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text 2018-12-14 09:40
24 Festive Tasks: Human Rights Day, Task #2 and 3
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Kaleidoscope - Dorothy Gilman

Task 2:  This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Find 3 books on your shelves with protagonists or other key characters who are -- or can reasonably be assumed to be -- 70 years or older.

 

The 3 books I found on my shelves that weren't Agatha Christie books (which is what I get for lagging behind on my tasks) that had characters over the age of 70 are purely speculative.  None of their ages could be verified for certain.  All are referred to as "senior".

 

Miss Maude Silver in the Patricia Wentworth series is a retired governess.  

 

Vida Winter is a reclusive famous author who is at the end of her life and dictating her authorised biography in The Thirteenth Tale

 

Madame Karitska is an older clairvoyant in Dorothy Gilman's lesser known, and shorter, mystery series.

 

Task 3:  The symbol of Human Rights Day is the dove, which in its incarnation as a homing pigeon is also renowned for its navigational skills. – Tell us: Did you ever get so thoroughly lost (either in the days before GPS or because GPS, for whatever reason, was of no use to you) that you wished you had a homing pigeon to guide you?

 

I've only been lost on the road one time that I can recall, when I worked at a job that required a lot of travel (pre map app days).  I arrived in Washington D.C. at Reagan National Airport and had to drive to Silver Springs, Maryland, which is roughly on the opposite side of D.C. from the airport.  No matter what I did, what route I took, I ended up in front of the Smithsonian Natural History museum. Every. Time.  Now, that's my favorite museum in D.C., but I was tired, and I just needed to check into the hotel - but it was as if that museum was a giant magnet that kept pulling my car back.  At one point I pulled over, (in front of the museum of course), called my boss nearly in tears of pure frustration, and told him I was never going to make it onto the project because I couldn't get away from the damn museum.  Eventually, I made it through, but it was the most frustrating driving experience I can remember.

 

On another project for the same company, in Montreal, a co-worker and I spent the weekend walking the city, and at one point explored the beautiful Notre-Dame-de-Neiges Cemetery - Canada's largest cemetery and the 3rd largest in North America (over 1 million occupants).  We got lost in it.  Totally, utterly, lost.  For a couple of hours, we could not find our way out; it started out hilarious and became a tiny bit worrying. Apparently, we're not the only ones; the cemetery now offers a computerised mapping service.  

 

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review 2018-04-04 00:31
90 years on, Miss Silver still amuses
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth

Rating: 3* of five In the 90 years since this was written, I think its central premise...that people will do anything to avoid embarrassment...has proved an evergreen turned inside out. Reality TV takes everyone's dirtiest and smelliest laundry public. The characters in this book would have expired in smallish heaps of the honour-vapours at their great-grandchildren's idea of entertainment. Miss Silver is clearly carrying the pertussis bacterium. Her cough is ever-present. I remember from reading these books in the 1980s how irritating I found it. The identity of Grey Mask was pretty obvious to me from the first time they appear in mufti, so to speak. One amusing piece of retrospective theater is enough to make my day, and it takes place in the very first scene. There are over 30 of these little marvies. They are all, au fond, the same book. Either you like that book or you don't. Don't read this one and think, "oh well, maybe the others are better" because they really aren't. I like them. They're quiet and peaceful little murder plots for silly and quite overblown stakes. Miss Silver is more of a sleuth than Marple ever was, in that she sallies forth in her colourless shmattes and her mouse-fur coloured hair and those blah gray eyes that see every-goddamned-thing and doesn't seem to rely as much on chitter-chatter from every ladies' maid in 1920s London. Try one. If it's not to your taste, well it didn't cost much.

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review 2017-09-03 02:15
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case is Closed, Lonesome Road
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

GREY MASK: 3.5*

 

I adore Golden Age mysteries. If it’s got a detective in it and a flapper on the cover, I am predisposed to like it. Consequently, I think I’m more forgiving of them than I otherwise might be. Take Grey Mask, for instance. Some of the characters and situations border on the absurd, some of the plot twists seem out of left field, and some of the villains are just short of mustache-twirling, but that’s all part of the charm for me.

