Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who Guards a Prince: Review

Reginald Hill, best known for his Daziel and Pascoe detective series, gives readers his take on the suspense-driven, international conspiracy thriller in Who Guards a Prince (1982). There are royals in danger, a secret society that involves Freemasonry, a sex and blackmail scheme to control an up-and-coming young senator with his eye on the presidency, and a little Fenian/Irish American plotting and counter-plotting just for good measure. The book is littered with bodies--people with their tongues cut out, burned up in a fire, killed in car "accidents," blown up, shot, and dropped 20-some stories out of windows. Just a normal few weeks on both sides of the pond--British or American victims, we're not picky. We might even add a Canadian or two just for luck.

Balance that out with a disgruntled British policeman by the name Doug McHarg--a disillusioned, but doggedly-devoted-to-duty widower who used to be the security man for Price Arthur and who has stumbled across the trail of the secret society.  Much to their displeasure. McHarg follows the meager clues and finds himself the target for a series of Masonic death-attacks. Can he save Prince Arthur from becoming the latest victim and prevent the society from fulfilling their aims for power?  And can he do so without sacrificing people he has begun to care about--because the society doesn't care who it hurts if it can pressure its enemies into leaving it alone...or doing its bidding.

This novel is over-the-top and far too busy with all the conspiracies and schemes and side-issues. And the scattered bodies bothered me much more than the somewhat gruesome thriller that I just finished (especially that tongue business). At least I understood the killings in there are so many senseless deaths. So many people crushed under the wheels of the secret society machine and we're just supposed to take it in stride. To top it off, it winds up very predictably with a shoot-em-up ending (which takes place in America where such things happen, you know) and a "surprise" unmasking of the evil genius behind the plots. I will admit that McHarg's method of dealing with the mastermind is unique...but it seems more suitable for a over-blown thriller movie.  I just really wasn't taken with this at all. ★★ may be generous.

The best part? A sub-plot with Prince Arthur and his lady-love, an Irish American who must go against her family's anti-English sentiments to be with man she cares for. No sloppy romance--just a nice little thread to follow.

This fulfills the "Man in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.

Challenge Complete: Literary Exploration

The 2014 Literary Exploration (through Goodreads) challenges readers to try out new genres; with a 12 book, 24 book and 36 book challenge.They give us a list of genres and anyone participating in the challenge has to complete one book from each genre over the course of the year.  I joined in for the "Easy Challenge" level.  I am quite likely to finish the Hard Challenge level as well, but I have completed my commitment of 12 books for the Easy Challenge.

Easy Challenge

Classics My Antonia by Willa Cather (4/20/14)
Fantasy The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin (5/6/14)
Graphic Novels Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison (3/17/14)
Historical Fiction Dandy Gilver & the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson [set in 1920s] (2/12/14)
Horror Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (7/22/14)
Literary Fiction Sinners & the Sea by Rebecca Kanner (5/21/14)
Mystery Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (1/5/13)
Non Fiction XCIA's Street Art Project by Hank O'Neal (2/20/14)
Romance Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer (5/1/14)
Science Fiction Shakespeare's Planet by Clifford D. Simak (1/6/14)
Thriller 12.21 by Dustin Thomason (6/6/14)
Young Adult The 7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell (6/29/14)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Relic: Review

Something nasty is lurking in the basement hallways of the New York Museum of Natural History. A nasty, primeval, ferocious something...that kills swiftly and mercilessly and Special Agent Pendergrast, Lieutenant D'Agosta, museum researchers Margo Green and Dr. Frock need to find out who or what it is before everyone connected with the museum falls victim....

The museum is due for a grand opening of a new, spectacular exhibition by the name of of "Superstition." The directors of the museum are determined that nothing will happen to either delay the extravaganza or tarnish the museum's reputation. So, when odd disappearances occur and rumors of a "Museum Beast" start to circulate, Winston Wright and Lavinia Rickman tighten security and clamp down on the rumor-mongers, but refuse to even think about putting of the grand opening. And not even a dead body or three are enough to change their minds.

