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review 2018-06-08 23:24
Upstaged
[Death of a Hollow Man: A Chief Inspector Barnaby Mystery] (By: Caroline Graham) [published: March, 2006] - Caroline Graham

Once more I'm delving into Caroline Graham's world of detective fiction but this time it's with the second book in her Chief Inspector Barnaby series. Death of a Hollow Man takes place primarily in the Causton theater. It begins with the death of a prominent member of the local acting community committed during a performance of their newest production. Very dramatic, eh? [A/N: I have to restate my dislike of Sgt Troy who is misogynistic, homophobic, and generally vile. I understand he's used as a literary device to highlight how different he is from the main protagonist of the novel but I really wish he wasn't in the books at all. Something I do like is the relationship between Tom and his wife Joyce which is portrayed quite a bit differently from the TV series which I am more familiar with (and like better). The reader learns more background knowledge about how they met each other and fell in love (turns out Joyce is an excellent singer while Tom possesses admirable artistic skills). In fact, a lot of relationships are explored in this sequel and the majority of them are quite ugly beneath the surface. There's quite a lot of flippant talk regarding mental illness which I didn't particularly care for especially relating to Alzheimer's. I think the only really good thing I can say about this novel is that the mystery itself is fast paced and interesting so it kept me turning the pages. Graham knows how to write a gripping mystery but I don't think she's especially adept at character portrayals (or sensitivity). All in all, I think this will be my last foray into this literary series but I will continue to watch Midsomer Murders (especially after we visited the place where it's filmed). 5/10

 

What's Up Next: Ghostbusters by Larry Milne

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2018-05-31 19:15
Detection Club Bingo: My Progress So Far
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards
The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts
The Red House Mystery - A.A. Milne
The Lake District Murder - John Bude
The Moving Toyshop - Edmund Crispin
Quick Curtain - Alan Melville
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr
Poison In The Pen - Patricia Wentworth

 

First four bingos (bottom row, second column from right, diagonal top left to bottom right, and 4 corners + central square) -- plus three more in the making (top row, center column, and diagonal top right to bottom left).  Not that it greatly matters, but still. :D  Progress!

 

The Squares / Chapters:

1. A New Era Dawns: Ernest Bramah - The Tales of Max Carrados;

Emmuska Orczy - The Old Man in the Corner

2. The Birth of the Golden Age: A.A. Milne - The Red House Mystery
3. The Great Detectives:
Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke;

Anthony Berkeley - The Poisoned Chocolates Case

4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!': Freeman Wills Crofts - The Hog's Back Mystery;

Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links - Murder off Miami

5. Miraculous Murders: Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady;

John Dickson Carr - The Hollow Man

6. Serpents in Eden: Agatha Christie - The Moving Finger (reread);

John Bude - The Lake District Murder;

Patricia Wentworth - Poison in the Pen

7. Murder at the Manor: Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch)
8. Capital Crimes
9. Resorting to Murder
10. Making Fun of Murder:
Edmund Crispin - The Moving Toyshop;

Alan Melville - Quick Curtain

11. Education, Education, Education: Mavis Doriel Hay - Death on the Cherwell
12. Playing Politics
13. Scientific Enquiries:
Christopher St. John Sprigg - Death of an Airman;

Freeman Wills Crofts - Mystery in the Channel

14. The Long Arm of the Law: Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game
16. Multiplying Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime
18. Inverted Mysteries:
Anne Meredith - Portrait of a Murderer
19. The Ironists: Anthony Rolls - Family Matters
20. Fiction from Fact: Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair

21. Singletons
22. Across the Atlantic: Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr. Ripley (reread);

Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler) - File on Fenton and Farr

23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead

 

Free Square / Eric the Skull: Martin Edwards - The Golden Age of Murder

 

The book that started it all:

Martin Edwards - The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

The Detection Club Reading Lists:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: The "100 Books" Presented
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 1-5

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 6 & 7
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 8-10
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 11-15
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 16-20
The story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 21-24

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review 2018-05-13 16:58
Crook's Hollow - Robert Parker

Someone is trying to kill Thorn Loxley,the estranged youngest son of a farmer dynasty. And then they try again and he decides to deal with this ordeal all by himself. This rural community is somewhat in turmoil.There are developers on the horizon and Thorn owns the deeds to a piece of land that is needed so this company can create a housing estate. The other grounds are owned by another farmer dynasty, the Crook family and needless to say,they are at daggers drawn. And so the attempts to murder Thorn continue... The storyline is not bad and it has a certain potential but none of the characters feel real,they are all so shallow. The book(not really the story)feels immature. And the end is absolutely over the top. Really over the top. Sometimes a good editor is a blessing...

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review 2018-04-29 16:58
THE Locked Room Mystery to End All Locked Room Mysteries
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr

Seriously, this is the book where John Dickson Carr, the master of locked room mysteries, pulls out all the stops.  And he tells us as much right from the start:

"To the murder of Professor Grimaud, and later the equally incredible crime in Cagliostro Street, many fantastic tems could be applied -- with reason.  Those of Dr Fell's friends who like impossible situations will not find in his casebook any puzzle more baffling or more terrifying.  Thus: two murders were committed, in such a fashion that the murderer must not only have been invisible, but lighter than air.  According to the evidence, this person killed his first victim and literally disappeared.  Again according to the evidence, he killed his second victim in the middle of an empty sreet, with watchers at either end; yet not a soul saw him, and  no footprint appeared in the snow."

