Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Anatomy of Ghosts: Review

There are all sorts of reasons why The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor should have been a winner: it's a historical mystery; it's a historical mystery with academic ties; it started out so very promising and held that for about the first 100 pages.  But then it just kind of lost me.  And it isn't the first time that Taylor has done that to me--although I didn't realize it until after I had gotten all interested in the book (when I first heard about it last year) and put it down for a few challenges.  Several years ago I picked up his book Caroline Miniscule which also had academic ties.  I remember that it started out fine...only to lose steam about mid-way through.  His Bleeding Heart Square is better than either of the other two.

But, back to the review....The story revolves around Frank Oldershaw, the only son of Lady Anne Oldershaw and a student at Jerusalem College, Cambridge.  Frank has gotten himself mixed up with the Holy Ghost Club (read a hellfire club) and after some unpleasant experiences there, he begins seeing the ghost of the deceased wife of one of the College's members.  He becomes quite violent and is tucked away in a madhouse as a result.  Lady Anne Oldeshaw calls upon John Holdsworth to get to the bottom of what exactly has happened to her son and charges him with bringing the young man back to sanity.  Holdsworth is no doctor and has no experience with mental disease--but that's not why she wants his help.

As the result of personal tragedy (the deaths of both his son and his wife), Holdsworth has written a book called The Anatomy of Ghosts--discrediting the idea of ghosts and the charlatans who claim to put the grieving in touch with them.  Lady Oldershaw wants Holdsworth to prove to her son that ghosts don't exist and believes that this will be enough to return his reason to him.  Holdworth finds that he must find out what really happened to Sylvia (the dead woman whose "ghost" was seen) before he can help Frank.  But that is no easy task....and the answers may not be ones that either the College or Lady Oldershaw want to hear.

As I mentioned, this book started out promising enough.  The stage was well-set and Taylor took me back to the 18th Century with very little effort.  The historical details were terrific without being overwhelming.  But after introducing the characters with very interesting scenes, he did not sustain the same sort of story-telling throughout.  I hit the mid-way point and found that I didn't much care about these people or what really happened. I soldiered on just to find out who did it and why it affected Frank so much....but, honestly, if I hadn't needed the book for some challenges, I might not have finished.  Two stars--for the promising beginning and the fine quotes I gathered.



Quotes:

Books are not luxuries. They are meat and drink for the mind. [Ned Farmer; p. 22]

The footman had conducted Holdsworth across the hall, through an anteroom and into a long and shabby apartment at the back of the house. The books were everywhere--in cases ranged along the walls, stacked on tables, and the floor, overflowing from the doorway of a closet at the end of the room. [p. 29]

He had seen the libraries of too many men, both living and dead, to be surprised by what they contained. A man's library was like his mind: some of its contents might not be suitable for young gentlemen at the University, or indeed for his grieving widow or his fatherless children. [p. 33]

Money was a powerful thing, Holdsworth thought, the true philosopher's stone, with the power of transmuting dreams. [p. 45]

"Money makes it very serious. Her ladyship has given you all this before you have lifted a finger for her. She will expect a return. The rich always do."
Holdsworth smiled at him. "That is why they are rich." [Ned Farmer; John Holdsworth; p. 46]

Ghosts, whether real or alleged, usually have an identity, and that is, in itself, of significance. [Elinor Carbury; p. 51]

EC: ...Jerusalem [College] is a world within a world. So is any college in this University, or perhaps at any university.  A college is a world with its own laws and customs.
JH: It might be a world of savages for aught I know.
[Elinor Carbury; John Holdsworth; p. 59]

Horace's recipe advises only a dash of folly in one's wisdom, and Mr. Archdale appears to have mistaken the proportions in his moral cookery. [Mr. Richardson; p. 62]

Mount TBR: My Third Quarter Checkpoint


 At the 3/4 mark of the Mount TBR Reading Challenge (click link for rules and sign-up page), I have completed 81 out of the 100 books needed to reach the peak of Mt. Everest.  That means that I've covered 7,166.88 meters (of 8,848) or 23,513.49 feet (of 29,029)--quite a trek!  It's going to be a push to complete the last 19 books--particularly since one of those will be Stephen King's doorstop, 11/22/63.