Pendergrast and the researchers slowly gather evidence that points to a doomed expedition undertaken by associates of the museum several years earlier. Whittlesey, one of the leaders of the expedition, had gone to the Brazilian rainforest in search of the lost Kothoga tribe--a primitive group who worshiped a strange god named Mbwun who was half-man, half-lizard and who was said to be the offspring of a Satan-like demon. A relic which is said to represent Mbwun was found among the crated items sent back by Whittlesey and will be the centerpiece of the new exhibit. With murderer leaving a trail of clues that eerily call to mind descriptions of Mbwun, could the rumors of a "Museum Beast" be more firmly rooted in fact than anyone would like to believe?

This is a hair-raising, edge-of-the-seat thriller.  Weighing in at 468 pages, I managed to finish this book in less than 24 hours--and that's allowing time for sleeping last night and working a full 8 hours today. That's not meant as a brag. I'm simply underlining the fact that, despite thrillers being NOT my thing (and only reading this one because I had to have something in the horror-line for a challenge), I only put the thing down when I absolutely had to. Preston and Child know exactly how reel you in and keep you reading even when you're being scared out of your wits. Seriously creepy and quite, um, bloody--but not gratuitously so (and I managed to skip the worst descriptions without losing any of the storyline....I'm a weenie when it comes to blood and gore).  I learned with Cabinet of Curiosities that I can take a bit of horror now and then, provided that it's well-written and delivers a good story with interesting characters. Preston and Child come through again with this ★★★ outing.

Challenge Complete: Non-Fiction Advneture

  A Non-Fiction

August 10, 2013 - August 10, 2018

hosted by Michelle of The True Book addict
at A Non-Fiction Adventure's blog
Sign- up here
Back in August 2013 I signed up for the Non-Fiction Adventure.  Since this is a perpetual challenge lasting five years, I set myself the goal of reading at least 10 non-fiction books each year (my years will be the calendar years--not August to August).  I pushed and met that first goal in 2013, and now I've grabbed my 10th book for 2014

Non-Fiction Books Read in 2014:

1. The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux [1/20/14]  
2. You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Rogerts (2/9/14)   
3. XCIA's Street Art Project by Hank O'Neal (2/20/14)   
4. It's Not All Flowers & Sausages by Jennifer Scoggin (3/10/14)   
5. Ships of the Line by Doug Drexler & Margaret Clark (5/1/14)   
6. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (5/9/14)  
7. Beyond Uhura: Star Trek & Other Memories by Nichelle Nichols (5/29/14) 
8. Naked Is the Best Disguise: The Death & Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Samuel Rosenberg (4/18/14)
9. Selections from the Essays of Montaigne by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (trans & ed by Donald M. Frame) [7/7/14]  
10. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis(7/20/14)  

Author, Author Scavenger Challenge

Author, Author Scavenger Challenge (found on GoodReads in All Challenges All the Time)

The scavenger challenge this year is based upon National Book Month, which occurs in March. You will choose ONE author – a favorite author, a new author you’d like to read more from, it doesn’t matter – and use that author as the basis for ALL of the tasks in the challenge. 

My Chosen Author: Michael Innes (1906-1994): John Innes Mackintosh Stewart was born in Edinburgh, educated at Oxford, and taught English in universities all over the world. His scholarly career includes successful works on Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy, but he is better known as mystery writer Michael Innes, whose legendary character, Inspector John Appleby, inspired a lasting vogue for donnish detective fiction.
Duration: July 22, 2014 - July 21, 2013 (one year from start date)
Will complete at least 8 of the required 16 books to count my commitment completed for my 2014 Challenge List.

