying and science fiction, and a parallel Earth could be interesting.



The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owens (369 pages)

This is a YA Fantasy with a gorgeous cover. I liked the description and I love the cover, and there is a cat named Barf.

From the cover of the book:

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

 


Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson (300 pages)

This is a 2006 science fiction novel by American author Spider Robinson, based on a novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein. 

From the back of the book:

When Joel Johnston asks Jinny Hamilton to marry him, he believes he is entering an ordinary union. Then she reveals that she is the granddaughter of the wealthiest man in the solar system, and any man who marries her will be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business....

Daunted by the prospect of such a future, Joel flees—and awakens on a colony ship heading out into space, torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars.



Artful by Peter David (276 pages)

This fantasy novel tells the further adventures of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. It is a few years later in his life, and in this version there are vampires and a plot to overthrow the British monarchy. 

Another book with a very impressive cover.



The Space Between Worlds by Macaiah Johnson (320 pages)

From the summary at Goodreads:

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. 

 


Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook (700 pages)

This omnibus edition comprises The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose―the first three novels in Glen Cook's Black Company fantasy series.

I have read the first novel in this series (my review here). It combines elements of epic fantasy and dark fantasy as it follows the story of an elite mercenary unit that serve the Lady, ruler of the Northern Empire. Now I can read the second novel in this edition.



Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (420 pages)

From the summary at Goodreads:

Severin Unck's father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1946 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father's films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

Told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.



The Changewinds by Jack L. Chalker  (820 pages)

My son introduced me to Jack Chalker's books in 2005, and I read several of the books in the Well of Souls series.

This book is an omnibus edition of the three books in the Changewinds series, including When the Changewinds Blow (1987), Riders of the Winds (1988) and War of the Maelstrom (1988). From what I can glean from descriptions, I think the stories are a blend of science fiction and fantasy.


Are you familiar with any of these books or authors? 


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life: Laura Thompson

 



I started out loving this biography of Agatha Christie. It is very readable, and the first chapter about her childhood was charming. I did not know that much about Christie's life at all, especially before her marriage to Max Mallowan, so I learned a lot from the earlier chapters about her courtship and marriage to Archie Christie. The author often mentioned Christie's writing and specific mysteries, and I enjoyed that part a lot. 

However, the author depended too much on quotes from Christie's fiction books (mostly the non-mystery books) to demonstrate and support statements about Agatha's relationships with other people, and especially Archie Christie. 

The chapter about the mystery of Christie's disappearance went on too long for me, and since not much is definitely known about that event, she was making guesses on a good bit of it. On the other hand this was the first I had read on the subject, and she had to handle that period of time in some way, so that is a minor complaint. There were interesting facts (and opinions?) about how the investigation was handled.

Overall, I learned a lot of things about Agatha Christie's life that I have never known, and I appreciated learning about what was going on in her life when she wrote some of her books, especially the earlier ones.  Even with the few quibbles I had regarding this book, I found that it was interesting, informative, and well worth reading.

I would like to read other books on Christie's life. I had forgotten that she wrote an autobiography and I will be looking for a copy of that. I will also be seeking out Come, Tell Me How You Live by Christie, which focuses on her experiences on archaeological trips with Max Mallowan, her second husband. I have a copy of Robert Barnard's A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie, which is more about her books and her writing, but does include some about her life. I would appreciate other recommendations. 


-----------------------------

Publisher:  Pegasus Books, 2018 (orig. publ. 2007)
Length:      485 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      UK, mostly
Genre:       Biography
Source:      I purchased my copy in June 2022.



Thursday, September 22, 2022

My Reading in August 2022

 


This may be the latest I have ever taken to put up a monthly reading summary. August was a good reading month with six books finished. I read two nonfiction books which was unusual. The rest were crime fiction, which is my favorite genre. The majority of the books were published after 2000, which is a change for me. 


Nonfiction / Biography

Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life (2007) by Laura Thompson

I started out loving this biography of Agatha Christie. It is very readable, and the first chapter about her childhood was charming. I had some quibbles with this book, but most of it was interesting, informative, and worth reading.