 

Miss Silver herself almost failed to win me over until the very end. She pulls a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel, having very little page time in her own debut novel. Once she’s introduced, she’s just some sort of Sherlockian investigatory oracle, popping in every now and then to drop little bombshells concerning the case and berate her client for his stubborn reticence whilst managing to make the knitting of baby clothes seem monstrously intimidating. If it hadn’t been for her performance in the final chapters, I can’t say I’d be so enthusiastic to continue the series. Now I’m very much looking forward to getting to know her better.

 

THE CASE IS CLOSED: 2.5*

 

I’m having trouble rating The Case is Closed. It’s entertaining, it’s charming . . . and it’s really, really similar to the previous book in the series.

Much like Grey Mask, this book has:

 

  • Hardly any Miss Silver
  • Fog!
  • Quarreling lovers
  • Shady servants
  • A pale, too-thin, tragic damsel in distress who scratches out a living as a fashion model
  • Shenanigans with wills
  • A worthless nephew who collects art and directly benefits from the will shenanigans

 

I’m not bothered by formulaic patterns in cozy mysteries. That’s part of what makes them cozy. The only thing I found truly annoying was the repetition. As the book starts, it’s nearly a year and a half since the titular murder case was tried. A man was found guilty, and the details of that trial and the evidence given are repeated ad nauseam. And as the characters investigate, looking to clear the convicted man, the details of their discoveries are also repeated ad nauseam. SO. MUCH. REPETITION. Miss Silver, when she does appear, is a mere expositional tool for revealing information the other characters weren’t in a position to discover on their own.

 

But I found Hilary and Henry far more likable than Margaret and Charles. And the author did a better job creating suspenseful scenes this time around. But if you cut out all that repetition, this book would be a good fifteen chapters shorter and the story wouldn’t suffer for it.

 

LONESOME ROAD: 3.5*

 

The third Miss Silver mystery features a blessed deviation from the pattern of the previous books. We still have inheritance issues (but no will shenanigans), good-for-nothing relatives (LOTS of those), and (of course) fog. But this time Miss Silver appears in the very first chapter and makes regular appearances throughout. And she does more than swoop in, drop an info dump, and swoop out again. The effect was rather pleasing. After three books, she’s still no Miss Marple, but I’m finally getting a read on her character and I like what I see. The only downside I can see to having more of Miss Silver in her own mysteries is that the more page time she gets, the more Tennyson she quotes.

 

There’s been a loose connection between each book thus far. The pattern has been that a character from the previous book recommends Miss Silver’s services in the current book. It’s a nice nod to past adventures, but nothing that would be too confusing should you wish to read these books out of order. I’d like to continue this series, but it will probably be through the local library. My wishlist and wallet both quail at the number of books involved.

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text 2017-08-31 08:04
August Reading Colophon
The Informed Gardener - Linda Chalker-Scott
Lowcountry Bonfire - Susan M. Boyer
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) - Betty White
Death in the Vines: A Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal Mystery - M.L. Longworth
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth
Murder on the Ile Sordou - M.L. Longworth
Basket Case - Nancy Haddock

17 books this month with only one 4.5 star read sitting at the top, which is a typical month for me; much more typical than the spectacularly good reading months I had in the first half of 2017.

 

Six 4 star reads rounded things about and the worse book I read was... really, there weren't any.  Nothing below 3 stars, so really a very average reading month overall.

 

And now, on to BINGO!

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-22 02:55
Reading progress update: Grey Mask finished
The Miss Silver Mysteries: Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

I’ll be posting a review later. I just wanted to do my back-patting and forehead-slapping in a separate post. Spoilers abound!

 

 

The back-patting: I correctly guessed both Margot’s parentage and Grey Mask’s identity. The former I guessed when the near-identical desks with near-identical monograms showed up. The latter I guessed when Margaret told Charles her broken engagement tale of woe. Only one person in her immediate circle was both a member of Grey Mask’s group and ideally placed to come up with such a plausible false confession. First I suspected Freddy of stealing the jewelry himself, and then I realized that Margaret had never seen Freddy and Grey Mask together. Throw in a dash of “It’s always the person you least suspect” and you get a nicely seasoned pot of Overly Complicated Mastermind Stew.

 

The forehead-slapping: Things I totally did NOT see coming include but are not limited to: #40’s loyalties, the crooked lawyer (I really should've seen that one coming), 2/3 of the dead characters coming back to life, and the super-rushed ending. Since I’m reading a 3-book omnibus, I had pretty much no warning when I turned the page and was confronted by the cover art for the next book. It felt SUPER abrupt.

(spoiler show)

 

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