Saturday, October 28, 2023

Generation Loss: Elizabeth Hand

Description from the back of the book:

Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine.

The main character, Cassandra Neary, is a photographer who was famous for one book she published in the 1970s, but she has gone downhill since, and has mostly spent her time working in a bookstore, not pursuing her photography. Excessive drinking is her coping mechanism. 

An old friend offers her the opportunity to interview her idol, Aphrodite Kamestos, who now lives on a secluded island in Maine. So Cass takes off from her job for a while and heads for the island, not realizing how isolated it is. The setting is fantastic – gritty and dark and cold.

This might be the strangest mystery I have ever read. The central character tells the story in first person narrative. She is in an unfamiliar environment among people she has never met before. She doesn't know who to trust and they don't trust her. The reader's knowledge is limited to what Cass sees and hears, feels, and how she interprets what is going on. There are crimes hinted at, but no real, proven crimes for the first 90% of the book, which was confusing. Some classify it as a mystery thriller, but it is only a thriller toward the end. 


Even though I was trying to figure out what was going on through most of the book, I enjoyed it. Even when I was frustrated with the story, I could not stop turning the pages. For me Generation Loss was an incredible book, it just wasn't at all what I was expecting. There are four books in the series and I already have the second one, so I will read it to follow up on Cass and see where her life goes from here.

This book won the Shirley Jackson Award for Novel for 2007. The Shirley Jackson Awards honor outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. In addition to the Cass Neary series, Elizabeth Hand has written novels and short stories in the Science Fiction, Horror,  and Fantasy genres.

Publisher:   Small Beer Press, 2007
Length:       268 pages
Format:      Trade paper
Series:       Cass Neary, #1
Setting:      Small island off the coast of Maine, USA
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Tales of Terror

My husband is reading Three Men in the Dark: Tales of Terror by Jerome K. Jerome, Barry Pain & Robert Barr. I love the cover. I decided this would be a good time to try some more horror stories or ghost stories, an area I am not experienced in. 

The title and the emphasis on Jerome K. Jerome's name on the cover led me to assume the books was only stories by that author. In fact, the editor, Hugh Lamb, has created a collection of tales of terror by Jerome and two of his contemporaries and friends, Barry Pain and Robert Barr. 

I read four stories and I had mixed reactions. Of the four I read, I preferred Barry Pain's stories. Unfortunately I did not try any stories by Robert Barr.

"The Skeleton" by Jerome K. Jerome

The story starts with a discussion of spiritualism. One of the men tells a story about a man who purchases a skeleton and then thinks that the skeleton is coming alive. The story was more complicated than that, but that was the part that made an impression on me. 7 pages.

I enjoyed this exchange in the discussion of spiritualism:

"For my part," remarked MacShaughnassy, "I can believe in the ability of our spirit friends to give the quaint entertainments credited to them much easier than I can in their desire to do so."

"You mean," added Jephson, "that you cannot understand why a spirit, not compelled as we are by the exigencies of society, should care to spend its evenings carrying on a laboured and childish conversation with a room full of abnormally uninteresting people."

"Silhouettes" by Jerome K. Jerome 

I read this twice, and in truth I did not understand it. It was very atmospheric, and there were a couple of paragraphs that were very nice, that I kept going back to. 8 pages.

"The Case of Vincent Pyrwhit" by Barry Pain

This one seemed like a ghost story to me. 

Very short, only 4 pages. The story is told by Vincent Pyrwhit's oldest friend. Vincent Pyrwhit died in strange circumstances after his wife died from a long illness. Before his death, Pyrwhit invites the narrator to visit, and they get a strange telephone call. The story did not scare me but I found it very effective.

I found this story online at Wikisource.

"Linda" by Barry Pain

This one was also told in first person and was my favorite. I liked the writing and the narrative. The narrator's brother marries a woman named Linda. After Linda's death, the brother invites the narrator to visit him; he now has Linda's younger sister living with him. The situation is very tense. It was also not very scary but I liked it. 14 pages.

Monday, October 23, 2023

My Mystery Books from the 2023 Book Sale


From September 15th through September 24th this year, we visited the Planned Parenthood Book Sale five times. Here I have listed ten of the crime fiction books that I purchased at the sale. There were some older books, some newish books.

