Monday, 30 September 2019

My Entry just before my September Monthly Reading Update

Well here we are again, another end of  month. Tomorrow I'll do my monthly statistics info for the month's reading summary. Today I'll update the books I've finished since my previous entry, also any new books that arrived and also will continue my look at the end of the mystery genre - American cops. It's a beautiful here in the Valley, a fresh, sunny day and we've got the patio doors open so we can enjoy the fresh breeze. (I'm going to apologize any errors I might make in this entry as I've got a bit of a headache today and I keep forgetting making mistakes. Let's see how things go, eh?)

New Books

1. An Amateur Corpse by Simon Brett (Charles Paris #4).

"Charles Paris is a part-time detective and professional actor, drawn into the affairs of an amateur theater company. Charles's friend Hugo's wife is murdered, and Hugo is charged with the crime.

Paris takes on the case personally. The solution to the mystery lies in a clever double alibi. An Amateur Corpse is an absorbing and entertaining account of theatrical back staging, back scratching and backbiting."

2. All the Tea in China by Kyril Bonfiglioli (Charles Mortdecai #3).

"Inspired by a shotgun blast in the seat of his breeches, young Karli Van Cleef quits his native Holland to seek his fortune. He arrives in early Victorian London and soon he is turning a pretty profit. But Karli sees that true opportunity flowers in India’s fields of opium poppies and the treaty ports of the China coast. So he takes a berth in an opium clipper hell-bent for the Indies.

It is a journey beset with perils. Karli is confronted by the mountainous seas, high-piled plates of curry, and the ferocious penalties of the Articles of War. He survives the malice of the Boers, the hospitality of anthropophagi, and the horrors of Lancashire cooking. En route he acquires some interesting diseases, dangerous friends and enemies, a fortune, and a wife almost as good as new."

3. Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann (Ellie McEnroe #1).

"American Iraq War veteran Ellie Cooper is living in Beijing when a chance encounter with a Uighur—a member of a Chinese Muslim minority—at the home of her sort-of boyfriend Lao Zhang turns her life upside down. Lao Zhang disappears, and suddenly multiple security organizations are hounding Ellie for information. They say the Uighur is a terrorist. Ellie doesn’t know what’s going on, but she must decide whom to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors, and operatives claiming to be on her side—in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online role-playing game. As she tries to elude her pursuers, she’s haunted by memories of Iraq. Is what she did and saw there at the root of the mess she’s in now?"

Just Finished
I've finished 4 books since my last entry. September has been an excellent month even if I've read quite a few graphic novels as part of my September genre challenge in my UK Reading group. 

1. Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton (Hamish Macbeth #3).

"Death of an Outsider is the 3rd book in M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery series set in Scotland. Constable Macbeth has been ordered to replace Sgt MacGregor of Cnothan for three months while the Sgt is taking his vacation. That means taking his dog Towzer out of his comfortable residence at Lochdubh and bus down to this dour town. Strangers aren't popular there and the place reminds me of the town the League of Gentleman. Well, maybe not quite so strange. But Hamish is very unhappy. What if the love of his life, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns and he's not there?

Hamish is not made too welcome when he arrives but he is a voluble, competent individual and gradually makes inroads to the community. Luckily for him, living next door to the police station is a lovely Canadian Jenny Lovelace makes his situation somewhat more bearable. Things happen fairly quickly. He is asked to investigate the attack on Mrs Mainwaring, the wife of an Englishman who has made himself very unpopular in the community. Supposedly she was scared by three women dressed as witches. Local scoundrels send him on wild goose chases but Hamish does make his presence known and deals quite satisfactorily with them.

At some point, a skeleton is discovered on the moors. There is more to this discovery, incidents that lead up to it, but I won't ruin that portion of the story for you. Suffice it to say that it's quite an interesting story. The discovery of the skeleton means that Hamish's arch enemy, Inspector Blair is sent to Cnothan to head the investigation. Blair doesn't like MacBeth because he solved previous cases which Blair had been investigating. Blair doesn't really want to investigate and he sends Hamish hither and yon to keep him out of the way. The problem is that Hamish is a good, sound copper and we know he'll come up smelling of roses anyway.

All in all, it's an entertaining, cozy, quick read and quite enjoyable. The people are all interesting and the crime is also unique. Most enjoyable, fun mystery. I'll continue enjoying this series. (4 stars)"

2. Tank Girl: One by Jamie Hewlett.

"Tank Girl Classic #1 by Alan C. Martin contains the first 15 episodes of the Tank Girl comic series; published from October 1988 to February 1990. It also contains bonus features, comic book covers from the various editions and a preamble from the authors. I found this particularly interesting as James Hewlett, one of the contributors came from Worthing  UK, where my wife also was raised and it turns out she sold Hewlett's parents' house back in the day. Reading through it permitted us to reminisce about locations mentioned in it and also about our visits back to her hometown. Made for a nice touch for me.

The various editions are fun and drawn excellently. Tank Girl is set in a dystopian Australia. Why would a bunch of young punks for Worthing set their series there? Well, as they say, ' because it was flat and devoid of buildings and therefore very easy to draw.' Of course, other factors included the Crocodile Dundee movies and Mad Max. Tank Girl is a wild, trouble-making girl, who drives a tank. Of course. She also dates a Kangaroo. Of course. Her best friends are Jet Girl and Sub Girl. Of course.

