Tuesday, 31 July 2018

July 2018 Reading Summary

Well, here we go, another month almost complete. I won't finish any more books by the end of today. It's been overall an excellent month. My stats are below.

July 2018 General Stats

General Info               July            Total
Books Read -                12                 71
Pages Read -               4140            23100

Pages Breakdown
      < 250                        2                 23       
250 - 350                        5                 21
351 - 450                        2                 14
      > 450                        3                 13

5 - star                            2                   4
4 - star                            6                 42
3 - star                            4                 24
2 - star                                                 1

Female                           6                 25
Male                              6                 36

Fiction                           2                 14
Mystery                         8                 41
SciFi                              1                 11
Non-Fic                         1                   2
Classics                                              1
Poetry                                                 2

Reading Group Challenges
Favorite July Book
Top 3 Books
1. Flesh and Blood by John Harvey (5 stars)
2.  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (5 stars)
3.  Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth (4 stars)

12 + 4  Challenge (completed 12)
1. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (5 stars)
2. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (4 stars)
3. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (4 stars)

New Series (completed 19)
4. Flesh and Blood by John Harvey (Frank Elder #1) (5 stars) 
5. Haven by Kay Hooper (Bishop #13) (3 stars)
6. Under Orion by Janice Law (Anna Peters #3) (3 stars)

Ongoing Series (completed 15)
7. Occam's Razor by Archer Mayor (Joe Gunther #10) (4 stars) 
8. The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell (Wallander #6) (4 stars)
9. The Abyssinian Proof by Jenny White (Kamil Pasha #2) (4 stars)

Decades Challenge (completed 13)
10. Plain Murder by C.S. Forester (1930) (3.5 stars)

Canadian Content (completed 12)
11. A City Called July by Howard Engel (3.5 stars)
12. Caught by Lisa Moore (4 stars)

Aug Books

Currently Reading

Bear Island
1. Bear Island by Alistair MacLean (Decades Challenge)
2. Slicky Boys by Martin Limon (Ongoing Series)
3. A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows (Canadian Content)
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (12 + 4 Challenge)

In the Mill

1. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (New Series).

"In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, trade-craft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC."

2. The Moor by Laurie R. King (Ongoing Series / Mary Russell #4).

"In the eerie wasteland of Dartmoor, Sherlock Holmes summons his devoted wife and partner, Mary Russell, from her studies at Oxford to aid the investigation of a death and some disturbing phenomena of a decidedly supernatural origin. Through the mists of the moor there have been sightings of a spectral coach made of bones carrying a woman long-ago accused of murdering her husband--and of a hound with a single glowing eye. Returning to the scene of one of his most celebrated cases, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes and Russell investigate a mystery darker and more unforgiving than the moors themselves."

3. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey (Decades Challenge).

"What begins as a ploy to claim an inheritance ends with the impostor's life hanging in the balance. In this tale of mystery and suspense, a stranger enters the inner sanctum of the Ashby family posing as Patrick Ashby, the heir to the family's sizable fortune. The stranger, Brat Farrar, has been carefully coached on Patrick's mannerism's, appearance, and every significant detail of Patrick's early life, up to his thirteenth year when he disappeared and was thought to have drowned himself. It seems as if Brat is going to pull off this most incredible deception until old secrets emerge that jeopardize the imposter's plan and his life. Culminating in a final terrible moment when all is revealed, Brat Farrar is a precarious adventure that grips the reader early and firmly and then holds on until the explosive conclusion."

So there you go folks. Another month passed. Back to normally scheduled programming next entry.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Reading Update and My Author's A - Z

Since my last reading update, I've finished two more books (July has definitely been an excellent 'reading' month) and, of course, started two more. Another book arrived in the mail on Friday, this one from World of Books. I'll also continue with my Author's A - Z. So while the missus and I watch Spectre, onwards and upwards.

New Book(s)

1. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (Harlem Cycle #1). A Rage in Harlem is the first in an 8 book series featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, New York City police detectives.

"A Rage in Harlem is a ripping introduction to Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, patrolling New York City’s roughest streets in Chester Himes’s groundbreaking Harlem Detectives series.

For love of fine, wily Imabelle, hapless Jackson surrenders his life savings to a con man who knows the secret of turning ten-dollar bills into hundreds—and then he steals from his boss, only to lose the stolen money at a craps table. Luckily for him, he can turn to his savvy twin brother, Goldy, who earns a living—disguised as a Sister of Mercy—by selling tickets to Heaven in Harlem.  With Goldy on his side, Jackson is ready for payback."

Just Finished

1.  The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell (Wallander # 5).

"I'm surprised I've only read two books in Henning Mankell's Wallander series. It's probably because I've watched both the original sub-titles series and Kenneth Brannagh's own interpretation of the books that I think I've read more. Anyway I enjoyed The Fifth Woman the fifth book very much.