The House on the Strand (1969) by Daphne de Maurier

I had been looking for books by Daphne de Maurier at the book sale, and my son volunteered to help. He did not have any luck either until he found one in the Science Fiction and Fantasy area. We were both surprised. It turns out this is a time travel book of sorts, so of course I had to try it. Almost 300 pages; I think it will be a good read.

The English Teacher (2013) by Yiftach Reicher Atir

I bought this book because it is spy fiction and the protagonist is a female Mossad agent. Otherwise, I know nothing more about it. The author drew on his own experiences to write the book. It was translated from the Hebrew by Philip Simpson.

Tangerine (2018) by Christine Mangan

I bought this because it is set in Morocco and it is a mystery / thriller. I don't know much about Morocco at all. BookerTalk has reviewed this book. Based on her thoughts on the book I may be disappointed, but it won't hurt to give it a try.

A World of Curiosities (2022) by Louise Penny

I bought this book because I plan to read all the books in this series. And because it was a very good price for a newer hardback, although I usually don't pay $6.00 for books at the book sale. I have read 11 of the books, and this is the 18th. It will take me a while to get to this one.

The Outcast Dead (2014) by Elly Griffiths

This is another series I am working my way through. This is the 6th book of a 15 book series, so it is up in the air whether I will read all of the books in the series or not.

Bitter Wash Road (2013) by Garry Disher

Garry Disher is a prolific Australian author; I think most of his novels are mysteries. I have read one book from his Peninsula Crimes police procedural series, The Dragon Man. His first series stars a thief, Wyatt; two years ago I was lucky to find the first four in that series at the 2021 book sale. I still haven't tried any of those. And this year I found the first book in his most recent series starring Paul Hirschhausen, Bitter Wash Road

Brighton Rock (1938) by Graham Greene

I haven't read much by Graham Greene so I was happy to find this old hardback edition of Brighton Rock with the dust jacket mostly intact. The protagonist is Pinkie, a gang leader who has murdered a journalist and thinks he can get away with it. The book goes beyond a thriller to explore moral issues. 

Anatomy of a Murder (1958) by Robert Traver

I have a paperback copy of this book and had wanted to read it for years, but it has the tiniest print I have ever seen. So I was thrilled to find this copy at the book sale. 

This is from the prologue:

"This is the story of a murder, of a murder trial, and of some of the people who engaged or became enmeshed in the proceedings. Enmeshed is a good word, for murder, of all crimes, seems to posses to a greater degree than any other that compelling magnetic quality that draws people helplessly into its outspreading net, frequently to their surprise, and occasionally to their horror."

Missionary Stew (1983) by Ross Thomas

I have enjoyed the Ross Thomas books I have read, which were espionage books. Not all of his books are in that genre, but I think this one has at least a tinge of it.

This is part of a review in the October 16, 1983 Washington Post by Stephen King:

"In a country that chooses to canonize a few of its many fine comic novelists and ignore the rest, Ross Thomas is something of a secret. Missionary Stew is Thomas's 19th novel (five of them were issued under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck), but the people who know and relish the work of Ishmael Reed, Don DeLillo, and Peter DeVries do not know the work of Ross Thomas, and that seems a great shame. Perhaps Missionary Stew, certainly the best of the Thomas novels I've read, will help to rectify that situation. It is funny, cynical, and altogether delicious. If buying a novel is, as a friend of mine once said, always a speculative investment for the reader, then take it from me--this one is a blue-chip stock. Baby, you can't go wrong."

Strangers in Town: Three Newly Discovered Mysteries by Ross Macdonald, edited by Tom Nolan

From the dust jacket of the book: 

"In an important literary discovery, Macdonald biographer, Tom Nolan, unearthed three previously unpublished private-eye stories by Ross Macdonald. 'Death by Water,' written in 1945, features Macdonald's first detective Joe Rogers, and two novelettes from 1950 and 1955, 'Strangers in Town' and 'The Angry Man,' are detailed cases of Lew Archer."

This was my most expensive purchase at the book sale. The book was published by Crippen & Landru in 2001. It is in excellent condition and includes an additional small booklet with a piece written by Macdonald titled 'Winnipeg, 1929.' Ross Macdonald is a pseudonym of Kenneth Millar; he was brought up in Canada and met his wife Margaret Millar there.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Eighth Detective: Alex Pavesi


This was my first book after reading mostly from my 20 Books of Summer list, so I was going for whatever struck my fancy at the time. This one had a nice cover, it had been on my TBR about a year, and the story sounded out of the ordinary. 