Here are the books completed so far (with links to reviews):
 1. From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. McCoy by Terry Lee Rioux (3/14/12)
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (7/12/12)
3. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (6/30/12)
4. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (8/13/12)
5. The Four Million & Other Stories by O. Henry (7/21/12)
6. My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny (1/4/12)
7. Prayers to Broken Stones by Dan Simmons (1/14/12)
8. So Many Steps to Death by Agatha Christie (5/25/12)
9. Gideon's Month by J. J. Marric (8/8/12)
10. Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett (1/28/12)
11. Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly (2/18/12)
12. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (9/16/12)
13. The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch (9/1/12)
14. Crime on Her Mind: 15 Stories of Female Sleuths from the Victorian Era to the Forties by Michelle B. Slung, ed. (8/18/12)
15. The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology of the Mystery Writers of America by Bill Pronzini, ed. (9/5/12)
16. The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin (9/7/12)
17. A Finer End by Deborah Crombie (4/14/12)
18. The Morning After Death by Nicholas Blake (5/14/12)
19. The Masks of Time by Robert Silverberg (1/16/12)
20. The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom (2/29/12) 
21. Bland Beginnings by Julian Symons (4/12/12)
22. Death's Pale Horse by James Sherburne (8/27/12) 
23. Future on Ice by Orson Scott Card, ed. (2/15/12)
24. The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (4/9/12)
25. The Devil to Pay by Ellery Queen (5/6/12)
26. Death of a God by S. T. Haymon (5/1/12)
27. Such Friends Are Dangerous by Walter Tyrer (5/19/12)
28. A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar (9/10/12)
29. Silver & Guilt by Cynthia Smith (4/9/12)
30. The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (8/25/12)
31. Murder With a Past by Ellery Queen (4/27/12) 
32. Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardai, eds. (1/23/12)
33. O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor (6/20/12)
34. Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock by Rajendra Pillai (8/6/12)
35. The Last Escape by E. C. R. Lorac (5/14/12)36. The Nine Wrong Answers by John Dickson Carr (7/7/12)
37. DeKok & Murder on the Menu by A. C, Baantjer (7/13/12)
38. The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr (1/7/12)
39. The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (1/29/12)
40. The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells (2/3/12)
41. The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/7/12)
42. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (2/14/12)
43. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/27/12)
44. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (2/29/12)
45. The Greenwell Mystery by E. C. R. Lorac (3/3/12)
46. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (3/6/12)
47. Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes (3/9/12)
48/49/50. Five Passengers from Lisbon/Wake for a Lady/The Murder in the Stork Club by Mignon G. Eberhart/H. W. Roden/Vera Casapary (3.11.12 /3.12.12/3.10.12)
51. The Strange Murders at Greystones by Elsie N. Wright (3/16/12)
52. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux (3/19/12)
53. The Rose Window & Other Verse from New Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (3/22/12)
54. Full Moon by P. G. Wodehouse (3/23/12)
55. The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Huges (3/24/12)
56. The Case of the Grinning Gorilla by Erle Stanley Gardner (3/30/12)
57. A Sprig of Sea Lavender by J. R. L. Anderson (3/31/12)
58. The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer (4/2/12)
59. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (4/4/12)
60. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors by Edward B Hanna (4/8/12)
61. Chancellorsville & Gettysburg by General Abner Doubleday (4/15/12)
62. The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (5/15/12)
63. A First Class Murder by Elliott Roosevelt (5/16/12)
64. A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong (5/17/12)
65. Garden of Malice by Susan Kenney (5/21/12)
66. New Graves at Great Norne by Henry Wade (5/31/12)
67. Something to Kill For by Susan Holtzer (6/1/12)
68. The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer (6/12/12)
69. The House of a Thousand Candles by Meredith Nicholson (6/17/12)
70. And Four to Go by Rex Stout (7/1/12)
71. The 39 Steps by John Buchan (7/3/12)
72. File No. 113 by Emile Gaboriau (7/11/12)
73. Compartment K by Helen Reilly (7/15/12)
74. The Fifth Man by Manning Coles (7/22/12)
75. Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (7/31/12)
76. The Key by Patricia Wentworth (8/5/12)
77. Mrs. Jeffries Stands Corrected by Emily Brightwell (8/19/12)
78. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (1/19/12)
79. History of the Millennium (So Far) by Dave Barry (9/30/12)  
80. The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr (9/22/12)
81. Murder at the Library of Congress by Margaret Truman (9/24/12)

