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review 2020-06-28 13:57
Paul Temple: East of Algiers
Paul Temple: East of Algiers - Douglas Rutherford,Francis Durbridge,Anthony Head

Paul Temple and Steve are asked to perform a favour for a friend and deliver a pair of glasses that were left behind to their rightful owner in Tunis. Somehow this leads to murder and other crimes that Paul and Steve get to investigate.


To cut it short, this story was not great. It was really slow-moving and much of it just made no sense. 


Part of the charm of the Paul Temple stories is that they are all rather similar and all follow the same formula. So, in East of Algiers we get the usual plot, too. Paul Temple stories always require the suspension of disbelief. 


What I found absolutely ludicrous in this story was the way Durbridge wrote about the investigations in Paris and Tunis. 

While in Paris, they collaborate with the local police in the investigation.

However, when they get to Tunis, they somehow seem to bypass the local police and the investigation seems to be led by their friend Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard.

While Sir Graham does make mention of his being asked to work on the case by Interpol, the lack of local police involvement made it look like it was perfectly fine for foreign authorities to take control of matters that really would be outside of their jurisdiction. 

The sense of Imperialism at work here spoiled some of the book for me.


To be fair, tho, the story was not exactly interesting otherwise either, but Anthony Head's narration saved the book for me. 


Oh, and why call the story East of Algiers, when the story is set in Tunis? Algeria or any other part of Algeria don't feature. I mean, sure, Tunisia is east of Algiers. That is true. But why not make reference in the title to something that actually has some relevance to the story?

These questions are entirely rhetorical, of course. I'm moving on to the next book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-05-25 23:26
Die Pendragon-Legende (The Legend of Pendragon)
Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

Whatever I had expected of this book, they did not come true at all because this book turned out to be the most unpredictable read of 2020 so far. 


In a way, this book was a bit like going for a walk in the hills and suddenly being slapped across the head by a fish falling from the skies. And in a way, that also describes 2020 so far. So, it's been a timely read.


In all seriousness, Antal Szerb was having fun here in this collage of all the genres that I can only describe as a satire of all of the popular fiction that had been written up to the book's date of publication...and somehow preempting Scooby Doo, Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code, and I am sure some "rad" 70s fiction that I am glad I have not discovered, yet.


We get a scholarly MC, who ends up banding with a motley crew on the way to a Welsh castle, which may or may not be haunted, to visit an aristocrat, who may or may not also be an evil practitioner of the occult ... or a version of Dr. Frankenstein ... one can't be too sure.

We also have weird prophets, superstitious priests, potential human sacrifice, a whole lot of atmospheric fog that appears just at the most thrilling moments. We have Englishmen with upper lips so stiff that it takes a whole lot of questionable femininity to make them wobble, and we have an Earl's daughter, who spoils the usual script of a murder mystery  that ends in falling for the crime-solving hero

, and basically runs off with an Austenite character whom we've never heard off until the last page

(spoiler show)


This was a romp. It was fun, but for crying out loud, don't ask me what I've just read.

"I was back in my historic bed (Queen Anne, I believe). With time, this room had come to seem like home. A not entirely restful home. Somewhere above my head the giant axolotls swam. A few yards from my window stood the balcony Maloney had fallen from. And there was the vivid memory of the night rider circling the house with his flaming torch. It was home to me, as a trench would be to a soldier. I pulled my head down under the blanket."

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review 2020-05-16 15:37
Write on Both Sides of the Paper
Write On Both Sides Of The Paper - Mary Kelly

Write on Both Sides of the Paper started off with a burglary at a paper mill. Then we shift focus to a young journalist/writer in Brighton planning a trip, then we shift to the POV of a salesman connected with the mill. 


Then I got completely lost as to what the plot was, because we have characters pondering about politics in South America, guerrilla ops, spend a whole lot of time watching a character recover from some sort of fever, and, in the end, I am not even sure that there was a real solution to whatever plot there was. 


At some point, however, we have a discussion between characters about whether politics can be inherited. At this point also, the book also gave me flashbacks to Agatha Christie's Passenger to Frankfurt. (Passenger was published in 1970. This book was published in 1969. I wonder if there had been something in the water...)

And, this was the point where I lost faith in this book. 


The book never managed to re-connect with me after that.