The central story in The Eighth Detective is that Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, wrote a mathematical theory of the structure of mystery stories thirty years before and published a book with seven short stories to illustrate his theory. He then moved to a remote island and retired. Thirty years later a company wants to republish the book of short stories, with some edits, and has sent an editor, Julia Hart, to the island to go over the stories with him.  This book includes the text of all seven stories, so it is almost like reading a short story book. Following each story, Grant and Julia discuss the story, its pros and cons, and questions she has. And pretty soon it is obvious that the real story of Julia's visit to the island is not so straightforward. 

I always like books with an unusual structure and I enjoyed this one a lot. The short stories are good reading, and the dissection of the stories is interesting. The suspense is maintained well, as I tried to figure out if Julia had an ulterior motive, and what it might be. I liked the ending and it was handled well.

This book is slower paced than many contemporary mysteries, as the overall story is broken up by the short stories interspersed throughout. It is not a thriller. That was fine with me. It took me a while to figure out the time that the story was set in. Julia is visiting Grant on the island in the early 1970s and the stories were published in the late 1930s. So this also qualifies as a historical mystery.

This is the only book that Pavesi has published so far, and I know little about the author. He lives in London and writes full time. He has worked as a software engineer and has a PhD in mathematics. Logic and mathematics play a large part in The Eighth Detective, so that make sense.

Other resources:

Alex Pavesi wrote an interesting article for CrimeReads, "The Joys of Mystery Fiction's Most Enduring Tropes."

Also see John Norris's review at Pretty Sinister books

This book qualifies as a book about books, so it fits the requirements of the Bookish Books Challenge, hosted by Bloggin' 'bout Books.


Publisher:  Henry Holt and Co., 2020.
Length:     289 pages
Format:     Hardcover
Setting:     Remote Mediterranean island
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    Purchased at the Planned Parenthood book sale, 2022.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

#1962Club: Something Wholesale by Eric Newby

Something Wholesale is a memoir by Eric Newby, a renowned British travel writer. This was the first book I have read by this author. It is mostly about the years he was working in the family garment business but also covers some of the postwar years before he got out of the service.

I read this book for the 1962 Club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings.

From the back of the book:

Something Wholesale is Newby's hilarious tale of his chaotic life as an apprentice to the family garment firm of Lane and Newby. A story of unfortunate escapades with wool allergies, tissue paper and matching buttons, it is also a warm and loving portrait of his eccentric father -- who seemed to spend more time participating in disasters than he did in preserving his business. 

With its quick wit, self-deprecating charm and splendidly fascinating detail, this is vintage Newby -- only with a garment bag in place of a well-worn suitcase.

This was probably not the best place for me to start reading Eric Newby. It felt very disjointed and aimless, especially at the beginning, and I had a hard time follow the narrative. I am not strongly interested in clothing and fashion, and it seemed that Newby was not very interested in it either. But it did provide an interesting picture of the chaotic nature of that business. There is a good amount of time spent on his experiences with his father, who was exceptionally eccentric and quirky. Although the stories are affectionately told, Newby's father would have driven me crazy.

The real value this book delivered for me was the picture it paints of the times. It covers from the end of World War II to around 1956 when Newby's father dies. There is a short section that summarizes what Newby was doing in the next few years after that. 

I am sure this is not representative of the best of Eric Newby's writings. I will be following up by reading some of the other books he has written. I have some in mind but suggestions are welcome.

See also these resources:

Moira at Clothes in Books covers this book in two posts, here and here. There are excerpts from the book in her posts.

At Slightly Foxed, see an extract of an article by Ariane Bankes, "Misadventures in the Rag Trade." It goes into more detail about the adventures covered in the book.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Choc-Ice Woman" by Mary Costello


Mary Costello is a new author to me. Per Wikipedia, she is an Irish author of short stories and novels; she was born in Galway and now lives in Dublin. Her two novels are Academy Street (2014) and The River Capture (2019). Her first short story collection was The China Factory (2012).

Her next collection, Barcelona, will be out in March 2024; this story will be in that collection.