Wallander has returned from a vacation in Rome with his father, a chance for them to rekindle their relationship. On his return he is thrown immediately into a mystery; a bizarre gruesome murder of an elder man. He is found on his property impaled on bungee stakes (his bridge having been sawed through to make him fall). This begins an investigation involving all of the detectives in Wallander's division. We get the perspective of the perpetrator which adds to the interest. Other murders occur over the course of the story and as well, Wallander must deal with the death of his father. This leads him to spend considerable time mulling his future; does he want to retire, does he want to buy a house, a dog and encourage his girl friend to move from Latvia to live with him? As well, Citizen Militias are forming to take the law into their own hands.

All makes for a rich, detailed mystery story. At time Wallander gets on my nerves; he can be hesitant, quick to anger, doubt his abilities. But at the same time, these characteristics make Wallander more human and realistic. His team is also an excellent mix of people. The story takes its time developing and the investigation at times runs to a halt as they search for other clues and information. But it is also so well written that it seems to move along at a nice pace belying its length.

All in all, I enjoyed very much and I hope I won't take so much time to get on with the next story. (4 stars)"

2. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

"I found The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle a difficult book to rate. It is a fantasy about the search by the last unicorn on earth, along with Schmendrick, a bumbling magician and Molly Grue, to find out if there remain any other unicorns on Earth. I think my problem is that the unicorn isn't necessarily a sympathetic creature. Because she is a unicorn, she is above most other creatures, distant from everybody else. Schmendrick and Molly Grue are likeable enough especially the spirited Molly. And when Prince Lir shows up, he is also an interesting character, a hero who loves the unicorn, who by this time is in human form; a love that might not be returned.

See... it's a sort of depressing story in its way. The Unicorn is captured by a wandering band of gypsies who display captured creatures of the night. Schmendrick helps her escape and she is affected by this. Encounters with the Red Bull terrify and diminish the unicorn. I should stop at this point as I don't want to ruin the story but there is a gloom feel throughout (although I'll readily admit that the recent weather here with its stuffy heat might have affected my mood), what with the problems of the unicorn and her friends, the broken caste they find themselves in, the constant threat from the Red Bull.

But it is a story that is resolved; I won't say necessarily nicely because even there there are sad portions. Even with that, it's a unique story, poetic and musical in a way and well worth experiencing. How could you not read a story about a beautiful unicorn? (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows (Birder Murder Mystery #1).

"Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.

Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide when he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she begins to have her doubts when Jejeune’s most promising theory involves a feud over bird-watching lists. A second murder only complicates matters.

To unravel this mystery, Jejeune must deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues, and his own insecurities. In the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties."

2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.

"It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a license to kill. Somewhere among the hordes of humans out there, lurked several rogue androids. Deckard's assignment--find them and then..."retire" them. Trouble was, the androids all looked exactly like humans, and they didn't want to be found!"

Bill's Author's A - Z

1. Clive Cussler. American adventure author is a most prolific writer. I'll just talk about him in my A - Z today as he's written books in 5 different adventure series; Dirk Pitt, NUMA Files, Oregon Files, Isaac Bell and Fargo Adventures. I've read the first two books in the Isaac Bell Adventures and have slowly acquired  the first books in others of the series. I'll highlight those I've read and the first books of the others that I have. 

a. The Chase (Isaac Bell #1).

"This is my first experience with Clive Cussler and I enjoyed very much. A nice, well-paced historical thriller with car chases, train chases, bank robberies, all good stuff. I especially found the bit about the San Francisco earthquake interesting as I had read a book about those events last year and it reminded me of that excellent story. Isaac Bell is an interesting character, son of a rich banker who has chosen to fight crime and now chases a bank robber/ murderer for the Van Dorn Detective agency. He's definitely larger than life but still thoughtful. The killer is also interesting, a sociopath who thrives on the thrill of the robberies he commits and cares not for life. An extreme challenge for Bell. An interesting time in history, pre WWI as the US is becoming a major power but still a bit of a wild frontier. Most enjoyable. 3.5 stars"

b. The Wrecker (Isaac Bell #2).

"Wow! I wonder if Clive Cussler gets paid by the word; or maybe because he has a co-writer for many of his books, they both feel that they need to contribute 200+ pages for each book. OK, enough kidding. Considering it's size, The Wrecker, the 2nd book in the Isaac Bell thriller / mystery series, is a page-turning thrill-ride.

Isaac Bell is the top detective in the Joseph Van Dorn Detective Agency. Van Dorn assigns Bell to catch and stop The Wrecker, an unknown enemy who seems bent on destroying the Southern Pacific Railway company owned by millionaire, Oswald Hennessy. Trains are derailed, people killed, damage to the major railway tunnel that Hennessy is trying to build through the Cascade Mountains. Bell and his team of Van Dorn agents must race against time to find out who this mysterious Wrecker is and also to save Hennessy's railway.