Don't take the series to seriously. Although having said that, there are quite thoughtful moments within. There is also tons of action, lots of beer drinking and great drawings. Beneath her scruffy, wild exterior, Tank Girl is a beautiful girl, sparkling eyes and clean, well-drawn features. Of course, she doesn't always feel like that; especially after a night of partying. There is something that draws you into this graphic novel series; it's full - on, quirky, snarky, filled with pop culture references and loads of good old fun. Now to get Volume 2. (4 stars)"

3. The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis (Wesley Peterson #5).

"The Bone Garden is the 5th book in the Wesley Peterson mystery series by English author Kate Ellis. The stories have an archeological backdrop normally that somehow impacts the story. In this one, work is being done at Earlsacre Hall, to excavate the old building and gardens. A body (skeleton) is discovered in the dig, bringing out DS Wesley Peterson and his boss, DI Gerry Heffernan. It turns out the body of a young woman, who seems to have been buried alive, is part of the history of the Hall. Another skeleton is discovered below the first one and later, in a trailer park, a murdered body is found.

Now a criminal investigation is also instigated. A lawyer with some involvement in the archeological dig has called Wesley and let him know that he needs to see him. Arrangements are made to meet at a cricket match where both will be participating but before they can meet, the lawyer, Brian Willerby, is also discovered dead in the woods near the cricket ground. Was he murdered as well?

The investigation is an interesting one as well as the historical aspects of Earlsacre Hall. The beginning of each chapter leads off with either correspondence from the past by people from the Hall or also chapters of a book about an old visitor to the Hall in the 1700s. There are links between the current murders and the archeological work that makes the story more interesting. Wesley has a degree in archeology so has an interest in the work being done. His boss and the other members of the police department; Rachel and Steve all are well-fleshed out and all have important roles in the story.

It makes for an interesting mystery, with nice twists and turns and an interesting group of suspects and witnesses. I liked the historical aspects of the story and also the overall tale. Most enjoyable. (4 stars)"

4. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #7).

"I have not read the Sookie Stackhouse books (on with the TV series True Blood is based) in any particular order. All Together Dead is the 7th book in the series and probably the 3rd or 4th book I've enjoyed so far. I'd suggest it's probably better to read in order as there are events mentioned in this particular story that refer to events in the past. However, having said that they are explained well enough that I had a good idea what had taken place.

On that note, we find Sookie, waitress with the ability to read minds, with a roommate in her home in Bon Temps Louisiana. Amelia is a witch from New Orleans whose home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. She also fears retribution from her fellow witches as she used her powers to turn her boyfriend Bob (I gather it was somewhat accidentally) into a cat and Bob also is living with Sookie. This is a minor story mind you. The main story involves the Queen of Louisiana. She is to go on trial for the murder of her husband, the King of Arkansas, an event which was witnessed by Sookie in a previous novel. All of the vampire Kings and Queens and their entourages are heading to a vampire conference at Rhodes, a town near Chicago. They will be staying at a vampire specializing hotel, the Pyramid of Gizeh. Besides a big party, a wedding (between two vampire kings), etc, there will also be the trial of the Queen of Louisiana. Sookie has been hired to attend, so she can monitor any humans attending for the benefit of her queen. Also attending will by Eric, a previous vampire lover, and the Sheriff of the Shreveport vamps and one of the Queen's men, Bob, Sookie's first vampire lover and now in her bad books for various reasons and Quint, her new boyfriend and a weretiger, hired to stage the various events.

Of course, there are many other characters, including Barry Bellhop another human telepath who Sookie previously met on a visit with the King of Texas (Barry works for him). Of course, there are many twists and turns in this interesting story. The conference is being picketed by the Fellowship, a quasi-religious group that detests vampires. The main witnesses against the Queen, vampires from Kansas, are found murdered. There are suspicious people all over the hotel. It's a fast-paced story and quite interesting. I always find the Sookie books, kind of Anita Blake light, which is fine. There is some sex, but it's not as graphic as that in the Blake books and there is violence, but even that isn't as graphic. But still, it's not necessary as the stories are quite excellent.

An excellent story, with many twists and turns. What are the suitcases? Who killed the Kansas vamps? Who is threatening the queen? And will Sookie sort out her love life? Good solid fun. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started 3 books to end off September.

1. The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun (Qwilleran #4).

"Something is amiss at Maus Haus. Not just the mystery of an unsolved "suicide" which hangs over the old mansion, but something ominous in the present-day residence. When Qwilleran moves in to work on his new gastronomical assignment, strange things begin to happen. First it's a scream in the night, then a vanishing houseboy. But when his old girlfriend disappears, something has to be done. Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum set out to solve the mystery--and find a murderer!"

2. Relic by Douglas Preston (Pendergast #1).

"Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...

But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.

Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who-or what-is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?"

c. The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason.

"The timeless story of the love affair between a British artist and a Chinese prostitute.

Robert is the only resident of the Nam Kok hotel not renting his room by the hour when he meets Suzie at the bar. She becomes his muse and they fall in love. But even in Hong Kong, where many white expatriates have Chinese mistresses, their romance could jeopardize the things they each hold dear. Set in the mid-1950s, The World of Suzie Wong is a beautifully written time capsule of a novel. First published more than fifty years ago, it resonated with readers worldwide, inspiring a film starring William Holden, a ballet, and even a reggae song. Now readers can experience the romance of this groundbreaking story anew."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops
In my last entry on this topic I highlighted Tony Hillerman's Navajo mystery series.