"The Choc-Ice Woman" 

The setting is in Ireland. Frances, the narrator, is accompanying the remains of her brother Denis in a hearse, as a passenger. It is a longish drive, from Dublin, where her brother was in the hospital, to Kerry, where they live. Her husband Frank is following them to the funeral home in their car. Along the way, on this trip, we learn about her background and her family, and about her marriage. Frances and her husband are in their early sixties. They have been married about 30 years. The story is surprising and sad.

This story was a very good read, even though it was somewhat unsettling; I will be on the lookout for other stories by this author.

"The Choc-Ice Woman" was published in the print edition of the October 16, 2023, issue of the New Yorker. It is available online here; I don't know if you have to have a subscription to access it.

Monday, October 16, 2023

#1962Club: Gambit by Rex Stout


Rex Stout wrote 33 novels and 41 novellas about the private detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. The novellas were published in 14 books; each book has two, three or four novellas.  The books are narrated by Archie. The series began in 1934 and the last book in the series, A Family Affair, was published in 1975, shortly before Stout's death. Over the forty plus years in which this series was published, the protagonists did not age at all, but they were always placed within the context of the time that the book was written. 

I read Gambit for the 1962 Club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings. This is a reread. I have read all of the books in the Nero Wolfe series multiple times. 

A man has been murdered at a chess club, during a special event. Paul Jerin, a chess maven, was playing chess games against multiple players at the same time. The men playing against him were in one room and he was in a room by himself. Matthew Blount arranged the event, and four men, friends of his, were messengers supplying each opponent's moves to Jerin. Shortly after the event begins, Jerin begins feeling ill. Soon he is taken to the hospital and ultimately he dies of poisoning. Blount, an important business man, is arrested for the crime because all the evidence points towards him. 

Sally Blount, 22-year-old daughter of the accused man, hires Wolfe to clear him because she doesn't believe that his lawyer can do the job. She has to scrape together her own money to hire Wolfe because her family doesn't want Wolfe involved.

The Nero Wolfe series is fun to read because Wolfe has so many quirks. He hates to leave his home, thus he needs Archie Goodwin to do the legwork for him. He has a strict routine every day, including four hours each day (9am-11am) and (4pm-6pm) in his plant rooms on the top floor of his brownstone caring for his orchids. He never discusses business when eating. And eating and good food are very important to him. He has a cook (who also keeps the house clean) and a full-time expert in charge of the orchids. But his biggest quirk is that he does not like to work and only takes a case when he needs the money. Part of Archie's job is to prod him into accepting cases and make sure they keep an adequate balance in the bank to live on and pay his employees.

However, this book has one of the most straightforward plots of the 33 novels that Rex Stout wrote. Less of the quirks are evident or emphasized. The plotting is intricate and the mystery is especially challenging.

One of the many things I love about the Nero Wolfe novels is the beginnings. Usually the first paragraph or two provides a very good introduction. In this case, Wolfe is burning a dictionary in the front room; a prospective client (with an appointment) shows up but Wolfe doesn't want to be interrupted. He is burning the dictionary because he strongly objects to some of the definitions. The dictionary being burned is Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged (Third Edition), published in 1961. This third edition did cause some controversy when it first appeared, so I guess that Stout was commenting on that. I am sure that I was a bit dismayed by the thought of burning a book even when I first read the book in my teens or twenties, but Wolfe explains to Archie that he is allowed to burn his own personal copy.

There are often literary references in the books. In most of the Nero Wolfe novels, Wolfe is reading a book, usually a recently published book. In this book it is African Genesis by Robert Ardrey, published in 1961. I remember reading that book, but I probably read it in the early 70s. Because Sally stays in an extra room at Wolfe's brownstone for a few days due to friction with her family, Wolfe allows Sally to read any book off his shelves, and she picks a book by Voltaire. Twice, during a meal, Wolfe and Sally discuss topics involving Voltaire, his writing and his life. 

All in all, Gambit by Rex Stout was an exceptionally good read, as I expected. It is entertaining, and funny at times, but towards the end it gets darker as Wolfe and Archie close in on the murderer. Even knowing who did it, I did not remember how Wolfe fulfills his mission to clear Matthew Blount. And I have only scratched the surface of this plot, even though the book is short, around 150 pages.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Classics Club Spin #35, October 2023

The latest Classics Club Spin has been announced. To join in, I choose twenty books from my classics list. On Sunday, 15th October, 2023, 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 Sunday, 3rd December, 2023.