My poetry attempt:
A First Class Murder in the 
Garden of Malice outside
The House of a Thousand Candles...
And Four to Go 
before The Fifth Man
finds The Maltese Falcon
and solves The Mystery of the Yellow Room

Challenge Complete: 2012 TBR Pile


Adam from Roof Beam Reader is sponsoring a second round of TBR-tackling with his TBR Pile Challenge for 2012.  I finished up the challenge on 9/24/12...having read all twelve declared books as well as my two alternates.  Here are the TBR books now moved off the teetering stacks of books:


1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (2/29/12)
2. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare [this edition, pub 1963] (6/30/12)
3. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen [this edition, pub 2003] (8/13/12)
4. The Future on Ice by Orson Scott Card (ed) [pub 1998] (2/15/12)
5.
O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor [pub 2003] (6/20/12)
6. The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr [pub 1934] (9/22/12)
7. Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly [pub 1943] (read 2/18/12)
8. The Four Million & Other Stories by O. Henry [pub 1963] (read 7/21/12)
9. My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny [pub 1976] (read 1/4/12)
10. Prayers to Broken Stones by Dan Simmons [pub 1990] (read 1/14/12)
11. Crime on Her Mind: 15 Stories of Female Sleuths from the Victorian Era to the Forties by Michelle B. Slung, ed. [pub 1975] (8/18/12)
12. The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology of the Mystery Writers of America by Bill Pronzini, ed. [pub 1980] (9/5/12)

Alternates:

 Murder at the Library of Congress by Margaret Truman [pub 1999] (9/24/12)
 The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom [pub. 1979] (read 2/29/12)

History of the Millennium (So Far): Review

I picked up Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far) at the local Friends of the Library Bookstore in a moment of nostalgia.  I remember looking forward to his year-end wrap-up column in the Sunday paper each year.  His take on the year that was always had me laughing out loud.  So how was it all tidily compacted into a book?  So-so.

There were still moments of laugh-out-loud humor.  I particularly enjoyed his take on history pre-2000.  As the Goodreads synopsis says: "Crusaders! Vikings! Peter Minuit's purchase of Manhattan for $24, plus $167,000 a month in maintenance fees! The invention of pizza by Leonardo da Vinci and of the computer by Charles Babbage (who died in 1871 still waiting to talk to somebody from Technical Support)!" It was all good.  Reading the more recent years one right after the other (rather than waiting a whole year--as one had to when Barry was writing his column), I realized how formulaic his humor was...from beginning each year with a similar phrase ("Let us take one last look back at 'Year X,' which began, as so many year seem to, with....January") to rearranging people's names to say silly things to finding one incident each year to repeat over and over (example: one year it was Tiger Woods winning everything from golf championships [real] to Academy awards).   It was kind of like watching a whole season of some of the TV shows I loved as a kid.  I enjoyed them much better when a whole week had gone by rather than just five minutes. I think that sort of thing goes over much better in small doses. 

Over all, a fun, three-star read--but not an out-of-the-park funny book like some of his others (Dave Barry's Guide to Guys, for instance).


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reminder: Mount TBR Checkpoint

Just a reminder that the Mountaineering Checkpoint #3 will be closing up shop tomorrow at midnight. If you're a member of the Mount TBR climbing crew and would like to participate, then hop on the link and check out the rules for the checkpoint.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Red Cross Book Sale: Book Bonanza!