It's a fast-paced story, full of action (some which you just have to suspend disbelief with) that leaves you breathless and tension and thrills. Bell races from one end of the country to try to find out who the Wrecker is and to try and stop his plans. We meet his lover Marion Morgan, an intelligent, beautiful, independent woman, again as Isaac and Marion build on their relationship. We meet The Wrecker and get a peak at his plans as they develop throughout the story.

All in all, it's a fun ride, rocketing throughout the United States in the early 1900's, as the railways were trying to unite the country and the world was filled with adventure. Great stuff! (3.5 stars)"

c.  Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1).

"Dirk Pitt, death-defying adventurer and deep-sea expert, is out to the ultimate test as he plunges into the perilous waters of the Pacific Vortex -- a fog-shrouded sea zone where dozens of ships have vanished without a trace. The latest victim is the awesome superb Starbuck, America's deep-diving nuclear arsenal. Its loss poses an unthinkable threat to national defense. Pitt's job is to find it, salvage it, before the sea explodes. In a furious race against time, Pitt's mission swirls him into a battle with underwater assassins-and traps him in the arms of Summer Moran, the most stunningly exotic and dangerous toward disaster, Clive Cussler plummets his hero onto an ancient sunken island-the astonishing setting for the explosive climax of Pacific Vortex!"

d. Serpent (NUMA Files #1)

"When Kurt Austin, the leader of a courageous National Underwater & Marine Agency exploration team, rescues beautiful marine archaeologist Nina Kirov off the coast of Morocco, he becomes the next target of Texas industrialist Don Halcon. A madman bent on carving a new nation out of the southwestern United States and Mexico, Halcon's scheme hinges on Nina's recent discovery involving Christopher Columbus, and a priceless pre-Columbian antiquity buried in the battered remains of the sunken Italian luxury liner "Andrea Doria." Only Kurt Austin and his crack NUMA team stand between Halcon and the "Andrea Doria's" silent steel hull -- and if their deadly mission fails, Halcon will ride to power on a wave of death and destruction."

e. Golden Buddha (Oregon Files #1).

"In his first feature-length adventure, it's up to Cabrillo and his crew of expert intelligence and Naval men to put Tibet back in the hands of the Dalai Lama by striking a deal with the Russians and the Chinese. His gambling chip is a golden Buddha containing records of vast oil reserves in the disputed land.

But first, he'll have to locate—and steal—the all-important artifact. And there are certain people who would do anything in their power to see him fail..."

The first book in the Fargo series is Spartan Gold. Cussler has written enough stories to keep me going for a number of years. Give him a try. Have a wonderful week!!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Mysteries - Queens of Crime Fiction / The Golden Age of Crime

In my previous 4 posts on the mystery genre I highlighted what I considered to be new mystery series for me. Today I'll talk about female authors from the 'Golden Age' of detective fiction. I've enjoyed books by all of these classic authors. It's probably not an all-inclusive listing but in various articles on the subject, the most agreed upon listing includes Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers and Josephine Tey. All are British authors except Marsh who was a New Zealander (although her main character worked in England for the most part). For the purposes of my post today I'll include one other author, that being American writer Elizabeth Daly. I'm sure others can add more female mystery writers to this small list. Please let me know.

1. Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie
So let's begin the discussion with Agatha Christie, probably the most famous mystery writer of all.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie was born in Torquay, Devon, England in 1890. She died at the age of 85 in 1976 in Oxfordshire, England. Over the years, I've enjoyed many of her novels. I remember reading The Murder on the Links and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, both Hercule Poirot mysteries, back in my high school days. For some reason, I left her works; maybe partly a combination of how the mysteries ended up being solved (who the heck was that milkman again?? and my developing interest in Science Fiction and comic books)

But even then, I remember going to watch Murder on the Orient Express while at university in Toronto. It was an event evening as I stood in this lineup at the movie theater on Bloor Street that wound its way around the building. (I don't know that the theater is even there any more. In later years, I also watched with somewhat less enjoyment movie versions of Death on the Nile and The Mirror Crack'd. Jo has heard this story and complaint many times but as I recall The Mirror Crack'd starring Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak is one of the few movies that I ever remember falling asleep at.

In the last 20 years or so, my exploration of Christie's works and my enjoyment of her talent has increased greatly. Jo and I love nothing more than to watch one of the adaptations of her works. We have debated our favorite Miss Marples; each has portrayed Marple in their own unique fashion but we both prefer Geraldine McEwan. She had such a twinkle in her eye and played the part in such a manner that she was so under-estimated by the police investigators.

Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney each portrayed Hercule Poirot excellently but David Suchet has made Poirot his own. Last year Bravo had a mini-series based on the Tommy and Tuppence books. Jo and I also enjoyed a recent dramatization of her famous Mousetrap by our local drama society.