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

  1. Anne Bronte – Agnes Grey (1847)
  2. James Cain – The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
  3. Albert Camus – The Stranger (1942)
  4. Lewis Carroll – Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  5. Willa Cather – My Ántonia (1918)
  6. Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows (1908)
  7. Graham Greene – Our Man in Havana (1958)
  8. Graham Greene – The Quiet American (1955)
  9. Dashiell Hammett – Red Harvest (1929)
  10. Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr.Ripley (1955)
  11. Shirley Jackson – We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
  12. Madeleine L'Engle – A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  13. William Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
  14. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)
  15. John Steinbeck – Cannery Row (1945)
  16. Bram Stoker – Dracula (1897)
  17. William Thackeray – Vanity Fair (1848)
  18. Anthony Trollope – The Warden (1855)
  19. Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
  20. Virginia Woolf – Flush (1933)

I have been thinking about how to speed up my reading for my Classics List recently. Classics Club members aim to complete their list within five years and for me that would be in November 2023. I am not even close to finishing the list. One of my problems is that my list has 70 books when only 50 are required – but I haven't even finished 50 so far. However, I am still enjoying most of the classics I read, and even the ones I don't like so much are worthwhile reads.

I did decide to make more changes to my list this time. I usually list the same books every time and only change one or two books. This time I am including more books that I am not in a hurry to read (for various reasons) and books that I don't currently have a copy of. I don't know why I think that will help. 

I do have some favorites on this list. Are there any of these you recommend?

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Paladin" by Tod Goldberg


“Paladin” is the fifth story I have read from the short story anthology Playing Games, edited by Lawrence Block. The theme of this anthology is games and gaming. The story is set in 1985 and has connections to the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, which was first published in 1974. 

A man out on a boat with a coast guard rescue crew calls the sheriff of Granite City, a town off the southern coast of Washington. They are close friends and he asks the sheriff to look in on his son, a 12-year-old, who is alone at home. What the sheriff finds is a bloody crime scene, but the boy is not there. On the same day, the crew of the coast guard boat that the father went out on is lost at sea.

This was a very good story, well-written; it kept me interested from beginning to end. It was not really gory but the main crime scene, and other evidence found in the days following, was horrendous, although not lingered over. The crime is not solved. 

The story is about 25 pages long and a lot was packed into it. I continued to think about it for the next few days, trying to decide what could have happened. It was a disturbing and haunting story. 

Tod Goldberg has written eleven novels, including five novels based on the Burn Notice TV series, and three collections of short stories. I would be interested in reading his latest series. The first book is Gangsterland, but it might be too violent for me. 

I read the first four stories in this anthology in July of this year and discussed them here

Also see reviews at Book Chase and

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Greenwood: Michael Christie

My latest read was Greenwood by Michael Christie, a Canadian author. It is a multigenerational family story with a focus on nature and ecology, especially trees. It starts in a dystopian future in 2038 but soon travels back to follow the previous generations of the Greenwood family.

In 2038, Jacinda (Jake) Greenwood, is a dendrologist (a botanist who specializes in trees) but is working in a low paid job as a tour guide. At that point in time, the earth is plagued with dust storms, caused by the Great Withering, a wave of fungal blights and insect infestations that destroyed most of the trees. Jake is employed by a park with one of the world's last remaining forests (on an island off the coast of British Columbia). The story then goes back to 2008 and Liam Greenwood, Jake's father, a carpenter. Jake and Liam had never met. Next the story moves to 1974 and Willow Greenwood, Liam's mother. She is an environmental activist, protesting against the destruction of forests. 

Willow's father, Harris Greenwood, is a wealthy man who made his fortune cutting down forests for wood for many purposes. A large part of the story focuses on Everett Greenwood, Harris's brother, who rescues an abandoned baby and makes his way back to his brother, after many years of separation.  


I found this to be a wonderful if strange book. There were so many characters that at times I felt like I did not get to know some of them very well, but I became emotionally involved in the outcomes of their actions and the crucial moments of their lives, and I cared a lot about them. Some of the important characters outside of the family were very well defined, especially Harvey Bennett Lomax, who is following Everett as he travels across Canada with the baby, and Temple Van Horne, a female farm owner that Everett meets along the way. This book gives a great picture of many areas in Canada during the time period covered.