Chester Himes
1. Chester Himes - The Harlem Cycle. Chester Himes lived from 1909 - 1984. He was known for If He Hollers Let Him Go and the Harlem detective series. This consisted of eight novels and one that wasn't completed. I've read the first book in the series so far and also have the 2nd book in the series on my bookshelf.

a. A Rage in Harlem (#1 / 1957).

"A Rage in Harlem is the first book in Chester Himes's Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed cop series set in Harlem New York. Himes sounds like a fascinating author. He was born in Missouri in 1909. He began writing while serving time for jewel theft. He ended up having approximately 20 novels published before his death in 1984. The Harlem Detective series consisted of 9 novels. Three of the books, including A Rage in Harlem, were turned into movies.

This story features both of the tough detectives but they play somewhat minor roles in the whole story. It is about Jackson, a man who works for a local Harlem funeral director, maintaining the building and driving the hearse. Jackson is played by a couple of con artists who trick him into believing they can convert $10 bills into $100. Providing them his life savings, he is tricked into losing all of the money. His girl friend, Imabelle, might or might not be in on the act. There is another ploy here; Imabelle has a trunk under their bed which supposedly contains gold ore.

Jackson steals money from his employer, hoping to be able to gamble back the money he has already lost. I think you know the result of that effort. He then gets his brother Goldy to help him find Imabelle and also to get the gold ore. Goldy is another con man. He dresses as a nun and cons locals out of money for the 'purpose' of charity... that being Goldy is the charity.

Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed, the two tough Harlem cops, who don't mind using their pistols to solve problems get involved at Goldy's behest. They plan to con the con men who are now using the fake gold mine ploy to get money from Harlem locals.

It's all a very fast paced, colorful, entertaining story. Himes creates fascinating characters, a gritty setting and story and images that live with you. Harlem, in his description, is poor, at times dirty and violent, but filled with music and wonderfully presented characters. I've not read a story like this before. It has left me with a desire to find the other books in the series and to see how he further develops his characters. (4 stars)"

b. The Real Cool Killers (#2 / 1958).

"When Harlemites set about each other with knives, it's an everyday kind of happening. But when a white man is shot dead in a Harlem street one steamy evening it means trouble, big trouble.

Plenty of people had motives for killing Galen, a big Greek with too much money and too great a liking for young black girls. But there are complications - like Sonny, high on hash, found standing over the body with a gun in his hand that fires only blanks, a street gang called the Moslems, a disappearing suspect, and the fact that Coffin Ed's own daughter is up to her pretty neck in the whole explosive situation..."

The complete list of books can be found at this link

Tomorrow I'll do my end month summary for September 2019. Enjoy your week.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Coronation Street - Some Thoughts

Wow!.. Before I get into my post, just wanted to say, Wow! I'm pessimistic that anything will come of it, but Nancy Pelosi just announced that the various committees in the House of Representatives who are investigating 'the F***wit' what is in charge of the US, will now all fall under the Impeachment umbrella. We'll see what happens, but good on you, Nancy. It's about time.

OK, enough of that. That wasn't the reason I wanted to make this BLog entry. So... This morning Jo and I were enjoying an old episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. The series starred Patricia Routledge (of Keeping Up Appearances fame) and Dominic Monaghan (AKA Merry of Lord of the Rings and also Charlie Pace of Lost). The series featured Routledge as a private detective and Monaghan as her assistant. It ran for 4 seasons from 1996 - 1998. It's a most enjoyable series. Anyway, this isn't the point of my BLog entry either. 😛

As we normally do when we're watching TV, we spent lots of time identifying various of the guest stars. I think we get as much enjoyment out of doing that as we do actually watching the show. I think I've always liked doing that. I remember one time when I was visiting with my Aunt Lorreine. We were watching various movies on TV and as each one started we'd identify everyone in it even before the credits came up. Lots of fun.

So while Jo and I were entertaining ourselves as we watched this particular episode, Episode 4 of Season 1 specifically, we noticed a few characters who had also been on Coronation Street. Specifically, they were Nigel Pivaro who played Terry Duckworth in approximately 250 episodes of the Street and Sally Ann Matthews who played Jenny Bradley / Jenny Cooper for almost 700 episodes.

So that's the point of my entry here. Talking about these characters, Jo and I started going through the early relationships on Corrie; Len Fairclough and Rita of the Cabin, Uncle Albert who lived with Ken Barlow and Deidre (or more correctly who let them live with him), etc. It just got me thinking about how much I had enjoyed watching the series back in the '80s.

Coronation Street has run since 1960. I don't know how long it's been shown in Canada. I'll assume pretty well from the beginning but I can't verify that. I do know that I discovered it when I moved to Ottawa in either 1981 or 1982. (Let me just say that my memories on this might not be totally accurate but please bear with me).

On CBC it was usually about 3 months behind what was being shown in the UK. It was on daily, Mon - Fri, usually around 4 pm, later it moved to 7 pm. When I discovered it, CBC also showed it as an omnibus edition Sunday mornings. It was really a fluke that I discovered it. It was one of those mornings, I guess, when I was relaxing at home with my morning coffee and I presume the family were still asleep. I remember turning it on and just wondering what the heck the show was and what was going on.