Nonficton / Nature

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (2018) by Lev Parikian 

This is a nonfiction book about a man who decides to return to an old love, birding. He has a goal to find 200 different species in the UK in one year. I love to read about birds and I would have liked to get more about birds and less about his personal journey and the process. But all of it was good, and visiting different parts of the UK was interesting. 


Crime Fiction

The Long Way Home  (2014) by Louise Penny

I am now a big fan of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Except by this book, the tenth in the series, Gamache has retired to Three Pines. I was still very happy with the book, and I look forward to reading the next in the series. See my review here.


The Burglar in the Closet (1978) by Lawrence Block

The Bernie Rhodenbarr series by Lawrence Block now consists of 11 books. The Burglar in the Closet is the second book in the series. Bernie lives in New York City and supports himself by burgling apartments. See my review here.


Vanish (2005) by Tess Gerritsen

This is the 5th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series. It has been eleven years since I read the 4th book in the series, but I caught up with the story easily enough. Jane Rizzoli is a police detective, and she is also pregnant and her baby is overdue. While visiting her doctor at the hospital she gets caught up in a hostage situation. I am not fond of books about sex trafficking and that was a focus here, Also, the book was a bit too thrillerish for me. However, in the end I liked the book a lot because Gerritsen tells the story well, most of the characters are strong and well-defined, and the story has a great twist at the end.


Death Around the Bend (2017) by T.E. Kinsey

This is the third book in the Lady Hardcastle historical mystery series. The books have interesting plots, wonderful characters, and a lot of humor. See this post where I discuss the first three books in the series.


Currently reading

I am currently reading Anna Karenina. I started it on September 12th and am about a third of the way through. 


We have been to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale three times already, and will go again this weekend. It started on September 16th and will end on the 25th. I have bought way too many books, so I hope I won't find too many more on the weekend. 



The photos at the top and bottom of this post are geraniums (actually pelargoniums), my favorite flower. I think it is because there is so much variety in the blossoms for various types of geraniums. Photos were taken and processed by my husband. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.

 


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Book Sale purchases

 


Last Friday, September 16, was the first day of the Planned Parenthood book sale and it will continue through Sunday, September 25. We went to the book sale on both Friday and Saturday. (And we will go back again tomorrow, and Saturday and Sunday.) 

My goal this year was to cut back on short story book purchases, since I have so many, both in print editions and on the Kindle. Yet I went ahead and purchased these three books for various reasons. I have not sampled any of them yet. So, here they are.


MASH UP: Stories Inspired by Famous First Lines

Gardner Dozois  (Editor)

This is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories. The subtitle describes the theme. Each author picked a first line of a favorite classic and use it as a first line in a short story. There are thirteen stories in the 400 page book, and each one is around 30 pages in length. My son found this book for me, and I am glad he did.



Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction: Third Series

Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg (Editors)

This anthology is 633 pages, with 20 short stories and novellas by various authors from 1943-1944. Each story is preceded by short introduction by Asimov and Greenberg.

In this case the authors are not listed on the cover, so I will include a list of the stories, from the Goodreads summary:

  • The Cave by P. Schuyler Miller
  • The Halfling by Leigh Brackett
  • Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Q.U.R. by Anthony Boucher
  • Clash by Night by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lawrence O'Donnell]
  • Exile by Edmond Hamilton
  • Daymare by Fredric Brown
  • Doorway into Time by C. L. Moore
  • The Storm by A.E. van Vogt
  • The Proud Robot by Henry Kuttner [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Symbiotica by Eric Frank Russell
  • The Veil of Astellar by Leigh Brackett
  • City by Clifford D. Simak
  • Arena by Frederic Brown
  • Huddling Place by Clifford D. Simak
  • Kindness by Lester Del Rey
  • Desertion by Clifford D. Simak
  • When the Bough Breaks by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Killdozer! by Theodore Sturgeon
  • No Woman Born by C.L. Moore