The story is mostly told in present tense. I did not even notice that until I was at least 100 pages into the book, so it seems that I am adapting to reading books written in present tense. 

This book was nominated for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada in 2020, and it won. But I have yet to figure out why it was considered crime fiction. There are crimes that take place, and mysteries that run through the story, but it is not like any other crime fiction I have read. It is a great read in any case.

One caution: More than one reviewer noted that the beginning and end of the book, set in 2038 and featuring Jake Greenwood, were much less compelling than the much larger middle sections covering 1908 to 2008. I agree, but I only mention that because some people might stop reading the book based on the first section, and the rest of the book has so much to offer. 

I first heard about Greenwood at Bill Selnes' blog, Mysteries and More in Saskatchewan. Also see this post on his email exchange with the author.


Publisher:  Hogarth, 2019 
Length:      501 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      Canada (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and more)
Genre:        General Fiction
Source:      On my TBR piles since 2020.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation: From I Capture the Castle to The Six Iron Spiders


The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point.

The starting book this month is I Capture the Castle (1948) by Dodie Smith. I had never read this book and it is on my Classics list, so I decided to get a copy and read it right away. This book seems to be almost universally loved, but I was disappointed, although I didn't really have any expectations. Nevertheless, I am glad I read it.

From I Capture the Castle I move on to another book with Castle in the title, The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick. This book is in the alternate history subgenre. Philip K. Dick creates a world in which the Axis countries won World War II and the United States has been split into three sections. The Western coast is under Japanese rule, the East coast is governed by the Germans, and in between is a neutral zone, sort of. The year is 1962 and the story starts out in the Japanese sector. 

Again linking via a word in the title, my next link is to The High Window (1942), by Raymond Chandler.

Chandler's novels feature the private investigator Philip Marlowe. In The High Window, Marlowe is called in by a wealthy widow, Elizabeth Bright Murdock, because a coin in her late husband's coin collection is missing. She thinks that her daughter-in-law took it, and she wants Marlowe to find it. You would think that she could ask her son about it, but apparently no one in this family talks to anyone else. The coin that is missing is a Brasher Doubloon, in mint condition and very valuable. This novel was not as good as the previous two books in the series, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, but it is still an excellent book. Where this novel does live up to the earlier promise of the two previous ones is in the beauty of the writing. Cover art is by Tom Adams, who also illustrated the covers for many Agatha Christie paperbacks.

Using the word Window in the title, I next link to Bedrooms Have Windows (1949) by Erle Stanley Gardner. A.A. Fair is a pseudonym used by Erle Stanley Gardner for the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series. They are private investigators. Flamboyant, fast-talking Bertha Cool is the boss; Donald Lam works for her. I have not read this book in the series. My copy has a lovely cover illustration by Darryl Greene. 

I have read another book by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair. Gold Comes in Bricks (1940) is about the same private investigator team. This is the second book in the series and Bertha Cool is still trying to mold Donald Lam into the employee she wants him to be. At the beginning of the book, Donald is studying jujitsu with a master named Hashita. Bertha wants him to be able to protect himself. He is not a tall, handsome, beefy detective. He is short and lean, brains not brawn. Henry Ashbury happens upon the training session and contracts with Bertha to hire Donald to find out how his daughter, Alta, is spending her money. He is concerned that it might be gambling or payments to a blackmailer. He brings Donald into his home as a physical fitness trainer and potential business partner so that he can get to know his family. While following Alta, he also uncovers a scheme to sell gold mine shares which Ashbury's stepson is part of. A very complex plot. The cover of my edition has an illustration by Robert McGinnis, my favorite illustrator for novels of this period.

Using Gold in the previous title leads me to The Golden Spiders (1953) by Rex Stout. Rex Stout is my favorite author. I have read all of the Nero Wolfe titles multiple times. This is a good one, although not in my top ten list for his series. In this novel, Nero Wolfe uncharacteristically agrees to work with a young boy from his neighborhood on a potential case of possible kidnapping. Before long, Archie and Wolfe and his pack of freelance detectives are investigating a group of people taking advantage of poor immigrants who are seeking help in getting settled in this country.