Annie Walker
Those were the days when the Rovers Return was run by Annie Walker. I think Fred Gee and Bette Lynch worked behind the bar and Hilda Ogden was the cleaner. Life centered around the Rovers Return and there were so many interesting characters; Elsie Tanner (very sexy), Rita, Ken and Deidre Barlow, Hilda and Stan Ogden, etc. The show just hooked me and it wasn't long before I began to understand what was going on and who each person was. It was so different from any other soap opera I had watched. And I'd been hooked on General Hospital, All My Children and One Life to Live during my university years (hence my great marks.)

Eddie Yeats
It didn't take long before I had some favorite characters. Eddie Yeats was one of the bin men and such a nice guy. Later on Curly Watts was his partner. I think I could relate to Curly, always unassuming and no matter how successful he became, he couldn't get a girl. Darn you, Raquel!!

Corrie became my Sunday morning ritual while I was in Ottawa the first time. Imagine my joy when one of my co-workers, an American sub-mariner who was seconded to our section as an exchange officer, Russell was his name, got hooked on the show as well. That was how we would spend our Monday morning coffee break; sitting down in the coffee room discussing the Sunday omnibus. Pathetic, eh? We were both hooked.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. Firstly, Russell got posted back to the States and then in 1989, I got transferred to Germany, thereby losing my access to Corrie. I did get to see the odd episode during my various trips to the UK and when I returned to Canada, I was able to get back into it.

But it never seemed the same and then in the 2000's when Jo came to Canada to be with me, even though we tried to watch it, well, it wasn't the same for either of us. Corrie had become a soap and the story lines just got too ridiculous. When I got hooked on it, it was more than a soap, it was a look at average, normal people and their relationships and how their lives revolved around the local corner shop, the pub and their local businesses and family lives. Ah well, things do change, I guess. I'm just happy that I was able to enjoy it for awhile so many years ago.

Thanks for everything, Corrie!

If you've never seen Coronation Street check it out. It's still pretty neat. If you want to get information about the characters from the beginning to the present, check out this site. It's pretty amazing.

Back to regularly scheduled programming in my next post. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, 23 September 2019

It's a New Week

Well, here it is, the start of another week. Jo and I and the puppies had a nice weekend. Jo is moving around a lot better the past little while. It's been nice seeing her confident enough to get up and cook a dinner; that sort of thing. We went out for a nice drive out to Cumberland on Saturday. I stopped at a local brew pub, Cumberland Brewing, out there and had them fill up my two growlers with their draft; one Forest Fog (my favorite), an unfiltered American wheat ale, and one 'Just a Little Bitter' bitter. It's quite a popular place of the locals.

On Sunday we enjoyed the Emmy Awards and also a new favorite TV show of ours, an Australian mystery series, Jack Irish, which stars Guy Pearce as a lawyer who gets into various predicaments. Great drama but also with room for a bit of humor as well.

Today I went to a couple of local bakeries / restaurants, Cobbs Bakery and Café Grande Cappuccino to pick up some bread and baked goods for the week. We had ham and cheese croissants from Cobbs and apple strudels from Café Grande for lunch while we watched Nicole Wallace and Deadline: White House over lunch. Very nice! Tonight we're looking forward to the new seasons of 9-1-1, Bull, The Good Doctor and want to try a new show, All Rise. Yay!!!

Books, books and more books!
Over the weekend, I finished two books and have therefore started a couple of new ones. I'll update those books and also continue with my look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops. So, let's get on with it.

Just Finished

1. Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennan #4). This has probably been my favorite Temperance Brennan mystery so far.

"Kathy Reichs's Temperance Brennan forensic mystery series is always entertaining. I have felt at times that she is dialing in her story. This was not the case with Fatal Voyage, the fourth book in the series. I think this was one of my favorites so far, of the 9 that I've read.

Temperance is part of North Carolina's DMORT, a disaster response team, and is called to the hills of North Carolina to help in the investigation of a plane crash. This is a major effort, of course, involving local, state and federal investigators. Temperance is surprised to even find her partner from the Montreal police force, Detective Ryan, involved. His partner had been on the flight, escorting a criminal back to Montreal and Ryan is now part of the investigation.

At the outset, something strange occurs. Tempe discovers a foot that she must take from a coyote (with Ryan's assistance). The foot doesn't seem to be part of the crash remnants. Quite suddenly, Tempe is accused of disrupting the air crash investigation, especially by the lieutenant-governor and as the story moves along, she is removed from that investigation.

Some people don't believe what has taken place and continue to help Tempe with her efforts to prove that she didn't commit any wrongs. These include Ryan, an FBI agent, McMahon and a local police chief, Lucy Crowe. As well, Tempe is baby-sitting a dog for her ex-husband, Pete. Boyd is a great character. Anyway, the efforts to investigate this foot, and also to get into a hidden cabin located near the crash site, are stymied consistently, even to the point of a friend of Tempe's being murdered.

It's a tense, rich story. The people are well-crafted (I particularly liked Sheriff Crowe, smart, independent, down-to-earth) and the story moves along very nicely, especially considering its length. There are frustrations, but they are minor and don't take away from the overall enjoyment of the story. I like her relationships and her stubbornness, even though it does get her into  trouble. But she is an intelligent, passionate, relentless investigator. There is some development of her relationships with her ex and with Ryan but this part of her life doesn't play too much of a role in this story. More to follow in the others. All in all, an excellent, enjoyable mystery / thriller with a pretty darn satisfying ending. (4.5 stars)"

2. Bitter River by Julia Keller (Bell Elkins #2). Excellent follow-on to the first book in this series.

"Bitter River is the 2nd book in the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller. I enjoyed the first book, A Killing in the Hills, but this one was even better. Keller is an excellent author spinning a tense mystery and crafting excellent characters.