1. Read TWO books by the author you’ve chosen for this challenge.
*From London Far  
* Lament for a Maker

2. Read a book whose total number of pages includes one of the numbers from the year your chosen author’s first book was published.
Be sure to tell us when your author's first book was published. (1936)

Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (468 pages) [7/22/14]

3. Read a book whose title begins with one of the letters in your chosen author’s last name.
Introducing C. B. Greenfield by Lucille Kallen

4. Go to Literature and read one book by each of TWO different authors who are close to your chosen author.
*The Sirens Sang of Murder by Sarah Caudwell
*The Price of Silence by Kate Wilhelm OR A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

5. Read a book by an author who shares a first or last name with your chosen author.

The Seeds of Murder by Michael Underwood

The Night of the Twelfth by Michael Gilbert

6. Read a book set in the location where your chosen author’s most recent book took place – or the most recent book that you’ve read by your chosen author.
Be sure to tell us the location. [Location from: Appleby and the Ospreys-- English Countryside or British Country House]

7. Read a book whose title shares at least one major word (usual exceptions here) with any title written by your chosen author. 
Lament for the Bride by Helen Reilly OR Lament for a Lady Laird by Margot Arnold

8. Read TWO books published the same year as the year your chosen author’s most recent book was published (or is scheduled to be released).
Be sure to tell us what year the author's most recent book was published.  (Appleby & the Ospreys, 1987)
* Seventh Son by Orson Scot Card
* Young Mrs. Cavendish & the Kaiser’s Men by K. K. Beck

9 . Read a book whose title begins with one of the letters in your chosen author’s first name.
The Mind Murders by Janwillem van de Wetering

10. Read a book by an author who’s written a blurb for one of your chosen author’s books.

11. Read a book with the same number of words in its title as any book by your chosen author. ALL words count!
Be sure to tell us the title of the book by your chosen author.
[Innes book: Lament for a Maker = 4 words]

Who Guards a Prince by Reginald Hill (7/23/14)

12. Read any other book you can somehow relate to your chosen author. Be sure to explain the connection!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Me Before You: Review

...he was pleased to see me in a way he wasn't actually going to be able to say. And I told myself that it was going to have to be enough. I would do the thing he had asked for. That would have to be enough. 

Louisa  "Lou" Clark is an ordinary woman living the most ordinary of lives--still living at home with her parents, working as a waitress in the local cafe, riding the same bus and walking the same way home every evening. The most extraordinary thing about Lou is her eccentric taste in clothing. She bursts on every scene looking like a rainbow that had a fight in an Oxfam shop. But her life is about to become very extraordinary indeed....and all because she loses her job.

Will Traynor has always been a man of action--whether scaling rocky heights and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or taking on the big deals of the corporate world, he's known what he wants and how to get it. Preferably as quickly and in the most exciting way possible. All that changes on a rainy afternoon when he collides with a motorcycle as he sprints for a taxi. Up till now, he's tackled every challenge that's come his way, but the challenge of living the rest of his life in a wheelchair--not even able to feed himself without assistance--isn't the kind of challenge he had in mind and he decides it isn't the kind of challenge he wants.

When the cafe where Lou works closes down, she is forced to look for another job and, after trying various options that just didn't work out, she applies for position that will offer "care and companionship for a disabled man." That ad doesn't even begin to explain the situation when she meets Will Traynor. Will is bitter and tired of life. He doesn't want help, he doesn't want cheery, and, as far as Lou can tell, he doesn't want her. But little by little these two very different people begin to get to know each other...and the six months they spend together will change them forever.

So...I made the mistake of finishing this book at work. Teary-eyed and sniffing at my desk. Jo Jo Moyes has written a heart-breakingly beautiful book. An out-of-the-ordinary love story. The characters are quirky and imperfect and utterly believable. The story is difficult--the decisions Will makes are devastating for all who care for him--and the struggles they all go through to determine how best to prove that they love him are real and painful the hardest battle anyone should have to face emotionally.  I loved watching the relationship grow between Will and Lou. I loved watching Lou learn how to live and to reach for what she wants most in life. I cried with her as she had to let some of those things go. 