All of these and other TV and movie versions have made me start to explore Christie's written work again. Since I've moved to the West Coast, I've been trying one or two of her books a year. I've been trying to get the initial books in the various series and also to try some of her standalones and other series. She wrote from 1920 - 1976 so I've got a few years of reading to enjoy. Since 2012 I've read 9 of her books. I'll highlight 3 below

a. The Murder at the Vicarage (1930 / Miss Marple #1).

"A most enjoyable introduction to the Miss The series of mysteries. I particularly enjoyed how the story was presented, with the Vicar being the story teller. Miss Marple is almost in the shadows, as the Vicar wanders around town on his own or with the police inspector, chatting with people, hearing the ideas and thoughts. Miss Marple is a watcher, a wise lady, who observes and figures things out. The Vicar meets with her regularly, discussing ideas, clues and gaining her insight. I loved the story, loved trying to figure things out (for the most part, unsuccessfully) and I loved the main characters, the Vicar and his lovely young wife, Griselda and Miss Marple especially. The story was fun and a pleasure to read. I was even happy with the ending, more than satisfied as Miss Marple presented her findings and solution. Loved it! (5 stars)"

b. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926 / Hercule Poirot #3).

"Village rumor hints that Mrs. Ferrars poisoned her husband, but no one is sure. Then there's another victim in a chain of death. Unfortunately for the killer, master sleuth Hercule Poirot takes over the investigation."

c. Peril at End House (1932 / Hercule Poirot #6).

"Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckly. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.

Poirot has taken a particular interest in the young woman who has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents. Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.

2. Ngaio Marsh 

Ngaio Marsh
As I've mentioned a few times in this past week of posts, I discovered Marsh (and I have to say probably the following authors I'll mention) in my exploration of ABC Books in downtown Courtenay. They had an excellent selection of mysteries that I started to go through. 

Dame Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand author who lived from 1895 - 1982. Over the course of her long life she wrote 34 novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn. When Jo and I have visited England to see her relatives I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there had been a TV series starring Patrick Malahide as Chief Inspector Alleyn. There were two seasons of 9 episodes. I managed to enjoy three or four during our visits.

I've read 11 of the books so far and have enjoyed watching Alleyn's character being further developed. I'm glad I still have 23 to read. I have managed to purchase quite a few of them so far. I'll highlight 3 of the books for your interest.

a. A Man Lay Dead (Alleyn #1 / 1934).

"To amuse his house guests (and Sir Hubert is famous for his amusing house parties) Sir Hubert Handelsley devises a new form of the Murder Game.

But when the lights go up there is a real corpse, with a real dagger in its back - ans all seven suspects have had ample time to concoct amusing alibis."

b. Enter a Murderer (Alleyn #2 / 1935).

"The more Inspector Alleyn mysteries I read by Ngaio Marsh, the more I enjoy them. This is the second book in the series; I managed to find a copy on one of my locals. It involves a favourite setting of Marsh's, the theater. Alleyn is invited to see a play with his friend, Nigel Bathgate, budding news reporter, and while there, a murder is committed. A supposed prop gun is loaded with real bullets and the target is killed. The rest of the book deals with Alleyn and his team's investigation of the murder, or was it a suicide? I particularly liked this story because it had the feel of a police investigation and I like Marsh's writing style. Alleyn is an excellent character, he is interesting and he doesn't reveal all too quickly. His team of Fox and Bailey and others add to the feel of the story. And his use of Nigel as a recorder, foil and friend is also well-developed and presented. It's an excellent series and I highly recommend if you want to get into the classic writers of mysteries. Death in a White Tie is next in line for me. (4 stars)"

c. Overture to Death (Alleyn #9 / 1939).

"I do love the Roderick Alleyn mysteries. I've read the first 8 so far, with Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh being the 8th one, plus a couple of others further down the line. They do seem to get better and better. The mysteries are always interesting. In this story, an unpopular woman is murdered in a most interesting way. Was she the target or another? Alleyn and his team, the steady, constant Inspector Fox and his friend, news reporter Nigel Bathgate, accompany Alleyn to Pen Cuckoo at the behest of the local authorities as they are busy trying to sort out a series of robberies. I love the investigation, the interviews with the various characters. I also like how Marsh develops the story, leading up the murder before even bringing Alleyn into the picture, about half way through the story. There is nice humour, there are lovely touches (I'm thinking of late in the story when Alleyn writes a letter to his beloved, Troy. The whole story is a joy to read and hard to put down. Excellent series and excellent story. (4 stars)"

3. Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers was born in Oxford in 1893 and died in Essex in 1954. Over the course of her life she wrote 11 mysteries featuring her gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Several of the novels have been damatized in film and on TV. Jo and I recently watched a version of Busman's Honeymoon (AKA The Haunted Honeymoon) on TCM. It was made in 1940 and starred Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings.