I have been waiting impatiently for this year's Red Cross Book Sale--waiting since October 1, 2011. This year they are claiming to have over 100,000 titles available.  And, no, I didn't even bring home 1% of the stock on hand....But I did outdo the standing record (last year--54 books).  By one.  Yes, folks, I am 55 books (and 9 CDs) richer. The only (small) disappointment was that there were absolutely no WWII pocket-size editions to be had.  I always come home with at least one....  But here is this year's haul:

Hardback:
Murder at the ABA by Isaac Asimov (w/dust jacket)
The Private Face of Murder by John & Emery Bonett (w/dust jacket)
In Spite of Thunder by John Dickson Carr (w/dust jacket) 
The Father Brown Omnibus by G. K. Chesterton
The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner 
The Case of the Gilded Lily by Erle Stanley Gardner (w/dust jacket)
The D.A. Breaks a Seal/Murder Within Murder/The Pavilion by Gardner/F&R Lockridge/Hilda Lawrence (3-in-1 Detective Book Club Edition) 
Something in the Air by John Alexander Graham (w/dust jacket)
Murder Is My Business/Crime Wind/Whatever Goes Up by Brett Halliday/Marion Holbrook/Bertram Millhauser (3-in-1 Detective Book Club Edition)
Gently with the Painters by Alan Hunter
The 10:30 from Marseille by Sebastien Japrisot (w/dust jacket)
Whisper Murder!/Death Lifts the Latch/Somewhere in the House by Vera Kelsey/Anthony Gilbert/Elizabeth Daly (3-in-1 Detective Book Club edition)
And Left for Dead by Frances & Richard Lockridge (first edition w/dust jacket)
Night of Shadows by Frances & Richard Lockridge (first edition w/dust jacket)
The Norths Meet Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge (w/dust jacket)
A Risky Way to Kill by Richard Lockridge (nicer first edition w/dust jacket)
The One That Got Away/The Double Take/The Fifth Man by Helen McCloy/Roy Huggins/Manning Coles (3-in-1 Detective Book Club edition)
Death & the Dutch Uncle by Patricia Moyes (first edition w/dust jacket) 
Murder a la Mode by Patricia Moyes (first edition w/dust jacket)
Murder Fantastical by Patricia Moyes (w/dust jacket)
A Body to Spare by Maurice Procter (w/dust jacket)
Face to Face by Ellery Queen (first edition w/dust jacket)
The House of Brass by Ellery Queen (first edition w/dust jacket)
The Green-Eyed Monster by Patrick Quentin (first edition w/dust jacket)
Too Many Doctors by Holly Roth (first edition w/dust jacket)

Paperback:
Plots & Counterplots by Louisa May Alcott
Toby's Folly by Margot Arnold 
Head of a Traveller by Nicholas Blake
Best Max Carrados Detective Stories by Ernest Bramah (Dover edition)
Cat & Mouse by Christianna Brand
London Particular by Christianna Brand (aka Fog of Doubt)
Case With No Conclusion by Leo Bruce
Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce 
Such Is Death by Leo Bruce
Our Jubilee Is Death by Leo Bruce
A Grave Coffin by Gwendoline Butler
A Gentleman Called by Dorothy Salisbury Davis 
Death in Five Boxes by Carter Dickson
The Patient in Room 18 by Mignon G. Eberhart 
Gownsman's Gallows by Katharine Farrer
Best "Thinking Machine" Detective Stories by Jacques Futrelle (Dover edition)
The Best Cellar by Charles Goodrum 
Crimson Roses by Grace Livingston Hill 
Was It Murder? by James Hilton (Dover edition)
From London Far by Michael Innes
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Rasp by Philip MacDonald (Dover edition)
The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim (Dover edition)
Clues of the Caribbees by T. S. Stribling (Dover edition)
The Mountains Have a Secret by Arthur W. Upfield
Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur W. Upfield
The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth

If anybody bothers to count, you'll see that the numbers don't quite add up.  Well...that would be because I somehow managed to wind up with duplicates.  Despite having lists in hand and sorting through the books twice before checking out.  Ah, well, I'll just add the duplicates to the challenge prize vault.....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Carry Ons

btt button
 
This week's BTT question:  Do you bring the book(s) you’re reading with you when you go out? How? Physically, or in an e-reader of some kind? Have your habits in this regard changed? (I know I carried books with me more when I was in school than I do now–I can’t read while I’m driving to work, after all.)