Bell Elkins is the DA of a small town in West Virginia. She is called out by the sheriff, her friend Nick Fogelsong, when a body is discovered in her car in the Bitter River. The body is that of a young girl, Lucinda Trimble, a high school senior, who is also pregnant. The story basically involves their investigation of the murder of the girl. Complicating the story is the fact that Nick had previously had a relationship with the girl's mother, Maddie many years ago. Both had moved on, Nick marrying someone else and Maddie marrying as well.

Besides this main story, Bell is also dealing with a number of issues, her ongoing relationship with a younger man, Clay; the fact that her daughter has moved to Washington to live with her father and Bell's ex-husband; the absence of Bell's sister after her release (in the last story) from prison. As well, an ex-friend of both Bell moves to Raythune County to get away from things for awhile. He has some issues, it appears. Will these affect anything?

This is more than simply a murder mystery, as things begin to spiral out of control as the story moves along. The tension builds nicely and there are a number of surprise happenings that add to it. Judith Keller is an excellent story - teller. She develops characters very nicely, making them more than words on paper. She presents the locale and events clearly and in a manner that draws you in to the story.

I found the story flowed along smoothly and could feel the tension of the characters and events as they occurred. I enjoyed it very much. Some of the events seemed far-fetched, but in Keller's hands they just mde for a more entertaining story. Well worth reading. I look forward to continuing the series. Next in line is Summer of the Dead (4.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started 3 books since my last entry.

1. The Bee's Kiss by Barbara Cleverly (Joe Sandilands #5). This series has improved with each book I've read and enjoyed.

"1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from India, enjoying the frantic pleasures of Jazz Age London. Yet there is a darkness behind all that postwar gaity. A woman has been discovered bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz. A broken window and missing emerald necklace suggest that it is a burglary gone wrong. But the corpse is that of a much-respected member of the British establishment, Dame Beatrice Joliffe, one of the founders of the Wrens, and so Scotland Yard send Joe to conduct a swift enquiry. Yet very soon he discovers that this Dame was no tweed-wearing fusty type; Titian-haired Beatrice wore evening gowns by Lanvin and perfume by Caron; she drank cocktails and had a younger lover. And death dogs her footsteps. Her companion, an ex-chorus girl, falls from Waterloo Bridge at twilight. Two of the Dame's clique of eager young Wrens commit suicide. All these deaths make Joe suspect that Beatrice has been killed by someone close to her but suddenly he finds that the case is closed and he is asked by his superiors to surrender his files. unseen governmental presences he struggles on, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority, through to a shattering solution to the killings."

2. Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton (Hamish MacBeth #3). We once again visit with the Scottish police officer, Hamish MacBeth.

"Dreary Cnothan's most hated man is dumped into a tank filled with lobsters then eaten in Britain's best restaurants. Exiled there with his dog Towser, Hamish Macbeth misses his beloved Highland village Lochdubh, Priscilla, and easy lazy days. His superiors want the business hushed up, a dark-haired lass wants his body, and a killer is out for more blood."

c. The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis (Wesley Peterson #5). This is an archaeological mystery. 

"An excavation at the lost gardens of Earlsacre Hall is called to a halt when a skeleton is discovered under a 300 year old stone plinth, a corpse that seems to have been buried alive. But DS Wesley Peterson has little time to indulge in his hobby of archaeology. He has a more recent murder case to solve. A man has been found stabbed to death in a caravan at a popular holiday park and the only clue to his identity is a newspaper cutting about the restoration of Earlsacre. Does local solicitor Brian Willerby have the answer? He seems eager to talk to Wesley but before he can reveal his secret he is found dead during a 'friendly' game of village cricket, apparently struck by a cricket ball several times with some force. If Wesley is looking for a demon bowler this appears to let out most of the village side. But what is it about Earlsacre Hall that leads people to murder?"

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops
In my last entry I took a look at Lyn Hightower's Detective Sonora Blair.

Tony Hillerman
1. Tony Hillerman - Navajo Mysteries. American mystery writer Hillerman lived from 1925 - 2008. He is probably best known for his series featuring Navajo police officers, Leaphorn and Chee. He wrote 18 books in the series. His daughter Ann has continued the series with new investigators. I have read the first three books in the series so far and enjoyed them all. I have a number of others awaiting my attention.

a. The Blessing Way (Navajo Mysteries #1 / 1970).

"This is the first book in the Lt Joe Leaphorn, of the Navajo Tribal Police, mysteries. It was recommended to me in one of my Goodreads book clubs. I enjoyed this very much, reminded me somewhat of the Longmire books, except from the perspective of the Native Law and Order.

Leaphorn isn't in the story all of the time, quite large portions follow his friend McKee, an archeologist who is researching Navajo witches. Joe is trying to solve the murder of Luis Horseman, a Navajo, who is hiding out in Navajo country after stabbing a man in Portland. 