At the end of the novel, Will asks Lou to support him the most difficult decision anyone can make. At first she can't face it--and then, in a revisiting of a scene from earlier in the book, Will says:

“Hey Clark. Tell me something good." I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn't have met, and who didn't like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other...And as I spoke I knew these would be the most important words I would ever say and that it was important that they were the right words, that they were not propaganda, an attempt to change his mind, but respectful of what Will had said.

And, at its heart, that is what Me Before You is about--two people who had every reason NOT to like one another, every reason NOT to get along who become the only people who can understand and help each other when they need it most. Will as he faces the most difficult moment of his life and Lou as she faces a crucial crossroads. Their care and understanding of each other is what makes this book work. Fantastic story-telling.  ★★★and a 1/2 stars.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mere Christianity: Mini-Review

One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. that is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken a wrong turning. (p. 72)

Mere Christianity is C. S. Lewis's attempt to explain Christianity at its most basic level--leaving out denominational hot-buttons and aiming to establish theology and doctrine that all Christians subscribe to and agree make up the faith. In the prologue, he describes turning to Christianity as entering the main hallway of a large house--there are many doors leading from the hallway to the rooms of the house (the various denominations) and each room is furnished a bit differently. But, so long as all the inhabitants follow the general rules of the house, there is no reason to suppose that one person's room is any better than another. His job is to explain the general house rules.

The book was adapted from a series of informal radio broadcasts and the tone of the writing reflects this. The writing is quite conversational, as if Lewis had stopped by for a friendly chat about the details of the Christian faith. His analogies are a bit dated, but they still clearly reinforce the points he makes. Very engaging and easy to read. ★★★

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Tattooed Man: Review

Who is the tattooed man? He is the cook on the tramp freighter Araby and the first man on the sailing vessel to take Tod Moran under his wing and help him find his place among his shipmates. Tod, 17 years old and not quite finished with high school, has joined the freighter as cabin boy and cook's assistant in the hopes that he can find clues that will explain the disappearance of his older brother from a freighter of the same line.

Rumor has it that Neil (his brother), who was ship's purser at the time, jumped ship in France--taking a good portion of the freighter's money with him. Tod knows his brother and knows that he would never do such a thing. He's convinced that there has been foul play somewhere and he is determined to prove his brother's innocence. But before he can do that, he must prove to his shipmates that he is no cowardly land-lubber and that he can hold his own in a fight with one of the burliest men aboard.

Tod also has to decide whom he can trust. A young woman who works in the freight company's office knew his brother and had told Tod to make friends with the first mate. That the first mate would be able to help him find out what happened to Neil. But Tod's instincts tell him that the first mate has no concern for anyone but himself.  The captain is in a constant fog from drink. The men with whom he shares his bunk space only want to tease him and make things difficult. And the tattooed cook? There appears to be more to him than meets the eye....but is that a good thing? Or will the cook ultimately turn him over to the officers who seem to be up to no good?

Tod's search for his brother and the means to prove his innocence makes for a good old-fashioned "Boys Own Adventure."  Lots of action, mysterious doings, nefarious bad guys, and good guys in hiding make for lots of fun in this early 20th Century book by Howard Pease. Pease, a teacher of 7th and 8th grade, was tired of, as he saw it, the predominance of female writers of adventure stories in the early 1900s. So, he began writing stories that he thought portrayed real boys and young men having exciting adventures. His aim was to create a hero who was just brave enough to see the adventures through--but no superman. Tod has to learn the trade of a seaman--he doesn't come equipped with the skills to sail a boat (and operate any other piece of machinery that might come his way). He even starts the voyage with an honest-to-goodness bout of seasickness. He shows the expected fear of men who could overpower him--but is willing to take them on if necessary. He's just an average guy hoping to find his brother--and along the way he begins to learn what it means to be a man.

Good solid adventure story. Take it as read that a book from 1926 is not politically correct by today's standards. But the story itself is entertaining and Tod is a very engaging character. ★★★

This fulfills the "Man in the Title" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.