A Rare Benedictine

by Ellis Peters, Clifford Harper  (Illustrator)

This last book contains only three short stories, from the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. I already had a copy of this in paperback, but I jumped at the opportunity to get this hardback copy, mainly for greater ease of reading. It also is enhanced by lovely illustrations, so I am doubly happy to have it. My husband found this book for me; I am very grateful that he did.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril -- R.I.P. XVII

Once again I am participating in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, otherwise known as the RIP XVII Challenge. I am late in announcing this, but I was reviewing the books I read last year especially for that challenge and I enjoyed all of them a lot. I hope to repeat that experience.

This year I was reminded of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event by posts at NancyElin's blog and Kay's Reading Life. This event was originally hosted by Carl V. Anderson at the Stainless Steel Droppings blog. Since then it has been hosted by other bloggers and lately has been primarily on Instagram and Twitter. See this post for the announcement for 2022. The event runs from September 1 through October 31, 2022.


The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril is to enjoy books, short stories, and movies/television that could be classified as:

  • Mystery.
  • Suspense.
  • Thriller.
  • Dark Fantasy.
  • Gothic.
  • Horror.
  • Supernatural.


I read a lot of mystery fiction and thrillers, so this event is a natural for me. However, it will be more of a challenge this year because I have two longish classic fiction books I also want to read during September and October: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

Two books I plan to read in October that I think will fit the mood of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event are:

The Listening House by Mabel Seeley, a mystery published in 1938, set in a boarding house, which promises to have an eerie atmosphere. 

The Ghost of Opalina or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon, an illustrated children's book about a ghost cat. Published in 1967. Constance at Staircase Wit recently reviewed that book.


I will list my books read for R.I.P. XVII in September and October here:


The Tenderness of Wolves (historical mystery set in 1867, in the Northern Territory in Canada).

Crazybone by Bill Pronzini (#26 in the Nameless Detective series)

The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters (historical mystery set in 1140, #7 in the Brother Cadfael series)

Head On by John Scalzi (Science Fiction / Mystery crossover)



Saturday, September 17, 2022

Classics Club Spin #31: Tracy's List

 

The latest Classics Club Spin has been announced. I have chosen twenty books from my classics list. There are a few changes since my last list.

On Sunday 18th September, 2022, 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 30th October, 2022.



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

  1. Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe   [209 pages]
  2. Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen [411 pages]  This was the spin number !!  
  3. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
  4. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James Cain
  5. My Ántonia (1918) by Willa Cather
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl
  7. The Sign of Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  [160 pages]
  8. The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame 
  9. The Quiet American (1958) by Graham Greene   [180 pages]
  10. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith
  11. Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood
  12. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson
  13. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L'Engle
  14. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers
  15. Cannery Row (1945) by John Steinbeck 
  16. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker    [420 pages]
  18. The 13 Clocks (1950) by James Thurber
  19. The Warden (1855) by Anthony Trollope
  20. The Optimist's Daughter (1972) by Eudora Welty   [180 pages]


The complication for me this time is that I just started reading Anna Karenina five days ago, on September 12th, and I am taking it slowly. So I sincerely hope that one of the shorter books on my list above will come up for the classic club spin this time, which will give me a better chance of getting it read by the deadline. 



Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey

 

In this series of historical mysteries, set in the early 1900's, Lady Hardcastle (Emily) and her maid Florence Armstrong solve mysteries while living in the English countryside. I was attracted by the idea of a lady and her maid solving mysteries, but I was not sure how that would work given the class differences in England at that time. Lady Hardcastle and Flo are more friends than mistress and servant, and each has skills that complement the other. 

Cath at Read-Warbler recommended this series. Cath has read several books in the series, and praised them highly. I wasn't sure if the books were too much on the cozy side for me, but I am so glad I gave it a shot. This is a series with interesting plots, wonderful characters, and a lot of humor. 