I enjoyed the view of Navajo culture and how both of the story lines tied in together. There is nice tension in the story as we got deeper into solving the case and I liked both Joe and McKee, plus the other characters that populated the story. It's definitely made me interested in reading more of this series. (4 stars)"

2. Dance Hall of the Dead (Navajo Mysteries #2 / 1973).

"I'm so very glad that I was introduced to the Joe Leaphorn series. Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman is book 2 and is a joy to read. It's a bit like the Longmire series, but instead told from the perspective of the Native police inspector, rather than the local police chief. I like how the story was paced, I like Joe Leaphorn very much, he's calm, quiet and thoughtful. I really enjoy the information about the various Native cultures, in this book, the Zuni and Leaphorn's Navajo. I hope as I get more into this series that more and more information is provided. 

This story involves the murder of a Zuni boy and the follow-on murder of a Navajo man. It involves the Zuni festival, to welcome the Shalako season and the desire of a Navajo boy to be introduced to the Zuni tribe and rites. There is so much to like about this mystery; it's difficult to put the book down once you've begun. I'm so looking forward to trying the next book, Listening Woman. (4 stars)"

3. Listening Woman (Navajo Mysteries #3 / 1978).

"Listening Woman is the 3rd book in the Joe Leaphorn mystery series by Tony Hillerman. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is a member of the Navajo Tribal Police in Arizona. He tends to work on his own as he follows his caseload, travelling over the vast expanse of the area he covers. 

In this story, Joe is involved in a couple of cases that might be related; bank robberies by a militant native group, the Buffalo Society, trying to find and ensure the safety of a young woman, investigate a murder on the reservation and as a side issue, monitor a Boy Scout troop camping in the area. It's a meandering sort of story as Joe goes to Albuqurque and other locations to gather information on the cases. It's also quite a thoughtful story as Joe, working on his own, spends his time considering the cases. There are also nice tidbit on the various Native cultures; the Navajo, Kiowa and others that mingle and live together.

There is enough menace and action to satisfy you, an interesting mystery that slowly falls into place and a satisfying, albeit somewhat quick ending to the whole darn thing. But I continue to enjoy this series and look forward to continuing to follow Joe Leaphorn and his life and mystery-solving in New Mexico. (3.5 stars)"

The complete list of books in the series can be found at this link.

Time to get off your butt old man!
Well, there you go folks. As my puppies are telling me it's time to go check the mail. Maybe some books have arrived.. 

C'mon! Let's go!
Enjoy your week!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

A Thursday Reading Update

Another week winding down. It's been a bit quieter since my last update. I've done a bit of shopping, did a drive-by at some of the local free lending libraries to drop off a few books and also to  my local used book store, Nearly New Books, to drop some off and check out their stock. Jo and I continue to watch the Blue Jays play ball. They are at least ending the season off somewhat positively. The day before yesterday one of their young players, Cavan Biggio hit for the cycle and yesterday they came back from 9 - 5 down to beat the Orioles soundly, with a grand slam from Mr. Grichuk.

The new TV season starts next week and there are some new shows that look interesting, Evil for one. But this week our national network, the CBC, has started its new season. Great to see Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake back and also the Baroness Von Sketch show. The Great Canadian Baking Show started last night but we recorded it. On Tuesday there was another sketch comedy show that looks promising, TallBoyz. There were definitely a few laugh out loud moments in the first half hour. What Jo and I are really looking forward to is the return of Battle of the Blades. It went for three or four season a few years back and then CBC didn't renew it. Don't know why at all. It's such a neat concept; pro hockey players learning to figure skate as doubles acts with pro figure skaters. I just hope it's as good as it used to be. That's tonight.

You're supposed to be talking about books, Dad!
So there you go, a brief look at the past week. Now, as Clyde so correctly points out, time to focus on the subject of this BLog, books! Since my last update, I've finished 4 books (three mystery novels and one more graphic novel). I've received a book in the mail and also purchased one during my day out yesterday. So with this entry, I'll update my reading, new books started and those I purchased. If I have time, I'll continue with my look at the Mystery genre - American cops.

New Books

1. Ghost of the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker (Well World #7). I read the first five books in this SciFi / Fantasy series many, many moons ago and when I first got to the West Coast, I read the three latest ones. For some reason I didn't realize that there were two more. It was a great, unique series about adventures on the Hex World. I've now purchased the remaining two books.

"On the mysterious Well World, the evil tyrant Josich and his dark agents search desperately for the eight scattered pieces of the fabled Straight Gate. Whoever possesses the Gate will wield enormous power, traveling between universes at the speed of light and wreaking havoc across galaxies.

Opposing Josich is a small band of travelers new to the Well World. There is Core, once a machine, now flesh and blood; Ming and Ari, two minds sharing a single body; Jaysu, an angel; and Genghis O'Leary, a lizard being. Unbeknownst to them, they have an unlikely ally; a vengeful entity who is able to clone any person or object with a single touch - and mete out death just as swift..."

2. The Rat Catchers' Olympics by Colin Cotterill (Dr. Siri Paiboun #12). I've read the first two books in this great series and one of Cotterill's Jimm Juree series. If you like the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, you'll like this one too.

"1980: The Democratic People's Republic of Laos is proud to be competing in its first-ever Olympics. Of course, half the world is boycotting the Moscow Summer Olympic Games to protest Russia's recent invasion of Afghanistan, but that has made room for athletes from countries that are usually too small or underfunded to be competitive—countries like Laos.