Spiders in the previous title leads me to my last book in the chain, The Six Iron Spiders (1942), by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. This book is a later entry in the Asey Mayo series. Taylor wrote 22 Asey Mayo mysteries between 1931 and 1951. This one was published in 1942, set during World War II. Asey has a job in the Porter Motor Tank Plant but has returned to his home on Cape Cod for two days. I haven't read this book, although I did read the first book in the series, The Cape Cod Mystery. See Kate's review of this novel at Crossexaminingcrime.

My Six Degrees took me from the UK in the 1930s to various locations in the US. The Man in the High Castle covers from the West Coast to the East Coast and two characters take a road trip though the middle of the US. Most of Raymond Chandler's and Erle Stanley Gardner's books are set in California, on the West Coast. Nero Wolfe lives in New York City, and Asey Mayo lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, both on the eastern side of the US. Not only that, but all of the books, including the starting book, were published between 1940 and 1962.

Have you read any of these books? I am especially interested in any one who has opinions on Bedrooms Have Windows or The Six Iron Spiders, since I haven't read those yet, and I am motivated to do so soon.

If you are participating in the Six Degrees meme this month, where did your links take you? 

The next Six Degrees will be on November 4, 2023, and the starting book will be Western Lane by Chetna Maroo, a novella that is part of the read-along for Novellas in November 2023

Monday, October 2, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My status on my Bookish Goals for 2023


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the topic is "Reading Goals I Still Want to Accomplish Before the End of the Year." 

I am choosing an alternate option, to report on how I have done on my Bookish Goals for 2023, which I shared in more detail last January on my blog. After each goal, I am adding a brief note about my status as of the end of September.

1. Read more graphic novels.  I was aiming for one a month.

Current Status:  I read a total of five so far: two graphic memoirs in August, and three books in the A Man and His Cat series (Japanese manga). This is an improvement over last year.

2. Read more science fiction. My aim in 2023 was to read ten novels or short story anthologies.

Current Status: I did not do very well in this area. I read two science fictions novels (one by John Scalzi, the other an alternate history book). And a few short stories. Next year I would change this goal to also include fantasy novels. 

3. Read more espionage novels. My goal was to read 10 or 12. Specific authors I would like to catch up on are Anthony Price, Victor Canning, Len Deighton, Mick Herron, and Charles Cumming.

Current Status: I have only read six spy fiction novels in 2023 so far. I read novels by Anthony Price, Victor Canning, and Mick Herron, but haven't read any by Len Deighton or Charles Cumming.

4. Aim at reading books on my shelves rather than buying new books. 

Current Status: I did very well on reading books from my own shelves. My goal for 2023 is 48 books, and I am only one shy of that at this point. But I have not succeeded at all on cutting back on buying new (to me) books.

5. Read more ebooks. I continue to buy ebooks but hardly ever read them. 

Current Status: Total Failure. I have read one ebook this year.

6. Read some every morning. Anything would be fine, but I can't read ebooks at night because it interferes with my sleep, so ebooks would be a priority. 

Current Status: Not much progress on this one either. I sometimes read in the morning or afternoon, but only now and then.

7. Read more books from my Classics List. My goal was to read at least one classic a month. 

Current Status: I think I only read five books from my classics list this year. I am far behind on completing my Classics List.

8. Train myself to write short reviews. I don't necessarily want to write only brief reviews, but I would like to master that art.

Current Status: I did make some efforts in this area, but with little results. However, it is still an important goal for me.

9. Complete more short story anthologies or collections. I currently have many half-finished short story books all over the house. 

Current Status: My goal was to complete one short story book a month. On a quick glance through the blog, I think I finished 5 collections or anthologies so far this year. That is not bad, but I may have to accept that I just don't like that approach to reading short stories; usually I just want to dip in and out of short story anthologies or collections.

10. I want to regularly track my goals and any challenges I participate in. 

Current Status: I knew that would be a real challenge for me, and I haven't kept up with it. I have to decide how much I care about this, and whether it is worthwhile for me.

Summing up

To be honest, I don't know that I am going to push to finish any of my current goals in the last three months of the year. In the summer months, I read a lot of books from my TBR shelves for the 20 Books of Summer (all of which I enjoyed), and now I am more interested in just reading what strikes my fancy for the rest of the year. Between now and the end of the year, I plan to read two books for the 1962 Club in October and I hope to read some books with Christmas themes in December.

However, this has given me a great opportunity to think about what Bookish Goals I want to aim at in 2024.