I have read 4 of the novels so far and enjoyed them all. I have most of the others on my book shelves. I'll highlight two of those I've read for you.

a. Whose Body? (Wimsey #1 / 1923).

"I was very pleasantly surprised by my introduction to the world of Lord Peter Wimsey. I was expecting a cozy-type mystery, but it was so much more than that. Peter Wimsey is a detective, works at it sort of in his spare time, although he has solved some important cases, from some of the comments made during this first of the Wimsey mysteries. But he is much more than that; he is an officer who fought in WWI and suffers from a sort of post - traumatic stress disorder, which crops up when he is physically and mentally tired from working cases. He has doubts about what he does, whether he should make this a past-time when there is the potential for affecting people's lives with his investigations. The story, itself, grew on me as I delved deeper into it. I liked many of the characters; his butler, ex-Sgt Bunter, his wonderful, common-sense mother and Scotland Yard inspector and friend, Parker. I enjoyed this very much and look forward to the next one, which is next on my list; Clouds of Witness. It's always a nice surprise when a book exceeds your expectations. (4 stars)"

b. Lord Peter Views the Body (Wimsey Short Stories / 1928).

"This book contains 12 mysteries featuring Dorothy Sayers' famous sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey and each was unique in its own right and all were interesting and entertaining. I've grown to like Lord Peter very much as I've begun to explore this series. Short stories can be so hit or miss. It all depends on how quickly the author can get into the story and grab your attention and then come to a satisfying resolution. Dorothy Sayers succeeded with this much to my satisfaction. Lord Peter is such a wonderful character and the stories helped develop his character even more. He loves a mystery, loves to snoop and explore diverse situations, and is intelligent at coming up with logical solutions. I loved each story and was very surprised by the last one, The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba as it was quite different from all of the others. Excellent, entertaining read. (4 stars)"

4. Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham
Margery Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 and died in Colchester in 1966. A prolific writer she is best known for her Inspector Campion mysteries. From 1929 - 2017, she wrote 30 books in the Campion series, a mix of novels and short story collections. You'll note that some of the books were released after her death. A small number were completed by other authors. 

For two seasons (1989 - 1990), Peter Davison portrayed Inspector Campion. I haven't seen this series but my try to find some of the episodes.

I have read 7 of Allingham's mysteries, one of which was a standalone, Black Plumes (1940). I'll highlight two of my favorites for the purposes of this BLog entry.

a. Mr. Campion; Criminologist (1937 / Short Stories).

"This is the 2nd collection of Allingham's short stories I've read this year and both were excellent. In this collection, every story features her favourite sleuth, Albert Campion, a gentleman who likes to get involved with interesting cases. Each story is presented as an entry in Campion's casebook and as you see with one of them, the casebook is written by the author, Margery Allingham, sort of presented as Campion's secretary. This book features 7 of Campion's cases and for the most part, they also include his friend, Scotland Yard inspector, Stanislaus Oates. I enjoyed how Allingham presented the cases, I liked her writing style and I like Campion, somewhat like Dorothy Sayer's, Peter Wimsey, a confident, wealthy gentleman, who likes mysteries. The stories show how quickly he grasps the facts and how he is able to solve each case, each of which was interesting and different. I've read a few of the Campion books now and find that I'm enjoying them more and more. (4 stars)"

b. Pearls Before Swine (1945 / Campion #12).

"Albert Campion returns from three years’ work for the War Office in Europe to find that Lugg, his manservant, has brought him an unusual gift from Edna, Dowager Marchioness of Carados: the black silk nightdress-clad body of a dead woman, an apparent suicide, found in her son's bed the night before his wedding."

5. Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey
Josephine Tey was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1896 and died in London in 1952. She wrote plays, standalone mysteries and a six book series featuring Inspector Grant. I have read 3 of the Inspector Grant novels so far. I'll highlight my two favorites.

a. To Love and Be Wise (1950 / Inspector Grant #4).

"To Love and Be Wise is the 4th book in the Inspector Grant mystery series by Josephine Tey. If you enjoy Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh or Dorothy Sayers, you'll also enjoy this classic writer of mysteries.

Inspector Grant is a Scotland Yard inspector who has been assigned to investigate a disappearance of an American. It turns out that Grant had previously met this American when he was attending a party with his actress acquaintance, Marta Hallard. The American, photographer Leslie Searle, meets Grant and through him another acquaintance of Grant. Searle is asked to spend a weekend with the at the families estate. After a time there, Searle disappears, is presumed possibly to have drowned or been murdered and Grant is assigned to investigate.

The rest of the story is taken up with Grant's investigation. It's quite a gentle story but it is thoughtful and well-written and keeps you engrossed. Grant is a likeable, appealing character to carry the story. His investigation is tidy and intuitive and the people with whom he interacts are also quirky and interesting. I especially liked his Sgt, Williams, as he is a nice foil for Grant and he admires Grant very much. I also liked Grant's 'girlfriend', actress Marta Hallard; lovely, intelligent, sensible and someone who Grant is able to bounce his thoughts off.

