Sunday, May 1, 2016

Challenge Complete: Crusin' thru the Cozies

Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews is hosting the sixth annual Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge! And, of course, I'm signing right up.  For a full run-down of the rules, hop on the link above

For my participation, I signed for:
Level 2 - Investigator - Read 7-12 books
And I have now finished my level. I will keep adding books to see if make any other levels, but my challenge commitment is now complete. Here are the books claimed for the Investigator level:

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
3. Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1/16/16)
4. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
5. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (2/17/16)
6. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
7. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
8. Dead Against My Principles by Kenneth Hopkins (3/29/16)
9. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (4/21/16)
10. Death by Hoax by Lionel Black (4/25/16)
11. Chili Con Corpses by J. B. Stanley (4/28/16)
12. Our Jubilee Is Death by Leo Bruce (4/30/16)

Challenge Complete: Women Challenge

Sponsored by PeekaBook

The goal of the Women Challenge was pretty simple--read books written by women. There are several levels to shoot for and there's still plenty of time to join if you haven't. I just finished my level goal of Wonder Woman by reading over 20 books written by women. I'm sure there will be more this year, but my challenge is now complete. Here are the books I claimed for the challenge:

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1/7/16)
3. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
4. Four Against the Bank of England by Ann Huxley (1/25/16)
5. Which Doctor by Edward Candy [Barbara Alison Boodson Neville] (1/28/16)
6. Who's Calling by Helen McCloy (1/31/16)
7. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (2/6/16)
8. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
9. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
10. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White (2/20/16)
11. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
12. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell (3/1/16)
13. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (3/13/16)
14. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (3/15/16)
15. The Old Battle Axe/The Obstinate Murderer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (3/17/16)
16. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (3/24/16)
17. The Third Encounter by Sara Woods (4/1/16)
18. The Indigo Necklace Murders by Frances Crane (4/13/16)
19. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (4/21/16)
20. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (4/22/16)
21. Line Up for Murder by Marion Babson (4/28/16)

May Read It Aain, Sam Reviews

Our Jubilee Is Death: Review

After all, the old kind of detection's on the way out. We've gone forward from Baker Street. I don't see how you expect to get away with a mysterious murder, examination of suspects, digging up the clues, keeping everyone in the dark, then Bang, the big revelation. It was all right for the first fifty years or so, but it's completely outmoded now. (Priggley; p.70)

Carolus Deene, a history master at a boys school with independent means, tends to spend the school holidays sorting out murders. He spends his time away from the school at British watering holes, small villages, and even on ocean liners helping to track down killers that seem likely to elude the police's grasp.  In Our Jubiliee Is Death (1959), his cousin Fay sends him an urgent letter describing how she came upon the corpse of the successfully romantic suspense author Lilliane Bomberger. Or rather, Lilliane's head, since the rest of her appears to be buried in the sandy beach. 

It looked from the distance like a rock with a bit of sea-weed on it....When I got there I saw it was Mrs. Bomberger. I mean, her head. Or rather, as I found out later, she was all there, but only her head was stuck out of the sand.

Fay is worried about how the dead woman's family is reacting and asks Carolus to come down and set things right. She assures him that the family will welcome his help and she's quite sure that he will be able to spot the murderer immediately and life will return to normal. Carolus, with his interest in crime, had naturally read the newspaper articles about the crime, but it hadn't interested him at all. It didn't seem to have any features of particular interest. But when his cousin writes and then his headmaster and housekeeper, who are both ostensibly opposed to his investigations, bring up the case (hoping to keep him out of it), he decides to take it up after all if only to tweak their noses.

Before heading to Blessington-on-Sea, site of the murder, Carolus stops in to see Bomburger's publisher to get what background he can on the author. He discovers that she was a demanding, domineering woman who made everyone's life miserable--from her relatives to her household help to her publishers. She may have been the publishing house's best seller and a source of considerable income, but she was a trial to work with.

But don't think we've not earned it. We've had her for twenty-three years, and it's been like a prison sentence. She was the most insufferable human being of this century. Or any other, I sometimes think.

When Carolus arrives at the seaside town, however, he finds that no one in the house is willing to tell the truth. He meets with what he calls a "conspiracy" and despite warning them that at least one more death will follow if they don't give him the facts (and subsequently being proved right), they stubbornly stick to their concocted stories. He believes that despite their conspiracy of silence he has discovered who did it and why, but he has no proof and no way of obtaining it. Carolus, who didn't want to investigate this case in the first place, is ready to throw in the towel when his headmaster arrives on the scene insisting that Deene clear things up once and for all.

But, Deene, there is a sharp distinction between keeping yourself clear of a thing of this kind and leaving it in midstream.

Our hero is still insisting on leaving the field to the police when a final corpse is discovered and he is given no choice but to gather the interested parties and tell him what he believes to have happened. And, of course, he is right.