A Quiet Life in the Country was the first book in the series. It sets up the main characters, why they are living in the country, and a bit of their backstory. Flo came to work as Lady Hardcastle's maid at a very young age. Later, they had some espionage adventures together that are only briefly alluded to. 

Once they have settled into their new home, Emily and Flo go for a walk in the countryside and discover a body. In the course of the investigation, they meet Inspector Sunderland of Scotland Yard and are able to provide useful help in solving the case. This relationship continues in later books.

I read the first book in June, and moved on to the second book in the series, In the Market for Murder, in July. In that story, Lady Hardcastle and Flo work on two cases, one a local case of theft, the other the murder of a disagreeable farmer in the area. In August I read the third book in the series, and I enjoyed all three books.


In Death Around the Bend, Lady Hardcastle has just recently purchased an automobile, and she and Flo take turns driving it. Emily (and her maid of course) is invited to a country estate for a week of motor racing and parties.  The old friend that Lady Hardcastle is visiting has promised that both women will be able to do some racing while visiting. But during the first race, one of the drivers is killed in a crash, which puts a damper on things. Emily and Flo thinks it was murder, but the local inspector does not.

Another interesting element of this book was that one of the women visiting at the same time is an amateur photographer who would love to do more serious work in that area. Lady Hardcastle is very supportive of that, of course. And it is in this book, more details about the early adventures of the main characters are supplied, which I had been waiting for.

My favorite character is Flo. She tells the stories in first person, so we mainly get her point of view. Lady Hardcastle walks a fine line between including Flo in her activities, especially when visiting other Lords and Ladies, and using Flo's ability to blend in with other servants when it benefits the situation. At times it stretches disbelief, but not any more than many other mystery novels.

These books do lean towards being cozy, but Lady Hardcastle and Flo cannot exactly qualify as amateur sleuths because they have a background of dealing with crime and intrigue together for years before they settle down in the country. The stories are excellent historical fiction, and the mystery plots are well-done. The early 1900s is a time that I haven't read much about in fiction or nonfiction, and each book focuses on a different theme. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Alfred Hitchcock's Happiness is a Warm Corpse

Most of the Alfred Hitchcock fiction anthologies that I have purchased were found at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, but this one I purchased online. You can probably guess why: it has a lovely cover with skeletons.


These are the stories in the anthology:


  • Once upon a Bank Floor... by James Holding, Jr
  • The Egg Head by Rog Phillips
  • Each Night He Pulled the Trigger by Robert Edmond Alter
  • The Waiting Game by Pat Stadley
  • Destruction is Always Arranged by Gilbert Ralston
  • The Happy Death by John Cortez
  • The Sweater by Richard O. Lewis
  • IQ — 184 by Fletcher Flora
  • Kill, If You Want Me! by Richard Deming
  • Antique by Hal Ellson
  • Mrs. Gilly and the Gigolo by Mary L. Roby
  • This Day's Evil by Jonathan Craig
  • Private and Confidential by Diane Frazer
  • Never Come Back by Robert Colby


This anthology was published in 1969. The stories in it were originally published between 1957 and 1967. I read the first story in the book and I liked it very much. I hope that the rest of the stories are just as good.


"Once upon a Bank Floor... " by James Holding, Jr.

This story was fun, upbeat, and had a great ending. 

Two men are on an airplane trip, seated next to each other. One has a mystery story magazine for reading on the plane trip. The other man works for a bank; he tells a story about earlier in his banking career when the bank was robbed. It was in the early morning and he was alone in the bank at the time. I don't want to go into more details for fear of spoiling the story.


I don't know anything about the author, James Holding, Jr., although the name is familiar. Checking the Alfred Hitchcock Wiki, he had a good number of stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and various Hitchcock fiction anthologies. I would welcome more information on this author, if anyone knows more.




Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Long Way Home: Louise Penny

This is the 10th book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. At this point in the series, I have a hard time reviewing the books because going into much detail can spoil plot points of earlier books in the series. So if this review sounds vague in some areas, it was probably intentional.