All in all, I enjoyed this story more than I thought I would. It was well-crafted, thoughtful and ended satisfyingly. (4 stars)"

b. A Shilling for Candles (1936 / Grant #2).

"Beneath the sea cliffs of the south coast, suicides are a sad but common fact. Yet even the hardened coastguard knows something is wrong when a beautiful young film actress is found lying dead on the beach one morning. Inspector Grant has to take a more professional attitude: death by suicide, however common, has to have a motive - just like murder. (4 stars)"

6. Elizabeth Daly

Elizabeth Daly
American writer Elizabeth Daly was born in New York City in 1878 and died in Long Island in 1967. Between 1940 and 1951 she wrote 16 novels featuring her gentleman sleuth Henry Gamadge. I have read three of the series so far. I'll highlight two for you.

a. Death and Letters (1950 / Gamadge #15).

"Death and Letters is the second Henry Gamadge mystery by Elizabeth Daly that I've read this year. I am enjoying getting into the books very much. 

Gamadge is a writer and a man who likes to explore the world of letters and writing, hiring himself out to verify the authenticity of antique correspondence. In Death and Letters he receives correspondence from Mrs. Coldfield, who is being held incommunicado by her family. She manages to send a request for assistance hidden in a crossword puzzle. Gamadge acts quickly to remove her from her situation and then investigates a possible murder of her husband.

The tale involves correspondence between a matriarch of the family, Coldfield's husband's grandmother and a famous English poet. In his unique style, Gamadge works through the case, trying to ascertain who in the family or maybe a close friend might have been involved in murdering Mrs. Coldfield's husband and attempting to murder her as well, and, if so, why?

Like the other Daly stories I've read so far, it's a nice meandering story. Gamadge is an interesting character, wealthy enough to be able to finance his investigations and with many acquaintances that he can use for sources of information. His wife is a nice assistant to his work and the way Daly moves her stories along keeps you interested. I guess it could be called a cozy mystery, but it is also an intelligent and enjoyable mystery. I will continue to search for Daly's books. She wrote 16 between 1940 and 1951 and I've read only 3 so far. Lots of enjoyment ahead for me. (3.5 stars)"

b. Night Walk (1947 / Gamadge #12).

"This is the 2nd Henry Gamadge mystery I've read. Elizabeth Daly started the series in 1940 and wrote 16 books. Gamadge is a mysterious criminologist, he was involved in secret activities during WWII and has since been involved with old documents and papers, helping ascertain forgeries and such. He also finds himself involved solving mysteries and is somewhat similar to Margery Allingham's Albert Campion or Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey.

Night Walk was Daly's 12th Gamadge mystery. Gamadge is asked by an acquaintance to assist in investigating a murder that took place in upper New York state at the small community of Frazer's Mills. His friend is in love with a local girl, the ward of the victim, and he fears that she might be a suspect. Gamadge assumes the role of patient at a local sanatorium, obtains the police support for his independent investigation and thusly the story starts.

It's a cozy style of story telling. Gamadge wanders about the local area, asking questions, quietly observing and ultimately coming up with a possible solution and final answer. It's all done in a genteel, interesting style. It's easy to fall into the locale, to like the people and enjoy Gamadge as a perceptive, low key investigator. The final solution might seem a bit pat, but it does not take away from the overall enjoyment of the story. (4 stars)"

Well, there you go. Some classic mysteries written by some of the greats. I hope you check these authors out.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Back to my Normal Reading Updates and My Author's A - Z

Another hot day out there. Everybody is somewhat deflated. But Jo is happy as she's got a new season of Suits to watch. Not that I watch it or anything... Ah, Donna... ;0)

So, let's see. I've finished two books since my last reading update. As well, two new books arrived from Better World of Books today. I'll update my reading and also get back to my Author's A - Z listing.

New Books

1. The Anodyne Necklace by Martha Grimes (Inspector Jury #3). I started this series when I first came to the Comox Valley but not in order of publication. Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to find them in sequence and to continue reading them in order. It's an entertaining series.

"A spinster whose passion was bird-watching, a dotty peer who pinched pennies, and a baffling murder made the tiny village of Littlebourne a most extraordinary place. And a severed finger made a ghastly clue in the killing that led local constables from a corpse to a boggy footpath to a beautiful lady’s mansion.

But Richard Jury refused, preferring to take the less traveled route to a slightly disreputable pub, the Anodyne Necklace. There, drinks all around loosened enough tongues to link a London mugging with the Littlebourne murder and a treasure map that would chart the way to yet another chilling crime."

2. The Sea is Full of Stars by Jack L. Chalker (Well World #6).  I read every other Well World book many years ago. It's a unique, fascinating series. I was surprised to see that I missed one book in the series. Now I can read it..