Absolutely.  Books go with me wherever I go.  You never know when you might be stuck in traffic, an elevator, or whatever and you need something to pass the time.  The one absolute rule I have for my purse is that a book must fit in it.  That's it.  I don't care about name brands.  I care a little bit about style (nothing too gaudy...).  But if it's too small for a book, then it's too small for me.  Taking books everywhere has been my habit since I've been old enough to read--so no changes here.

And that would be a real, live, honest-to-goodness, it's got real pages book.  No e-readers.  

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter S



I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter.  

This week, for the Letter S, I thought I'd do something a little different.  So here, from the annals of really bad crime fiction--books to avoid at all costs--I bring you Strange Murders at Greystokes by Elsie N. Wright.  I could discover very little about Elsie on the interwebs, except that this is her only mystery (and a very good thing that is too).  I picked this little gem *cough, cough* up last year at our local Red Cross Book sale.  It was sitting there all lonely on the clearance table and I just had bring home this 25 cent mystery.  But let me give you my full review from earlier this year:


"Oh, dear, dear, dearie me!" [Kate Griggs, housekeeper]

That just about sums it up. This is a train wreck kind of book. A deer in the headlights kind of book. A "it's just so awful, but I can't stop reading it because I've got to see if it gets any worse" kind of book. And it does. Elsie N. Wright was so busy stuffing Strange Murders at Greystones with every cliché and stock cardboard character that she could whip up that she didn't have room to logically complete scenes and provide ample explanations for inexplicable events.

You have the unpleasant lord of the manor who has been cruel to everyone and who winds up conveniently dead. Nobody really cares--especially not you, the reader. You have the worried, harried housekeeper. You have the weird butler who has just been dismissed from service shortly before the murder. [Maybe the butler did it!] You have the disgruntled gardener who looks furtively or malevolently or mirthlessly (or some other -ly sort of way) at everyone. You have the excitable French maid. You have the "coloured" cook who is suddenly hired to fill in for the excitable housekeeper who has to take to her bed because of the stress. A cook who says "Lawd's sakes" and swears that the "Debbil" is after them all. You have the daughter who has been sent away to school all her life up till now and who didn't really know her father--and she's so innocent and brave and naive and willing to stick up for her fiance (who the cops immediately nab for the murder). You have the (obviously innocent) fiance who had a huge ol' fight with the victim shortly before he (the victim) is found dead. You have the Inspector who is initially advertised as the force's best and brightest, but who shows himself to be a big dumb cop who'd rather beat a confession out of the first obvious suspect than get down to business and actually try to solve the crime.

Oh, and don't forget the mad scientist and the unknown relative and the secret passage(s). And as an extra special surprise--the pretty gory (for the time period) grand finale. Whew. Then, of course, there are the mysteries of why Inspector Kelley would hand over his convenient extra gun to the man he's considered his A number one suspect. And why he only keeps one bullet in it. And the huge gaps in between the second murder and Kelley being interested in it. Not that the corpse is important being one of his fellow officers and all. And Polly (the daughter) being too scared to go to bed that first night and deciding to wait up for her aunt--and immediately falling asleep as soon as she sits down. [Personally, with a murder and someone laughing maniacally in my house, I'd be too darn keyed up to sleep--for weeks, probably.] And Kelley swearing to bring a squad of police officers and the doctor after another murderous attempt....and dawdling for what seems days (but in reality hours). And the number of mysterious people who appear and disappear. It's more than a body should have to stand (cue harried housekeeper).