Three Pines, a fictional town in Quebec, Canada, is the focal point for many of the books in this series. Gamache has retired to Three Pines. He and his wife, Reine-Marie, have purchased a home and acquired a dog and are living a peaceful, happy life. And yet, even though Gamache is not seeking more mysteries or investigations in his quiet life, one comes to him. Clara, a friend in Three Pines, wants him to find her husband. 


Clara and her husband Peter agreed on a one year separation, and after one year apart, they planned to meet at their home in Three Pines and have a dinner together  and decide what to do next. Peter did not show up for the dinner and she has been unable to locate him. She wants help from Gamache. So in effect this is a missing persons case. It should be simple enough but it doesn't turn out that way.

Gamache gets help from Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his former colleague. They keep running into brick walls when they try to find out where Peter has been and what he has been doing. Peter is the son of a wealthy family, but it is a very dysfunctional family, and Gamache gets no help in that area. 

Gamache does spend a good amount of time in other parts of Canada in this book, accompanied by Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his former colleague, and Clara and her friend Myrna Landers. At one point even Ruth Zardo, one of the strangest inhabitants of Three Pines, accompanies them. Clara and Peter are both talented, well-known artists; they met at the art school they went to. Thus art and its impact on people is a major theme in this book. 

It took me a long time to like this series. It was not until I read the 5th and 6th books, The Brutal Telling and Bury Your Dead, in April of 2020, that I became a confirmed fan. Since then I have loved all of the books. The writing grabs me and won't let me go, and I feel immersed in the story as I read it. 

I like the close-knit group of friends in Three Pines. When I first started the series I thought that they were all just quirky and sometimes obnoxious; now I enjoy reading about them. And the mysteries are always rewarding. Usually very complex and sometimes circuitous and perplexing, they keep me guessing.  

I have to repeat what many other reviewers say about this book. Don't start with this one; read the series from the beginning in order. Get to know the characters. Otherwise the plot of this one won't have as much impact.



 -----------------------------
Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2015 (orig. publ. 2014)
Length:      368 pages
Format:      Trade paper
Series:        Inspector Gamache, #10
Setting:      Canada
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "The Scorched Face" by Dashiell Hammett

 


"The Scorched Face" is a Continental Op story, over thirty pages long, a novelette I guess. First published in 1925 in Black Mask

The Op works for the Continental Detective Agency, in the San Francisco office. He is looking for two missing girls, the daughters of a rich family in the area. The job involves a lot of footwork and tracking down information about friends and acquaintances, and the detective has support from other operatives. Once a death is involved, even though it is clearly a suicide, he also gets help from a policeman he knows. The story was very readable, and I did not lose interest at any time, even though it took a lot of footwork and dead ends before hitting upon the solution. It was a good picture of working at a detective agency at that time. And there is a great twist at the end. 


I had previously read two novels by Hammett, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man, but this was the first short story that I read by him. Now I will find more of those to read.

I read this story in Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories, edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian. It has over 500 pages of stories published from the 1920s through the 1990s, with a preponderance of stories from the 1930s and the 1950s. 




Monday, August 29, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday list: Mysteries with an Academic Setting



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a School Freebie (come up with a topic that somehow ties to school/education). I am keeping it simple, a list of my favorite books with a school setting.

And here's my list:


Murder is Academic by Christine Poulson

Poulson set her debut novel at St. Etheldreda's College at Cambridge. Cassandra James is a professor of English, and she finds the head of her department drowned in a pool, surrounded by exam papers. In Murder is Academic, in addition to the college setting, we have plagiarism, séances, and the pressures to publish research. And the characters are well-done and believable. The UK title of this book is Dead Letters. Published in 2002. She has published two more books in this series and three books in the Katie Flanagan series.



The Secret Place by Tana French

This is the fifth book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series. The setting is primarily a girls' boarding school in the suburbs of Dublin. The case is the death of a teenage boy who was found murdered, a year before, on the grounds of the girl's school. The action all takes place in one day. The story is told in alternating narratives. The first narrative is from the point of view of a policeman working on the case. The second narrative (in third person present tense) follows the eight girls, boarders at the school, in the year leading up to the crime. Published in 2014.