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review 2020-05-14 15:33
The Persians and Other Plays
The Persians and Other Plays - Alan Sommerstein,Alan H. Sommerstein,Aeschylus

The Persians and Other Plays is a collection of plays and commentary about plays by Aeschylus (525/4 - 456 BCE). 


The book contains the following:


The Persians

Seven Against Thebes

The Suppliants

Prometheus Bound


Each play comes with a thorough introduction of the play itself as well as details of what we (think we) know about the history of the play's performances and how they may have influenced other Classical plays and playwrights, references in which inevitably have been used to date the plays themselves. 

This is followed by more commentary and notes on the plays and on related plays that may have existed.  


For example, it appears from the commentary that it has long been unclear in what order Aeschylus wrote the plays:

The production of 472 is the only one by Aeschylus that is known to have consisted of four plays whose stories were, on the face of it, unrelated - indeed, they were not even placed in proper chronological order. The first play was Phineus, about an episode in the saga of the Argonauts. This was followed by The Persians; then, jumping back to the heroic age, by Glaucus of Potniae, about a man who subjected his horses to an unnatural training regime and was devoured by them after crashing in a chariot race; and then by a satyr play about Prometheus ("Prometheus the Fire-Bearer" or "Fire-Kindler"). Repeated efforts have been made to find method behind the apparent madness of this arrangement, so far with little success.

As entertaining as it is to imagine someone making a simple mistake when noting down the running order of the plays in Ancient times, this must be quite frustrating to Classicists.


It took me way longer to read this collection than I thought but I don't regret a single minute of it. 


While some of the concepts discussed and displayed in the plays were not instantly recognisable to a 20th- and 21th-century reader, the context an explanatory notes provided by Alan H. Sommerstein was so excellent that each of the plays not only made sense but actually made it a joy to discover how Aeschylus' may have raised smiles in some and incensed others of his audiences. 


And some ideas and points of view in his plays - especially the description of the Persian's defeat (in The Persians), the exposition that women may refuse marriage (in The Suppliants), and some of the rather humanist views of Prometheus (in Prometheus Bound) - we quite different from what I had expected. Or rather, different from what I have come to expect from the Ancient Greek world when coming to Ancient Greek drama after reading the Greek myths (in whichever version: Apollodorus, Ovid, or any of the modern retellings). But even coming to Aeschylus with some familiarity of other playwrights such a Sophocles, I found Aeschylus surprisingly empathetic, satirical, and ... oddly modern.

CHORUS: You didn't, I suppose, go even further than that? 

PROMETHEUS: I did: I stopped mortals foreseeing their death.

CHORUS: What remedy did you find for that affliction?

PROMETHEUS: I planted blind hopes within them.

CHORUS: That was a great benefit you gave to mortals.

PROMETHEUS: And what is more, I gave them fire.

It is easy to think of Prometheus only as the rebel who went against Zeus' wishes and brought fire to mankind, but there is more to him. I loved how Aeschylus focuses not on the fire-bringing alone but also on his shared humanity, and on the prophecy that Prometheus knew of that would lead to the decline of Zeus' power, the proverbial Götterdämmerung of the Ancient Greek gods.



It's very easy for someone who is standing safely out of trouble to advise and rebuke the one who is in trouble.

I knew that, all along. I did the wrong thing intentionally, intentionally, I won't deny it: by helping mortals, I brought trouble on myself. But I certainly never thought I would have a punishment anything like this, left to wither on these elevated rocks, my lot cast on this deserted, neighbourless crag. Now stop lamenting my present woes: descend to the ground and hear of my future fortunes, so that you will know it all to the end. Do as I ask, do as I ask. Share the suffering of one who is in trouble now: misery, you know, wanders everywhere, and alights on different persons at different times.


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review 2020-04-10 17:29
The Saltmarsh Murders
The Saltmarsh Murders - Gladys Mitchell

This was not a great pick for me. 


Not only is this one that has not dated well (and even seems anachronistic for the time is was written), but this is one that heavily draws on an admiration of Freud, which is channeled through Mrs Bradley at every opportunity. 


This is also another one where Mrs Bradley seems to call everyone "Dear Child", which was something that grated on me in another book in this series also. 


As for the murders, ... by about the half-way point of this book, I didn't even care about the plot anymore.

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