I couldn't resist this book when I found it on the almost free clearance table at the Red Cross Book Sale last fall. In this case, "clearance" must have been code for "nobody in their right mind would pay a decent price for this" OR "if you only knew...we'd have to pay YOU to take it home with you." I even got an inkling of what was in store for me when I looked good ol' Elsie N. Wright up on the interwebs once I had the thing in my possession. William F Deeck reviewed this book in August 2010 over at Mystery*File. He told me how bad it was. John at Pretty Sinister Books put in a word to the wise when I bragged about my Red Cross haul. Silly me, I thought perhaps it might be so bad, that it would be good. At the very least humorous because it was so bad. Yeah--no.

But you know what I absolutely love about this book? At the end of the book--supposing you hang in there and read all the way to the end--there is this blurb:

Did you enjoy reading "Strange Murders at Greystones?" It is only the first of twelve First Editions that we have scheduled for 1931 Publication! Each book will be an "eye-opener" to fiction readers--so--we suggest you get your copy of each new book as it is placed on sale....You can now go to your neighborhood store and buy your copy of a BRAND NEW BOOK, WRITTEN BY A VERY WELL KNOWN AUTHOR FOR 25 cents. ['cuz everybody has heard of Elsie N Wright, right? And, coincidentally--that happens to be how much I paid for this off of the clearance table.]

In the following pages you will find a few paragraphs, picked at random, form this very excellent story, which held every member of our Editorial Department interested from beginning to end.

Get Your Copy of "Dancing Desire" on March First. [Darn. I wish I'd known. I would have scoured the Red Cross Sale to see if I could have found that one too!] Sarcastic? Who me?

Unrated. I can't even think of an appropriate rating for this.....They say that everyone has at least one book in them. What they don't say is that not all of them should be published.

Really Bad Lines (descriptions/metaphors/what-have-yous):

Nervously her bony hands twisted her stiffly-starched apron, while the brown frightened eyes in her wrinkled face blinked with anxiety as she darted, quick, bird-like glances all about her. [About Kate Griggs--on the very first page--and nothing has really happened yet.]

The housekeeper screamed, a loud piercing scream that rose above the wailing of the dogs, above the harsh voice of the gardener--a scream to wake the dead--but Thatcher Graham did not stir. (p. 12)

They stood there, the four of them, in a tableau of horror, no one daring to go forward to the man who had been their master, and help him, if help were possible. (p. 13)

"The Commissioner thought that seeing that Mr. Graham is so important, and this would have such a great effect on stocks going down and all, that it would be best to put someone on this case who'd clear it up right away." (Inspector Kelley about self--the epitome of the humble detective, p. 16)

He became a member of the plainclothes staff. Here the sledding was harder, but by dint of sheer ability and persistence, he forged his way ahead, and was now Inspector Kelley. [p. 17; "sledding"--really?]

"Well, Doc, he's dead, ain't he?" [Kelley, p. 17]

It came from Pete the gardener, who sat far back in the shadows, his piercing eyes glaring malevolently from out of his dark face. [p. 26]

"Oh, all right, all right, girlie, go ahead. But remember, one false move, and we shoot from the hip." [Kelley, p. 34]

Suddenly a laugh, a bloodcurdling laugh, a laugh that ended in a shriek, echoed through the house. [p. 50]

There was a whirring sound and the clock on the mantel struck twelve. "Twelve!" shuddered Polly. "Anything can happen at twelve! Everything happens at twelve!--" [p. 54]

Polly screamed, but no sound came from her throat. [p. 55]

From the corner of the room two piercing green eyes were regarding her, fixedly, unblinkingly. Polly could not move--her limbs were paralyzed. She could not cry out--her throat belonged to someone else. She could only sit there, horror-stricken, while those eyes drew closer, closer, through the pitchy blackness of the room. [p. 55]

"Lord knows, you need the newspapers to convict a man." [Kelley, p. 66; Never mind evidence.]