Cat Among the Pigeons 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 loved the girls school setting, but the espionage story was a bit too unrealistic for me. 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. Published in 1959.


The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

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. Published in 2018.



Quoth the Raven by Jane Haddam

Quoth the Raven is the 4th book in a 20-book series about Gregor Demarkian, retired FBI agent, living in Philadelphia. This one is set in rural Pennsylvania at a small college, where Gregor has been invited to give a lecture. Halloween is a major event at the college and there will be the annual lighting of the bonfire the same night. The story takes place in the two days before that event; thus this is the perfect book for fall and the Halloween season. I liked the academic setting, and the mix of students and faculty as characters. Published in 1991.



Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg

This is the first book in Margot Kinberg's Joel Williams series. The setting is academia: a university in Pennsylvania. I know that the academic setting is a competitive one, although I have no first-hand knowledge of this. Williams is an ex-policeman who now teaches in the university's Department of Criminal Justice. There is a good subplot about a group of students investigating the murder. Published in 2008.



A Killing Spring by Gail Bowen

A Killing Spring is the 5th book in a mystery series about Joanne Kilbourn, a political analyst and university professor who gets involved in criminal investigations. The setting is Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. This story begins as the head of the School of Journalism at the university where Joanne Kilbourn teaches is found dead, in embarrassing circumstances. Then a student in Joanne's class complains of sexual harassment and stops coming to class. Published in 1996. 



The Shortest Day by Jane Langton

This is the 11th book in the Homer Kelly series. This story is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Homer and Mary Kelly are teaching a class at Harvard University. This is a quirky and humorous mystery in an academic setting. Mary is participating in the annual Christmas Revels when a young singer in the event dies in an automobile accident. When other deaths follow, Homer resists getting involved, even though he was once a homicide detective. The author illustrated the story with her own pen and ink drawings. Published in 1995.


Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh

The story starts with the disappearance of a young female college freshman, Lowell Mitchell. The college she attends is in Bristol, Massachusetts, a fictional small town near Boston, Massachusetts. She goes missing on a Friday in early March 1950 after attending a morning class. Once the college dean ascertains that she is missing, the police are called in to investigate. The small police department in Bristol has less resources and less men to assign to the case than a big city police force. The press and the public are soon pressuring them for a solution, and Lowell's distraught parents also come to town. Published in 1952.



A Novena for Murder by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

This is a very cozy mystery starring a nun as an amateur sleuth. Sister Mary Helen has retired at 75 and is sent to Mt. Saint Francis College for Women in San Francisco. Shortly after she arrives the body of a professor at the school is found, following an earthquake. The police blame the wrong person, in Sister Mary Helen's opinion, so it is up to her to find out what happened. The setting in San Francisco is nicely done, and there is an interesting subplot involving Portuguese immigrants who have been helped to enter the US and are now students or workers at the college.




Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Burglar in the Closet: Lawrence Block

The Bernie Rhodenbarr series by Lawrence Block now consists of 11 books. The series started in 1977, although the first book, Burglars Can't Be Choosers, was not intended to be the start of a series. The most recent novel was published in 2013. I read some of these books many years ago; they would have been from the first five books which were published between 1977 and 1983.

The Burglar in the Closet is the second book in the series. Bernie lives in New York City and supports himself by burgling apartments. In this book Bernie is working for his dentist, who wants to get back at his ex-wife. Once in the apartment, Bernie has to duck into the closet when the dentist's ex-wife's comes home earlier than expected. And then she is murdered. Out of desperation, to save his own neck, Bernie ends up solving the case. 


The books are humorous and I enjoy Lawrence Block's writing, but this is a series that I find most appealing for the characters. Bernie is proud and confident of his ability's as a burglar. He doesn't always get away with it and he has been in prison for brief stays. Bernie tells his story in first person, and he is a very likable character. Not only is he charming, but he runs into many interesting people as he endeavors to prove that he is not a murderer. 