2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge: Card Covered

Back in February, I completed my first two Bingos for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge, hosted by Kristilyn from Reading in Winter and Anne from Creativity’s Corner and met my challenge commitment goal. But, as we all know, I'm a glutton for challenges and I knew I'd be making the effort to cover the whole card. With my most recent book review, I filled in the last square on this year's card. If Kristilyn and Anne offer another round in 2015, I'm sure I'll be back for more. Thanks for hosting, ladies!

Here's the full run-down of Squares Completed:

TBR Pile
One Book:
The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1/2/14)

Two Books:
1. The Skeleton in the Clock by Carter Dickson (1/8/14)
2. Dangerous Visions #3 by Harlan Ellison, ed (1/11/14)

Three Books
1. Angels & Spaceships by Fredric Brown (1/12/14)
2. Triumph by Philip Wylie (1/18/14)
3. Seven Footprints to Satan by A. Merritt (1/22/14)

Four Books
1. Death on the Aisle by Frances & Richard Lockridge (1/24/14)
2. The Adventure of the Eleven Cuff-Buttons by James Francis Thierry (1/26/14)
3. Other Times, Other Worlds by John D. MacDonald (1/26/14)
4. Too Much of Water by Bruce Hamilton (1/27/14)

Five Books
1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1/29/14)
2. Darkness at Pemberley by T. H. White (1/30/14)
3. Gambit by Rex Stout (2/8/14)
4. Death Walks on Cat Feet by D. B. Olsen (2/13/14)
5. Made Up to Kill by Kelley Roos (2/18/14)

Mix It Up
Non-Fiction: The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux (1/20/14)
Classic: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick [classic Science Fiction; 1962 Hugo Winner] (2/27/14)
Reread: Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell (1/13/14)
Free Square: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton (1/18/14)
Contemporary: Death by Chick Lit by Lynn Harris (2/1/14)

One Book: The Winter Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine [#12 of Philo Vance series] (1/23/14)

Two Books
1. Exit Actors, Dying by Margot Arnold [#1 of Penny Spring & Sir Toby Glendower series] (2/4/14)
2. Shelf Life by Douglas Clark [Masters & Green series] (2/6/14)

Three Books
1. The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie [Kincaid & James #15] (2/25/14)
2. The Purple Parrot by Clyde B. Clason [Theocritus Lucius Westoborough #4] (2/25/14)
3. To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas [Barker & Llewellyn #2] (2/26/14)

Four Books
1. Vicious Circle by Douglas Clark [Masters & Green series] (3/11/14)
2. The Darker the Night by Herbert Brean [Reynold Frame #2] (3/3/14)
3. The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout [Nero Wolfe #2] (3/23/14)
4. The Coral Princess Murders by Frances Crane [Pat & Jean Abbott #18] (4/5/14)

Five Books
1. Murder at the Museum of Natural History by Michael Jahn [Bill Donovan #4] (4/18/14)
2. Dorothy Dixon & the Double Cousin by Dorothy Wayne [Dorothy Dixon #4] (4/26/14)
3. For Old Crime's Sake by Delano Ames [Jane & Dagobert Brown #12] (4/29/14)
4. The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin [Eddie Bear #1] (5/6/14)
5. Death at the Medical Board by Josephine Bell [Dr. David Wintringham #7] (5/16/14)

Fantasy: Grimm's Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (3/28/14)
Free Square (Science Fiction): Shakespeare's Planet by Clifford D. Simak (1/6/14)
Historical Fiction: Dandy Gilver & the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson [set in the 1920s] (2/12/14)
Mystery: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (1/5/13)
Romance: Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer (5/1/14)

New Releases:
One Book: The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd [1st US Release: Jan 2014] (3/8/14)

Two Books
1. The Wonder Chamber by Mary Mallory [pub. Jan 2014] (1/15/14)
2. Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland [pub. Jan 2014] (2/16/14)

Three Books
1. A Girl Walks into a Bar by Helena S. Paige [pub 2014--first hard copy] (3/12/14)
2. India Black & the Gentleman Thief by Carol K Carr [pub Feb 2014] (3/19/14)
3. A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan [pub Feb 2014] (3/21/14)