"This exciting, action-packed novel marks Jack Chalker's triumphant return to his celebrated multi-volume saga: The Well World. The Sea Is Full of Stars explores an unknown interstellar civilization, stars an all-new cast of characters, and reveals fresh secrets. But of course, The Well remains . . .

After three passengers--Ming, Ari, and Angel--embark on an elite starship journey into the Realm, they unwittingly become ensnared in one man's bloodthirsty vendetta that will alter their very beings. That man is Jeremiah Wong Kincaid. He vows to destroy Josich Conqueror Hadun, the evil genius who has wreaked unspeakable havoc throughout the universe. It is an obsession that will take him to lands of demons and strange races--and into a deadly new cyber world where humans are mere pawns of the godlike computers they have created.

But it is only after Kincaid and his unwitting fellow travelers enter Well World and discover the water hexes that he confronts the mad tyrant--and learns their universe is threatened by something far, far worse . ."

Just Finished

1. Under Orion by Janice Law (Anna Peters #3). This was part of my new series challenge.

"Under Orion is the first book I've read by author Janice Law. It is the 3rd book in her Anna Peters series. Anna Peters works for New World Oil as a sort of fixer. In this story she journeys to West Germany with one of New World's scientists to try and negotiate a deal with an East German scientist who claims to have developed a process for extracting oil from bilge water.

The mission becomes a dangerous adventure. Are the two East Germans playing the company? Is Martin, the scientist, working against the company? And what is the secret life he seems to be living? The story moves along at a steady pace and bodies start to crop up. Are the East German intelligence services trying to stop the deal? Is it the West Germans? Who are these two brothers?
It's definitely a different kind of thriller, a combination of spy thriller and industrial espionage. There are some scary people and a chase that leads across Germany.

It's not a perfect story but still entertaining. We learn a bit about Anna and her friends and what kind of work she does. Now I've got to find the first two books in the series to see how her character was introduced. Glad I finally had a chance to explore this series. (3 stars)"

2. Caught by Lisa Moore. This was one of my Canadian Content challenge choices.

"I first heard of this book, Caught by Canadian writer Lisa Moore when my wife and I watched a TV series starring Paul Gross and Alan Hawco based on the book. The TV mini-series was quite excellent and the book was also.

Newfoundlander David Slaney escapes from prison and begins a trek across Canada to meet his old partner Brian Hearn. The two of them had been arrested a few years previously for smuggling a shipment of marijuana from Columbia. Hearn had skipped bail and Slaney ended up in prison. The two want to try again. Inspector Patterson of the RCMP is chosen to follow Slaney and to catch the two in the act once again. (The escape was helped by the police so they can catch the two).

The story for the most part follows Slaney as he journeys across Canada and the people he interacts with on the way. It's an interesting story almost a stream of consciousness as Slaney meets people and also reflects on his life and the events that lead to his arrest.

It's definitely a unique story, sometimes hard to follow but worth reading. There is enough action as well, very well described and an appropriate tension at all times that you won't be bored with the story. In some ways it's quite different from the TV series which made it fresh and interesting. I enjoyed very much, a well-crafted, entertaining story. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Slicky Boys by Martin Limon (Sueno and Bascombe #2). The first book in this series, set in South Korea, was excellent. This one has started off just fine.

"George SueƱo and his partner Ernie Bascom thought they’d seen it all, but nothing could prepare them for the Slicky Boys. They’re everywhere. They can kill a man in a thousand ways you don’t even want to know about. And you’ll never even see them coming. They steal, they kill, they slip away. George and Ernie are about to discover that even the U.S. Military is no match for evil and that human sympathy can sometimes lead to a lonely grave" 

2. Bear Island by Alistair MacLean (1971). This is part of my decades challenge. Bear Island is a re-read for me. I recall it being a great thriller. Time will tell if it has aged well.

"A converted fishing trawler, Morning Rose carries a movie-making crew across the Barents Sea to isolated Bear Island, well above the Arctic Circle, for some on-location filming, but the script is a secret known only to the producer and screenwriter. En route, members of the movie crew and ship's company begin to die under mysterious circumstances. The crew's doctor, Marlowe, finds himself enmeshed in a violent, multi-layered plot in which very few of the persons aboard are whom they claim to be. Marlowe's efforts to unravel the plot become even more complicated once the movie crew is deposited ashore on Bear Island, beyond the reach of the law or outside help. The murders continue ashore, and Marlowe, who is not what he seems to be either, discovers they may be related to some forgotten events of the Second World War."

Bill's Ongoing Author's A - Z

Michael Cox
1. Michael Cox. English writer Cox lived from 1948 - 2009. He was an editor and also an author of two books. I've purchased The Meaning of Night, his first book.

The Meaning of Night (2006). 

"'After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.'