Block excels at fleshing out characters in small roles. Early in the book Bernie has an entertaining conversation with an elderly lady in the garden of a very exclusive building; that comes back to haunt him later in the book. Later he calls a lady in his building to check out whether the police have visited his apartment. She knows he is a burglar but thinks that is fine, as long as he keeps his burgling outside of the building. 

I also enjoyed this story for the picture of New York in the 1970s. I want to read the next book in the series soon because Bernie is a used book store owner in that book. Later books were published in the 1990s and two after 2000, and I would like to check those out also to see how Bernie has changed over time.


Lawrence Block has written another book in this series which is scheduled to be published in October 2022. In that book, The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown, he will deal with the realities of new technology such as security cameras and closed-circuit TV and locks that are truly pickproof.  



 -----------------------------

Publisher:  HarperTorch, 2006. Orig. pub. 1978.
Length:      320 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Bernie Rhodenbarr, #2
Setting:      New York City
Genre:       Mystery
Source:     I purchased my copy. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Fire Watch" by Connie Willis


My short story for this week is the title story from Fire Watch by Connie Willis. 

I have read (and reviewed) all of the four novels in the Oxford Time Travel series: Doomsday Book (1992), To Say Nothing of the Dog (1995), Blackout (2010), and All Clear (2010). Those books are set sometime around 2050, when time travel is possible and used by academics to study the past. "Fire Watch" is a novelette that preceded those books; it is set in the same time and its main character, Bartholomew, is a historian sent back to London in 1940, during the Blitz.   

Bartholomew has been training for years to go back to the time of St. Paul, the apostle, and due to some confusion, is assigned instead to go to St. Paul's Cathedral during the Blitz. He will volunteer for fire watching on the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. The trip will be considered his practicum, and he has two days to learn about London during the Blitz before he leaves. That is not enough time to prepare so he supplements his research by using memory-assistance drugs to put information into his long-term memory, for access when needed. He is extremely unhappy about the change in plans and doesn't even get a clear understanding of his goal for this "mission."


The story is written in diary format with an entry for many of the days in the three month period that he is in London in 1940. This works well because the reader is as much in the dark as Bartholomew. A minor drawback is that the time travel mechanism is not described at all, although the story makes it clear that Bartholomew travels back in time and that he is a part of a group that does this regularly. That did not bother me but might be a problem for readers not familiar with the series.

I enjoyed reading this story tremendously. I like reading about the Blitz and I think the depiction of that time and how it affected people was very well done. This story made me want to go back and reread all the books in the series, even though each book is at least 500 pages long.

"Fire Watch" was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction (Feb 1982), and was later reprinted in this collection in 1985 and in many anthologies. It won the 1982 Nebula and the 1983 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. It is available to read online here


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Books Read in July 2022

 



I read thirteen books in July, many more than any other month this year. Some of them were short books. Also, a couple of books I had read parts of earlier in the year. But there were some longer books too.  So I was surprised by how many books I read.


Nonfiction

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop (2012) by Ronald Rice (Editor), Leif Parsons (Illustrator)

In this book about independent bookstores throughout the US, 84 authors have written essays about one bookstore that has been special for them. In some cases the reader learns more about the author also. Some were more interesting than others but any reader (at least in the US) would have some favorites. 


Snippets of Serbia (2015) by Emma Fick 

At Goodreads: "This is Emma Fick's illustrated journey through the weird, the fun and the unique adventures to be experienced across this small Balkan country." Her illustrations are lovely and personal. Some pages have a good bit of text, others just have titles, so it is a very quick read. She records various memories and experiences that she had on two visits to Serbia. Lots of pictures of food. 


General Fiction 

The Bookshop (1978) by Penelope Fitzgerald 

Having never read anything by this author, I had no idea what to expect from this book. The cover led me to think this was a light-hearted book about a bookshop, and it wasn't that at all. I did give it a high rating, because I liked the writing and I think the author was expressing exactly what she wanted to, and did it well, but in the end it was too depressing for me. I do want to read more by this author.