Ex-national coroner of Laos Dr. Siri Paiboun may be retired, but he and his wife, Madame Daeng, would do just about anything to have a chance to visit Moscow, so Siri finagles them the job of medical oversight for the Olympians. Most of the athletes are young and innocent village people who have never worn shoes, never mind imagined anything as marvelous as the Moscow Olympic Village. As the competition heats up, however, Siri begins to suspect that one of the athletes is not who he says he is. Fearing a conspiracy, Siri and his friends investigate, liaising in secret with Inspector Phosy back home in Laos to see if the man might be an assassin. But Siri's progress is derailed when another Lao Olympian is accused of murder. Now in the midst of a murky international incident, Dr. Siri must navigate not one but two paranoid and secretive government machines to make sure justice is done."

Just Finished

1.  The Magdalena - Blood Divine by M.M. (Marcia) Chen. This is one of the graphic novels I chose as part of my UK Book Club September Genre Challenge - Graphic Novels. I've got one on order and may end up reading one more before end September if it arrives on time.

"The Magdalena by M.M. Chen is a well-drawn action-packed graphic novel. I discovered her when I was enjoying various other Top Cow heroines; Lara Croft, Fathom, and Witchblade, to name a few. The Magdalena is a warrior for the Catholic Church. She is descended from Mary Magdalene and supports the Church in its battles against demons and such. She possesses the Spear of Destiny, made from the spear that pierced Christ's side while he was on the cross. She has other powers, such as the ability to determine if someone is evil.

I think in this story they tried a bit too hard. The artwork, while still dark and rich, is often filled with too many people and objects to make sense of who is who. I found the story in this one also a bit convoluted. There were two ongoing story-lines, one in Paris where the Magdalena is investigating the murder of a priest in an orphanage and it looks like 'vampires'. As well, a priest has arrived at the Vatican from Belgium with a discovery; ancient artifacts and a letter from one of the original Magdalena's to her daughter, telling her that the Church is corrupt. Does that mean that the Magdalena is a threat to the Church?? So there you go, that's the basic story; the Magdalena asks for help to kill the vampires and is sent other Church warriors (who may have been part of the original Inquisition.. complex?). Are the vampires actually a threat? You'll have to find that out. Lots of action and interesting artwork.

There is a bonus story at the end, where the Magdalena goes to Central America to contact Angelus, an ancient deity. They really tried to cram too much into this short story. Anyway, I do like The Magdalena, another powerful female comic character, this just wasn't her best story. (3 stars)"

If you are interested in comics / graphic novels, I did write a few threads on the subject back a few years ago. If you scroll down the main page of this BLog, you will note in the right hand column, a topic called Labels. I highlight my individual threads with specific labels. There is one called Comic Books. That will provide all of my threads where I discuss that topic. Or... lol... I guess I could just do it for you and provide a link, eh? So there it is.. Comics

2.  Gideon's Week by J.J. Marric (Commander Gideon #2). One of my favorite books of September so far.

"Gideon's Week is the 2nd book in the Commander Gideon series by prolific author, J.J. Marric. In many ways it reminds me of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. Both are excellent police procedurals. They are concise, well-crafted and grab your attention.

In Gideon's Week, Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard is dealing with many situations. The main crisis is a prison break in Manchester. Of the 9 men who have escaped was one Syd Benson, gangster, murderer. He was put in prison by Gideon on the testimony of Benson's wife. Benson wants to get down to London to get vengeance on his wife. As they wait to see if Benson and the other escapees are captured or make it to London, Gideon prepares the force, protecting Mrs Benson and her children.

As well, the daily caseload never stops. Bad weather helped the escape in Manchester and kept the day-to-day criminal activities in London down. But the weather is improving and while Gideon's force is stretched thin, robberies are on the uptake as well as other crimes. These must be dealt with as well. There are other cases that take up Gideon's time, including the suspected murder of a young woman by her boyfriend. This case incites the interest of one of Gideon's daughters.

The story is fascinating, moves along nicely and holds your attention throughout. The various cases are all detailed and investigated individually, with Gideon tying them all together. There is intimidation, tension and excellent character development. All in all, an excellent mystery, well worth attempting. (4.5 stars)"

3. The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters (Cadfael #13). I've enjoyed this series immensely. It's one of my regular comfort reads.

"I've always enjoyed Ellis Peters's Cadfael mystery series. The 13th book in the series, The Rose Rent was no exception. Cadfael is one of a few historical mystery series that I have particularly enjoyed; e.g. The Mistress of the Art of Death and also the Matthew Shardlake books. Cadfael is set the earliest I think. This story takes place in May 1142 in the town of Shrewsbury mainly at the Abbey where Cadfael works as a monk. The story is set during the battles between King Stephen and Queen Maud for overall rule of England. While some of the other stories use these wars as key aspects to the stories, it plays relatively no role in this particularly story.

A wealthy widow, Judith Perle, has rented her manor to the Abbey. With the deaths of her husband and child she no longer needs the house and instead lives in the home attached to her factory. In the garden of the manor is a rose bush. On the day of St Winifred's holiday, the abbey were to give Judith one rose from the bush as the annual rent. Currently living in the manor is a widower, a craftsman.

The rose is normally given by a young trainee monk who finds himself attracted to Judith. He asks to be taken off the duty. After this preamble to introduce the plot, the young monk is found dead at the base of the rose bush, which has been chopped but not destroyed. Various reasons are provided for this action. If the rose bush is destroyed, the arrangement Judith has with the monastery would become nul and void. A number of wealthy merchants in the town want to marry her to gain access to her properties.