This is, in some ways, one of the less satisfying books in the Carolus Deene series because of his lack of enthusiasm for his investigation.  Usually he is eager to dive in and get to the bottom of things, but this time he is very reluctant to get involved and doesn't particularly enjoy the investigation once he does. That isn't to say that this isn't an enjoyable mystery. It is--there is a great deal of humor and an interesting, if somewhat improbable plot (who in their right mind would dig a vertical hole to stuff a corpse in?). The opening letter from Deene's cousin, the descriptions of the dead woman, and the interactions between Carolus and his headmaster, housekeeper, and that insufferable young man from his history class, Priggley alone make it worth the reading. ★★ and a quarter.

This counts for "Body of Water" on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

May Mount TBR Reviews

May Vintage Scavenger Hunt Reviews

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Happy Belated Me!

I somehow manage to miss this every year. I think about the fact that my blogiversary is coming up at the beginning of April, but when April 24th rolls around it zips right by me. Yep, I've been doing this book blogging gig now for six years. Where, oh where has the time gone? It hardly seems possible that I've been plugging away at reviews and challenges and memes (albeit a bit more hit and miss on those these days) for that amount of time. Thanks to all my faithful followers who have hung in there with me even as I seem to have less and less time to stop and chat at your place. Thanks as well to all my fellow challengers who join me for Vintage Mystery, Mount TBR, Color Coded, and Read It Again, Sam--I love having you all with me in the reading challenges. And a HUGE thank you to the friends I've made through my love of vintage mysteries. Noah, John, Sergio, Rich, Curtis, Les, Petra, Lisa, Kate, TomCat, Brad, JJ, Yvette, Peggy Ann, Moira, and everyone I'm forgetting to mention--thank you for teaching me so much about the genre I love and for dangling so many titles, authors and editions in front of me that my To Be Found list is an ever-growing, impossible to achieve dream. But what a wonderful dream. It's been so much fun! Let's keep going, shall we?

Line Up for Murder: Review

Bonnard's Department Store is celebrating is 100th anniversary over the New Year's holiday and, just as every year at this time, they have advertised some spectacular bargains--everything from an entire living room suite to a floor-length mink to a top-of-the-line refrigerator to a state-of-the-art camera/film-maker's dream in addition to bargain prices throughout the store. Every year patrons line up days in advance to have the first shot at their most desired items, bringing sleeping bags and carryalls full of supplies for the wait. Dorrie Witson loves waiting in the queues. She's a good-natured, inoffensive busybody who loves to people-watch and make friends with anyone and everyone around her. This time she isn't waiting in line for herself, but as a favor for friends who have their eye on the fridge and can't afford to miss work to wait in line. Also in the queue is Lucy Bone (alias Lucinda Bonnard, daughter of the Bonnard empire) who has had a falling out with her widowed father over his intended remarriage to a younger woman. She's brought along an undesirable, intense, and possessive boyfriend and the tension caused by these two, a self-centered gentleman ahead of Dorrie who doesn't seem to mind who he insults, a couple who would like nothing better than to ditch the self-centered gent and play board games with Dorrie, and a rather nice young man with an interest in the camera well as in Lucy makes this one of Dorrie's least favorite line-ups.

But is there more to the tension than just abrasive personalities grating upon one another? Lucy is obviously planning some sort of mischief to either embarrass her father or otherwise cause a scene. And someone in that line has murder on their mind. One has a gun and another arranges for an odd concoction to be brought to their place in line...poison, perhaps? Dorrie manages to inadvertently foil several plots and save the day on many fronts....and still grabs the refrigerator for her dear friends.

Line Up for Murder (aka 1980 Queue Here for Murder) by Marion Babson is gentle mystery. Full of charm--it was a delight to read. There is very little action in the generally accepted mystery sense of the word, but Babson draws such vivid characters and sets the scene so expertly that one doesn't really notice. The big mystery is finding out exactly what the plot is, who's behind it, and who is the intended target. ★★★★

This counts for "Building" (other than house) for the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

All challenges fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, 100 Plus Challenge, Outdo Yourself, My Kind of Mystery, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, Mystery Reporter, Women Challenge, Lady Detective, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Mad Reviewer, 

Chili Con Corpses: Review

Chili Con Corpses is the third installment in J. B. Stanley's cozy mystery series which features the "Flab Five"--a group of friends who create a supper club and support group, particularly when most of the members decide they need to find a way to balance their interest in food with a need to eat wisely and get fit. Her characters include James , a librarian knows as "The Professor;" the now newly svelte deputy-in-training Lucy; Bennett, a trivia buff who hopes some day to appear on Jeopardy!; Gillian, a herbalist with a New Age aura; and local high school teacher Lindy. 

The group is getting pretty tired of low-carb fare and sign up for a Mexican-themed Fix 'n' Freeze cooking class taught by the charismatic Milla. Murphy Alistair, editor/reporter for the Shenandoah Star-Ledger, also joins along with two of her college friends Parker and Kinsley willis--a pair of twins who look like supermodels. Lindy is sure that Kinsley is out to snag the man she's had her eye on for some time and threatens mayhem if she does. When Parker (who everyone has mistaken for her twin) is found murdered while helping to chaperone a school field trip for Lindy's students to Luray Caverns, the police are naturally interested in the rivalry between Lindy and Kinsley. But then they realize that one of the other chaperones wasn't who he was thought to be either and more motives start popping up. James and the Flab Five decide to take matters into their own hands and flush out the killer, but will they do so without losing one of their own?