Four Books
1. The Lady of Sorrows by Anne Zouroudi [1st US edition March 2014] (4/26/14)
2. Whispers of Vivaldi by Beverle Graves Myers [1st release January 2014] (5/21/14)
3. The Corsican Caper by Peter Mayle [May 2014] (6/11/14)
4. This Private Plot by Alan Beechey [May 2014] (6/26/14)

Five Books
1. Decoded by Mai Jia [1st US Jan 2014] (4/5/14)
2. After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman [Feb 2014] (4/5/14)
3. The Mammoth Book of the Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Dennis O. Smith [Jan 2014] (4/13/14)
4. Death by the Book by Julianna Deering (4/21/14)
5. Death in an Ivory Tower by Maria Hudgins [June 2014] (7/16/14)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Death in an Ivory Tower: Review

Death in an Ivory Tower is the fifth installment in Maria Hudgins' Dotsy Lamb cozy mystery series.Dotsy is a 6o-something grandmother and teacher of ancient and medieval history who is determined to finally complete her PhD. She and her doctoral adviser, Professor Larry Roberts, are off to Oxford for an academic conference revolving around the myths of King Arthur and their influence on Elizabethan England. Larry is currently a bit miffed at his student--Dotsy somehow managed to influence a couple of New Age Arthurian zealots with an agenda to apply for the conference. Bram Fitzwaring and his on-again, off-again lover Mignon Beaulieu plan to rock the conference with their "proof" that Arthur was a real king and not just the stuff of legends.

Fitzwaring rocks the conference all right....but not with a major Arthurian bombshell. He's found dead in his room just hours before his scheduled presentation. It's first thought that the diabetic conferee died from a case of hypoglycemia. But Dotsy is a diabetic as well and certain facts surrounding the death just don't add up. Then a family friend who is a visiting doctor at a local Oxford hospital is shot and Dotsy wonders if there is a connection.  But what could the connection be...and will she be able to make the British police listen to her suspicions?

This is a well-paced cozy mystery with an academic setting--a winner for me, as you all know! Dotsy is a likeable character and interesting as an amateur detective. She works with the police and doesn't assume that she can take on villains all on her own. I'm not sure how the rest of the series works (this is my first foray into the Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)--but this one in particular works with Dotsy as sleuth because of her personal knowledge of diabetes.  We also learn a bit about Arthurian legend versus history along the way, but Hudgins doesn't load the story down with details. There's just enough for interest and background. A solid cozy mystery that, while part of a series, can certainly be read as a stand-alone with no need to have read previous books first. I will certainly look forward to catching up on others in the series--particularly if they include academic settings as well. ★★★

Monday, July 14, 2014

Murder at the Villa Rose: Review

The Murder at the Villa Rose (1910) opens at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo with a young, handsome Englishman in the process of breaking the bank. Our focal point for the scene, Julius Ricardo, is an observer in Monte Carlo and sees a beautiful, young woman in distress in the gardens. It soon becomes apparent that she had been losing heavily. It is also apparent that she has connections with the Englishman, Harry Wethermill, as she throws her lot in with his at the table. Unfortunately, her bad luck seems to carry over to him and they leave losers, but also most evidently young people in love.

The next we hear of Miss Celia is in connection with her sponsor, Madame Dauvray. Madame Dauvray has been found strangled to death at the Villa Rose and her maid Hélène Vauquier left tied up and chloroformed in her bed. The safe which was said to be full of jewels has been looted and Madame Dauvray's bedroom ransacked. And Miss Celia has vanished. The story Hélène tells makes it very black indeed for the missing girl and the police are ready to believe that Celia was an accomplice to the robbery if not the murderer herself. But Wethermill refuses to accept the official version and begs Ricardo to help him convince Inspector Hanaud, "the cleverest of the French detectives," to take up the case. Hanaud agrees, but only after telling Wethermill, "I will take up this case. But I shall follow it to the end now, be the consequences bitter as death to you." The end will be bitter indeed...for someone.