There was more to this Russian than he could fathom. In Kelley's mind the man was either awfully smart or awfully stupid. Either he knew an awful lot about this case or he knew nothing. [p. 87; odds are...Kelley's right]

"You see, a good alibi is bad, but no alibi at all is worse." [Kelly, p. 107]

And a whole lot more. If I'd wanted to, I probably could have given you bits from every page.

Favorite Quotes (for reals):

It's his business to sound convincing, Polly, dear, and the less he has to say, the more convincingly he'll say it. (Aunt Margaret, p. 61)

I never argue with a woman, especially when she's made up her mind." [Kelley, p. 156; smartest thing he said in the whole book :-)]

****Update! Did a little search on the interwebs for Dancing Desire. It's a "ballet romance." Only description I could find: Dancer makes good, gets three boyfriends. How could I resist that? Will have to keep my eyes peeled. Of course, if I really wanted it, I could order it up online--for anything from $4 to $65. I think I'll hold out for 25 cents. ;-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays


MizB of Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

*Grab your current read.*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from History of the Millennium (So Far) by Dave Barry (p. 23):

In 1860, Lincoln ran for president (slogan: "He's Taller Than You") and was elected, only to see the nation rent asunder in 1861 by the Civil War, starring Clark Gable as Rhett Butler.

[I love Dave Barry.  His column used to appear in our local paper and I always looked forward to his humorous year-end wrap up.  Now I'm reading his take on history.]

Monday, September 24, 2012

Murder at the Library of Congress: Review

Murder at the Library of Congress is the sixteenth novel in Margaret Truman's Capital Crimes series--but the first one I've read.  I grabbed it up at the Friends of the Library Bookstore primarily because it was set at the Library of Congress.  Mysteries set in libraries represent another sub-genre that I like to read.   This one has Annabel Reed-Smith, former lawyer and current art gallery owner, doing research at the Library of Congress for an article about Christopher Columbus.  Specifically, she is trying to determine if rumors of a diary written by Bartolome de Las Casas, one of Columbus's companions, are based in fact or if it is all just a pipe dream.  

Also at the library is Michele Paul--the world's leading scholar on all things Las Casas.  He has been doing research on the supposedly lost diary for years.  Annabel wants to consult him, but the man is insufferably rude and unhelpful.  He also has a knack for making nearly everyone he meets hate him.  So, it's not much of a surprise when he winds up dead--whacked with the proverbial blunt instrument.  Is his death related to the diary?  And what does a missing painting by a second-rate artist have to do with it--if anything?   Annabel and an ambitious television newswoman dig up clues and answers...and it all comes down to some very interesting files on computer disks discovered in one of the Library's forgotten collections.

This is a fairly decent mystery.  I liked Annabel and her husband, as well as most of the other main characters.  I saw the solution coming a long way ahead....although not the complete details.  But I can't say that this book is so outstanding that I'll be tracking down the others in the series.  If they come along, then I'll read them, but I'm in no hurry.  Three stars for a decent outing.


Quotes:
Every library is more exciting than it looks. Ask any real reader. [Robert Baumann; p. 42]

Pursuing scholarly research was not destined to make one rich; the psychic benefits were expected to compensate. [p. 49]

I'd say we should clamp a tight lid on this, but that's like asking a politician to keep a secret. [Dr. Cale Broadhurst, the Librarian of Congress; p. 61]

Life in a library is supposed to be quiet, reflective, helpful--not bloody or kinky. [Mackenzie Smith; p. 269]

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.
 