Cadfael and Hugh (the sheriff of Shrewsbury) begin to investigate the murder. Other events take place that will add to the tension and the urgency of solving the crime(s). It's an interesting story. You will be lead down paths to various possible solutions and then (I hope) to a nice surprise and ultimately satisfying ending. Cadfael is always an interesting, a down-to-earth ex-soldier who found the monk-hood late in life. He is always thoughtful and has a nice knack for working through the clues to solve crimes (probably pretty useful when it comes to crime solving, eh?) The stories never disappoint (3.5 stars)"

4. Jazz Funeral by Julia Smith (Skip Langdon #3). I've read books from all three of Smith's various mystery series. I've struggled with some and this was one of those, unfortunately.

"I readily admit that I struggled with Jazz Funeral by Julie Smith. This is the 3rd book in the Skip Langdon mystery series set in New Orleans. The basic gist of the story is that jazz impresario, Ham Brocato, is found murdered in his home, just before the big party at his home to open the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. At the same time, Ham's younger sister Melody disappears; a suspect or maybe a witness? Other suspects include Ti-Belle, a singer discovered by Ham and his live-in lover, or maybe his father, Gregory or even his mother Patty.

It's a rambling sort of story with all sorts of main characters; Skip, of course, but also Ti-Belle, Melody and the fore-mentioned Gregory and Patty. Skip is looking for Melody, trying to find her in case she is in danger. Melody has run away from home (for what reason?) and hiding out in New Orleans town center. It's just a disconnected story and there is no real investigation of the murder... other than Skip showing up at peoples' homes and asking a few questions.

The more I got into the story, the better it got, but it was still frustrating. No real police work, just wandering from character to character. Unfortunately, I didn't find any of them particularly sympathetic and some (Melody) were down right irritating. Maybe I just can't relate to teenagers anymore. Even the ending was sort of a throw-in. I do have the next book on my shelf and will read it, but I don't know if I'll be in a particular hurry to grab it. (2.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started the following books since my last entry.

1. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake #16). It's been a few years since I last explored Hamilton's fantasy world. I've started the book and I guess there will be some sex in this particular story. Yup, definitely some sex...

"A favor for Jason, vampire hunter Anita Blake's werewolf lover, puts her in the center of a full-blown scandal that threatens master-vampire Jean- Claude's reign, and makes her a pawn in an ancient vampire queen's new rise to power."

2. The Last Temptation by Val McDermid (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #3). I've enjoyed the first two books in this mystery / thriller series. I hope this is as good.

"Coming to terms over her breakup with criminal profiler Dr. Tony Hill, Chief Inspector Carol Jordan plunges into a risky undercover sting: track down a European drug trafficker and gain his confidence. But she's being tracked as well-by a serial killer whose psycho-sexual madness is born out of the darkest corners of history. In quiet isolation, Tony Hill is laying to rest the scars of his past-until he's recruited back into business on a case he can't ignore. An evil is striking uncomfortably close to home, and casting a killer shadow over the life of his long-time colleague and sometimes lover. As the danger closes in, and as Tony and Carol cross paths to navigate the terrain of a shattered human mind, they have no one left to trust but themselves-and fear that there's no place left to run as a killer promises to fulfill his most twisted dreams."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops

Lyn Hightower
1. Lyn Hightower - Detective Sonora Blair.  I've highlighted Lyn Hightower previously in my look at American PI's. She has written 4 books in this series featuring police detective Sonora Blair. Back in the early 2000's I read the fourth book in the series. It's taken me a little while to find other books by Hightower. I've currently got the third book in the series on my book shelf.

a. Eyeshot (#1 / 1986)
b. Flashpoint (#2 / 1995)

c. No Good Deed (#3 / 1998).

"It happened in broad daylight.  .  . 

The pretty fifteen-year-old had saddled up for an afternoon ride and never come back.

She was gone.  So was her horse.  Left behind was a splintered fence.  The tracks of a pickup truck.  A discarded riding boot.  And a great deal of blood.

As a mother herself, Cincinnati detective Sonora Blair knew she was looking at a parent's worst nightmare.  As a homicide cop, she tried not to think about what might be happening to the young girl right now .  .  .  or what the police would find if they didn't get to her in time. 

But nothing in Sonora's experience could prepare her for the chilling revelations that would emerge from this case .  .  .  or for the truth about other missing children, a lover's betrayal, and another unthinkable crime.  .  ."

d.  The Debt Collector (#4 / 1999). This was my first exposure to Lyn Hightower and I was very impressed with it. As I recall it was an interesting look at the cheque cashing industry.

"'No survivors,' Sonora Blair said to herself as she passed through the front door of a neat suburban home ... and entered a scene of horror: a family caught in the middle of an ordinary day, caught by a killer’s rage. Then Sonora found the dying mother huddled under her bed, and heard her last words: 'Two men. And the Angel.'

Within forty-eight hours, Sonora’s fellow detectives have two killers in jail and the case neatly wrapped. But Sonora — a good cop, a single mother, and a woman who has been a little too lonely a little too long — believes there is something more to this case. A third man in that house — maybe a killer, maybe a savior. And as she moves further down a trail full of shocking surprises, bitter revelations and unpaid debts, Sonora knows one thing for sure: if 'The Angel' is out there she will find him — and give him his due..."

So there you go. I hope you see some interesting books here. Enjoy and have a great weekend!
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