Although Hanaud is a member of the official police force, he is very Holmes-like in his immense vanity and tendency to keep clues close to his chest--and one clue in particular that would make it much easier for the reader to begin unravel the true meaning of the events of Madame Dauvray's last night. Even when the narrative draws our attention to specific clues (the settee and its cushions, for example), Hanaud manages to play a bit of sleight-of-hand to distract us from the true meaning--all the better to display his brilliance in the explanation at the end. Ricardo plays Watson to Hanaud--slightly dim and making all the wrong inferences from the facts as presented.

One very distinctive element to this early detective novel is the inversion of the mystery--not at the beginning, but at the midpoint. The first half of the novel follows Hanaud as he tracks down clues and finally runs the criminals to earth. By the middle of the story, we all know who did it! The remainder of the novel gives us the details of the crime in the words of one of the primary participants and Hanaud's explanation of how he managed to discern the truth.

This is good look at a turn-of-the-century detective novel. There are surprises in store and a nifty bit of misdirection when it comes to the killer. I guessed half of the solution but not all, which made for a satisfying reveal. The wrap-up is rather long and drawn-out...rating this a  ★★★ and 1/2 rather than a four-star effort.

This fulfills the "Place" square on Golden Vintage Bingo card and gives me my third Golden Bingo.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another Challenge: Duos Or Trios

JoAnne at Littlequeen Rules has written another challenge. It is on All Challenges All The Time, under yearly challenges, on goodreads.

Duos OR Trios
Duration: One year from your starting date.

For full details on the challenge rules see the link above.  In short--there are 30 categories. For each categor y you decide if you want to read 2 or 3 books that are linked by the category. 

Then pick an option. You may be reading as few as 20 books or as many as 90.

Option 1: Choose 10 categories. 
Option 2: Choose 20 categories.
Option 3: Choose 30 categories.

JoAnne has roped me in and I've already picked out most of the books. I'll add others as I go. I'm going to go for

Duos: Option 1 (10 categories)
Duration: July 13, 2014 - July 12, 2014
2014 Commitment: Read at least 10 books (half)

#2 Same Author

From London Far by Michael Innes 
Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes
#3 Same First Word
Murder at the Villa Rose by A. E. W. Mason (7/14/14)
Murder on Mike by H. Paul Jeffers
#10 Books from my Decade (1960s)
The Witch's House by Charlotte Armstrong (1963)
Murder with Blue Ribbon by Leo Bruce (1969--my year!)
#11 Same First Name
Death Takes a Sabbatical by Robert Bernard
Red Cent by Robert Campbell
#12 Genre (Mystery)

Death in an Ivory Tower by Maria Hudgins (7/16/14)
Who Guards a Prince? by Reginald Hill (7/23/14)
#14 Animal on Cover
Cat & Mouse by Christianna Brand
The Curious Affair of the Third Dog by Patricia Moyes
#17 Holiday Word
Death on All Hallowe'en by Leo Bruce
Trick or Treat Murder by Leslie Meier
The Tattooed Man by Howard Pease (7/17/14)
Two Men in Twenty by Maurice Procter
#23 TBR Pile

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (7/20/14)
Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (7/22/14)
#30 Musician/Musical Instrument
Mayhem in B-Flat by Elliott Paul
The Case of the Singing Skirt by Erle Stanley Gardner 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mysterious Time Quotes

Image Credit

This past week I read an article on The Guardian that told of their mission which began in 2011 to find a literary quote for every minute of the day. They are getting very close to filling in their last remaining times and have called on readers to help them with the empty minutes. know how I love a good challenge. And I love a good mystery. I also have a great fondness for quotes. So...I decided to set myself a challenge: to find a mystery book quote for every minute of the day. I just started today and I wonder if it will take me three years (or more) to fill in my time slots? 

Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout offered up a hefty batch of times in its 190 pages.  I'm off to a pretty good start....