Books Read (click on titles for review):
The White Forest by Adam McOmber  
The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr

Currently Reading:
Murder at the Library of Congress by Margaret Truman:  Commissioned by the Library of Congress' magazine, "Civilization," to write an article on a recently discovered, supposed diary of Christopher Columbus, Annabel Smith finds herself matching wits with a ruthless wealthy bibliophile, an ambitious TV journalist, and a killer to complete her assignment - (Baker & Taylor)
 
 
Books that spark my interest:
11/22/63 by Stephen King
The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime by Michael Sims (ed) 
Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart
Star Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant by Jason T Eberl & Kevin S Decker (eds)
History of the Millennium (so Far) by Dave Barry
Murder at the MLA by D J H Jones 
 
 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter R


I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter.
We're heading into the final letters of the alphabet--and this week the spotlight is on the Letter R.  R is for Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Rinehart was an American author and journalist who penned 40 novels.  She is widely known as featuring "Had I But Known" (HIBK) style of stories featuring women (usually--although The Red Lamp has a male professor in a similar situation) who get themselves into mysterious situations which often might have been avoided, if they'd only known. However, many of her stories are more firmly anchored in an attempt to realistically portray what was then modern life, with many different classes, corruption high and low, and a great diversity of characters. Her best novels combined murder, love, ingenuity, and humor in a style that was distinctly her own.   
Ryan over at Wordsmithonia brought The After House by Rinehart to my attention. Despite my love for vintage mysteries and knowing that Rinehart was an important figure in early 20th Century American crime fiction, I had only read one other book by Rinehart (The Window at the White Cat) back before my blogging days--and that one made no great impression on me. But I could not resist this one after reading Ryan's excellent review (his blog link above will take you there).  Since then I have been grabbing up her books whenever I find them and I have read three more of her novels (click titles for reviews):

The Bat (based on the play--which in turn was based on The Circular Staircase)

The Case of the Blind Barber: Review

 I love John Dickson Carr. I love his sometimes complicated, totally mystifying, seemingly impossible crimes.  I love Dr. Gideon Fell and his laughing and chortling when the other protagonists can't figure out the clues.  I love the humor and wit.  But, I'm afraid, I did not love The Case of the Blind Barber.  It is supposedly one of Carr's finest detective comedies, but it just seemed to me that there it was overly slapstick and mad-dash. It's okay--but definitely not my favorite Carr.

What we have is Henry Morgan, spy novelist and featured character in an earlier novel The Eight of Swords, traveling from New York to Southampton aboard the Queen Victoria.  Along the way he gets involved with Curtis Warren, nephew of a Very Important Person; Warren's girl, Peggy Glenn; and Capt. Thomassen Valvick (Ret.)--of the very heavy accent of apparent Swedish origin.  Warren has managed to get himself robbed of more than half of a can of film that will prove very embarrassing to Uncle V.I.P. if it falls into the wrong hands.  This happy band sets out to try and recover the film and along the way wind up bashing Captain Whistler (commander of the ship) over the head a few times, finding and losing an injured (and, quite possibly murdered) woman, stealing and losing and finding again an incredibly valuable emerald elephant....oh, and crossing paths with the Blind Barber, a rather nasty, murdering, thievin' sort of bloke who's in disguise.  They spend their time sneaking in and out of compartments, dashing about the decks, and trying to unobtrusively hunt for the missing film, missing emerald, and missing girl.  They, of course, have no luck and Morgan comes buzzing to see Gideon Fell before the Queen Victoria gets properly docked--in the hopes that Fell can see some sort of solution to the jolly mess.  And, of course, he can.

There are some good scenes--especially at the beginning.  I do like the foursome running around madly after Warren has bashed Captain Whistler a good one in the attempt to convince him that they were running to the rescue.  And Captain Whistler is rather nice--when ranting he reminds me of Carr's other protagonist, Henry Merrivale, right down to the "Burn me's."  But, in the end, the action just seems too over-the-top and silly to me.  In fact, it kind of reminds me of a Scooby Doo episode with all the dashing about....and it even ends with the culprit blaming it all on "those meddling kids."  And, there's not nearly enough of Fell.  We have him at the beginning when Morgan begins his story, in the middle for an intermission, and then the wrap up.  I much prefer the stories where Fell is more involved throughout.

Fairly decent mystery.  Too much farce.  Two stars.

Quote:
His views were based on the forthright principle that, the more respectable they looked, the more likely they were to turn out dastardly murderers. (p. 87)