This is a fun, light-hearted cozy mystery. The plot is solid and the characters are interesting and very real. I especially like the side-story with James's father, a widower, who has lost interest in most everything until he meets Milla. It was very nice to see how he blossomed as he got to know her. And the side-stories do not detract or distract from the main mystery plot as can sometimes happen. Stanley weaves them in nicely. If you have a taste for cozy mysteries...particularly those which involve food...then this is a solid entree for your mystery menu. ★★

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Challenge Complete: Lady Detectives

Lady Detectives 2016 Reading Challenge
Click HERE to Enter
Enter This runs from January 1st, 2016 to December 31st, 2016.
You can enter anytime between now & September 1st, 2016.
Trixie: 1-3 books (You’re a bit new to this, but you’ve got killer hunches.)
Jane: 4-6 books (You’re quite the clever old bird, but the local constabulary really wish you’d keep out of it.)
Jessica: 7+ books (You find mystery wherever you go. If you’re not a mystery writer yet, you really should be.)

I knew that I was absolutely a Jessica so I signed up for seven-plus books. I'm sure I'll read more mysteries with women sleuths, but I have met my challenge goal.

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
3. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
4. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (3/13/16)
5. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (3/15/16)
6. Leaving Everthing Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (3/24/16)
7. The Indigo Necklace Murders by Frances Crane (4/12/16)
8. Death by Hoax by Lionel Black (4/25/16)

Challenge Commitment Complete: Vintage Scavenger Hunt

The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart. It's the first reading challenge I sponsored and if I had to choose only one genre to read for the rest of my life, it would definitely be mysteries. This year I've changed things up once again and have launched the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt. Challengers have been busy scouring their shelves for cover items to fulfill categories. There's still time to join us!

My Committment: At least 12 books in each era. And I have now completed that. Since I've also been participating in Rich's Crimes of the Century (with a number of pre-1960 years) and the Tuesday Night Bloggers (featuring Golden Age crime), I really racked up the Golden-Era covers. I had to make an effort to squeeze in my Silver hunt. As you all know, I'm a glutton when it comes to these things, so while my commitment is complete, I will be aiming to find as many items as possible before the end of the year.....

Golden Era (Pre-1960)

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1950) [Damsel in Distress] (1/3/16)
2. Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1950) [Map/Chart] (1/7/16)
3. Red for Murder by Harold Kemp (1957) [Jewelry] (1/13/16)
4. Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1950) [Bottle of Poison] (1/16/16)
5. Puzzle in Petticoats by Samuel M. Kootz (1944) [Shadowy Figure] (1/20/16)
6. Which Doctor by Edward Candy (1954) [Nurse] (1/28/16)
7. The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont by Robert Barr (1906) [Town Scene] (1/30/16)
8. Who's Calling by Helen McCloy (1942) [Telephone] (1/31/16)
9. The Clock Ticks On by Valentine Williams (1933) [Clock] (2/3/16)
10. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (1933) [Bloodstain] (2/6/16)
11. The Bridal Bed Murders by A. E. Martin (1954) [Just One Person] (2/13/16)
12. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (1958) [Red-Head] (2/17/16)
13. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White (1933) [Staircase] (2/20/16)
14. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (1942) [Statue] (2/22/16)
15. The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield (1950) [Dead Body] (2/24/16)
16. The Day He Died by Lewis Padgett (1947) [Two People] (3/3/16)
17. House of Darkness by Allan MacKinnon (1947) [Castle/Ruins] (3/7/16)
18. The Old Battle Axe/The Obstinate Murderer (1943/1938) [Brunette] (3/17/16)
19. The Jade Venus by George Harmon Coxe (1945) [Boat] (4/7/16)
20. The Indigo Necklace Murders by Frances Crane (1945) [More Than Two People] (4/12/16)
21. The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde by Erle Stanley Gardner (1944) [Blonde] (4/12/16) 
22. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (1956) [Moon] (4/22/16)

Silver Era (1960-1989, inclusive)
1. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1961) [Jewelry] (1/9/16)
2. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (1983) [Dog] (2/9/16)
3. The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young (1963) [Boat] (2/10/16)
4. Poacher's Bag by Douglas Clark (1980) [Green Object] (2/19/16)
5. Gently with the Painters by Alan Hunter (1960) [Artist/Art Equipment] (2/27/16)
6. The Calcutta Affair by George S. Elrick (1967) [Two People] (2/28/16)
7. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell (1979) [Skull] (3/1/16)
8. The Philomel Foundation by James Gollin (1980) [Musical Instrument] (3/11/16)
9. Dead Against My Principles by Kenneth Hopkins (1960) [Watch] (3/29/16)
10. The Third Encounter by Sara Woods (1963) [Doctor] (4/1/16)
11. One Foot in the Grave by Peter Dickinson (1979) [Bloodstains] (4/18/16)
12. Death by Hoax by Lionel Black (1974) [Telephone] (4/25/16)