How the Penguins Saved Veronica (2020) by Hazel Prior 

The original title of this book was Away with the Penguins. I learned about this book from a booktube reviewer, Bookworm Adventure Girl, and I learned about the booktuber from Cath at Read-Warbler (see her review). The two main characters are a curmudgeonly old woman (Veronica, 86 years old) and her grandson Patrick, who she found only late in life. Veronica and Patrick both have poor social skills (that is putting it mildly), and they don't get along initially. Veronica takes a trip to Antarctica to spend time at a research station for penguins. I loved the book, every bit of it. 



Fiction / Classic

The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was the book I read for the latest Classic Club Spin. The story is told beautifully, and the buildup to the conclusion is done well, but I was disappointed in the book. My review here.


Historical Fiction

The English Wife (2020) by Adrienne Chinn

This was the second book I read for the Canadian Reading Challenge. The story covers three time periods: during World War II, in the UK and in Newfoundland; 2001, at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when many planes coming into New York were rerouted to Newfoundland; and ten years later in the town of Tippy's Tickle, Newfoundland. It was a very good read and I liked the ending. This book was recommended by Constance at Staircase Wit (review here), and she generously sent me her copy to read.


Crime Fiction

Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express (2001) by Stuart Kaminsky

This book is part of a series by Stuart M. Kaminsky, set in Russia under Communist rule (to begin with) and later in Russia, following the breakup of the USSR. I started reading the series in 2005 and now only have two books left to read. My review here.


In the Market for Murder (2015) by T. E. Kinsey

The premise of this series of mysteries, set in the early 1900's, is that Lady Hardcastle and her maid solve mysteries while living in the English countryside. The key is that the lady and her maid are more friends than employer and employee. I was ready for a cheerful, upbeat read and this was perfect. This is the second book in the series, and I am now reading the third, Death Around the Bend.

 


Box 88 (2020) by Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming is my latest favorite spy fiction author. (I have a lot of them.) Box 88 is a new series featuring Lachlan Kite, an agent for a covert spy agency. Kite is abducted, possibly by terrorists, after leaving the funeral of an old friend from boarding school. It turns out that the abduction is related to an event in the late 1980s when Lachlan was just out of boarding school, visiting his friend in France. At that time Lachlan began spying for the Box 88 group, and there are flashbacks to his introduction to the craft of spying. I loved this book.



Dead in the Water (1983) by Ted Wood

This was the second book I read for the Canadian Reading Challenge. My review here.


An Elderly Lady Must not be Crossed (2020) by Helene Tursten 

This is a book of five short stories and one novella by the author of the Inspector Irene Huss series. Helene Tursten is Swedish, and the stories were translated by Marlaine Delargy. I reviewed the first five stories here and the novella, "An Elderly Lady Takes a Trip to Africa", here.


Vengeance
(1999) by Stuart Kaminsky

Stuart Kaminsky is one of my favorite authors, due to his Inspector Rostnikov series set in Russia (see above). I had never tried his Lew Fonesca series set in Sarasota, Florida. Fonesca is not legally a private detective; he works as a process server. But in this book he takes on two cases: a runaway teenage daughter and a missing wife. I loved the book, and it is a plus that the writing style is entirely different from the Inspector Rostnikov series. There are five more in the series and I will be getting to the next one soon.



The Man from Berlin
(2013) Luke McCallin

A historical mystery, set during World War II, in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. The protagonist is Gregor Reinhardt, a German officer in counter-intelligence, stationed in Sarajevo during German occupation. Sarajevo is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which shares a border with Serbia. Serbians are mentioned a lot in the book, so it was interesting to be reading it at the same time as Snippets of Serbia.


Currently reading

Death Around the Bend by T.E. Kinsey

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle




The photos at the top and bottom of this post are of Tibouchina heteromalla (Silver leafed Princess Flower) plants in our front flower beds. We have lovely flowers and foliage on these two plants this year. Photos taken and processed by my husband. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.