So begins an extraordinary story of betrayal and treachery, of delusion and deceit narrated by Edward Glyver. Glyver may be a bibliophile, but he is no bookworm. Employed “in a private capacity” by one of Victorian London’s top lawyers, he knows his Macrobius from his First Folio, but he has the street-smarts and ruthlessness of a Philip Marlowe. And just as it is with many a contemporary detective, one can’t always be sure whether Glyver is acting on the side of right or wrong.

As the novel begins, Glyver silently stabs a stranger from behind, killing him apparently at random. But though he has committed a callous and brutal crime, Glyver soon reveals himself to be a sympathetic and seductively charming narrator. In fact, Edward Glyver keeps the reader spellbound for 600 riveting pages full of betrayal, twists, lies, and obsession.

Glyver has an unforgettable story to tell. Raised in straitened circumstances by his novelist mother, he attended Eton thanks to the munificence of a mysterious benefactor. After his mother’s death, Glyver is not sure what path to take in life. Should he explore the new art of photography, take a job at the British Museum, continue his travels in Europe with his friend Le Grice? But then, going through his mother’s papers, he discovers something that seems unbelievable: the woman who raised him was not his mother at all. He is actually the son of Lord Tansor, one of the richest and most powerful men in England.

Naturally, Glyver sets out to prove his case. But he lacks evidence, and while trying to find it under the alias “Edward Glapthorn,” he discovers that one person stands between him and his birthright: his old schoolmate and rival Phoebus Rainsford Daunt, a popular poet (and secret criminal) whom Lord Tansor has taken a decidedly paternal interest in after the death of his only son.

Glyver’s mission to regain his patrimony takes him from the heights of society to its lowest depths, from brothels and opium dens to Cambridge colleges and the idylls of Evenwood, the Tansor family’s ancestral home. Glyver is tough and resourceful, but Daunt always seems to be a step ahead, at least until Glyver meets the beguilingly beautiful Emily Carteret, daughter of Lord Tansor’s secretary.

But nothing is as it seems in this accomplished, suspenseful novel. Glyver’s employer Tredgold warns him to trust no one: Is his enigmatic neighbour Fordyce Jukes spying on him? Is the brutal murderer Josiah Pluckthorn on his trail? And is Glyver himself, driven half-mad by the desire for revenge, telling us the whole truth in his candid, but very artful, “confession”?

Edmund Crispin
2.  Edmund Crispin. English crime writer Edmund Crispin lived from 1921 - 1978 and was known for his Gervase Fen crime series. I've mentioned this fact for other writers but I discovered him when I first moved to the Comox Valley and was living on my own and spent many a Saturday at ABC Books checking out their shelves. From 1944 - 1977, Crispin wrote 9 books featuring Gervase Fen. I've read 3 so far and have 4 more on my shelves awaiting my perusal. I'll provide synopses for the 3 books I've completed thus far.

a. The Glimpses of the Moon (#9 / 1977).

"Death and decapitation seem to go hand in hand in the Devon village of Aller. When the first victim's head is sent floating down the river, the village's rural calm is shattered. Soon the corpses are multiplying and the entire community is involved in the murder hunt. While the rector, the major, the police and a journalist, desperate for the scoop of the century, chase false trails, it is left to Gervase Fen, Oxford don and amateur criminologist, to uncover the sordid truth."

b. The Long Divorce (#8 / 1951). 

"Gervase Fen is summoned by a friend to a pretty village whose inhabitants are thrown into distress by a spate of anonymous poison-pen letters."

c. The Moving Toyshop (#3 / 1946).

"Richard Cadogan is at loose ends in Oxford, very late at night. Charmed by the window display of an old-fashioned toyshop, he is worried to find the door unlocked; surely the owner should be alerted. And so Cadogan slips into the darkened store and up the narrow stairway to the apartment above.

But rather than a snoring toyman, he finds a very dead old lady, the marks of murder still livid on her neck. But when Cadogan returns with the coppers, the toyshop ... has disappeared.

This, it seems, is a matter for Gervase Fen."

The other books in the series are -
- The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944)
- Holy Disorders (1945)
- Swan Song (1947)
- Love Lies Bleeding (1948)
- Buried for Pleasure (1948)
- Frequent Hearses (1950)

Blake Crouch
3. Blake Crouch. American writer Crouch is best known for his Wayward Pines trilogy. Over the course of his career he has written 12 novels. I've purchased his most recent book.

Dark Matter (2016) .

"'Are you happy with your life?'

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason's never met smiles down at him and says, "Welcome back, my friend."

In this world he's woken up to, Jason's life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that's the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could've imagined--one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe."

Well, there you go for another day. Time for me to sign off. I've finished my mid-week shuffle. Time to see if the missus is hungry. She's been busy paying bills and deserves something.. maybe a Malibu and coke.. 

Midweek Snoopy Shuffle!
Take care!!
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