The Hollow Man is a masterpiece in the art of the authorial sleight of hand -- the solution rests on an extremely audacious scheme, and I dare any reader to best JDC's series protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, in unraveling every element of the plot; never mind that the relevant clues actually are dropped throughout the novel.

 

Along the way, Dr. Fell also delivers his author's now-famous lecture on the various types of locked room mysteries, either name-checking or alluding to pretty much every mystery master of the age who had contributed to this particular sub-genre in a meaningful way by the time this book was published; and to anybody who criticizes the sub-genre for resting on "improbable" solutions, he has this answer:

When the cry of 'This-sort-of-thing-wouldn't-happen!' goes up, when you complain about half-faced fiends and hooded phantoms, and blond hypnotic sirens, you are merely saying, 'I don't like this sorrt of story.'  That's fair enough.  If you  do not like it, you are howlingly right to say so.  But when you twist this matter of taste into a rule for judging the merit or even the probablility of the story, you are merely saying, 'This series of events couldn't happen, because I shouldn't enjoy it if it did.' [...]

 

You see, the effect is so magical that we somehow expect the cause to be magical also.  When we see that it isn't wizardry, we call it tomfoolery.   Which is hardly fair play.  The last thing we should complain about with regard to the murderer is his erratic conduct.  The whole test is, can the thing be done?  If so, the question of whether it would be done does not enter into it.  A man escapes from a locked room -- well?  Since apparently he has violated the laws of nature for our entertainment, then heaven knows he is entitled to violate the laws of Probable Behaviour!  If a man offers to stand on his head, we can hardly make the stipulation that he must keep his feet on the ground while he does it.  Bear that in mind, gents, when you judge.  Call the result uninteresting, if you like, or anything else that is a matter of personal taste.  But be very careful about making the nonsensical statement that it is improbable or farfetched."

I happen to like locked room mysteries, yet I would argue that some crime writers' solutions do rest on overly improbable sequences of events on occasion, to the detriment of my enjoyment in almost every instance.  I very much do agree with his larger point, however: Don't mistake personal taste (an entirely subjective criterion) for "merit" or "quality" (a criterion aspiring, with however much or little justification, to objectivity).  This is not only lazy; it's also been the very thing that has kept genre fiction on the sidelines of literary recognition practically ever since its emergence -- the notion that it is somehow innately "inferior", literarily speaking, to what is known today as "literary fiction," or to the classics (which, dare one even mention it, were frequently belittled as "populist writing" themselves when first published, as Jane Austen powerfully reminds us in Northanger Abbey).

 

(Oh, and by the way, I also got a chuckle out of the fact that John Dickson Carr has absolutely no qualms about breaking the fourth wall, not only alluding to the reader at the very beginning of the book -- "in this case the reader must be told at the outset, to avoid useless confusion, on whose evidence he can absolutely rely" -- but even more so at the beginning of Dr. Fell's above-mentioned lecture on locked room mysteries:

"'But, if you're going to analyze impossible situations,' interrupted Pettis, 'why discuss detective fiction?'

 

'Because,' said the doctor, frankly, 'we're in a detective story, and we don't fool the reader by pretending we're not. Let's not invent elaborate excuses to drag in a discussion of detective stories.  Let's candidly glory in the noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book.'"

If that isn't audacity, I don't know what is.)

 

That all being said, if I'm not all the way "five-star" wowed by this book, it's because its focus rests almost entirely on the unraveling of the two fiendishly clever puzzles surrounding the murders committed, with comparatively little focus on the people involved in those murders, e.g., Dr. Grimaud's household.  It's not that we don't meet them or that their characterization necessarily lacks depth, but we only ever see them from the perspective of the investigators, with whom the narrative point of view rests all the time, and I'm finding more and more that this is a narrative technique that doesn't work optimally for me, or at least not unless the narrative perspective is that of the Great Detective's sidekick (and even Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, the progenitors of that particular technique, abandoned it every so often; ACD to tell the odd story from Holmes's perspective, or as a narrative within the narrative told from a client's or a witness's -- or the murderer's -- point of view; Christie by ultimately sending Captain Hastings to "the Argentine," so as to compel Poirot to strike out on his own henceforth and allow for a different, more widely spread narrative perspective; and even in a "Poirot and Hastings" novel, The A.B.C. Murders, she expressly included chapters told from another person's perspective, such as later obtained by Captain Hastings).

 

Moreover, there is rather a sinister and thrilling backstory to the events in The Hollow Man, which is however merely treated as precisely this -- a backstory.  I suppose John Dickson Carr didn't want to be accused of crossing too far into the territory of the occult and the supernatural (though he arguably does in novels such as The Burning Court and The Plague Court Murders), but even with the facts given as they are, I would have loved to see the backstory played out in more detail ... or at least, been given greater room in the exploration of the crime.

 

In short, John Dickson Carr's writing here, while technically brilliant, lacks the emotional dimension (or emotional appeal) that would take it for me to be truly drawn in.  This surely won't remain the last book by him that I have read, however.

 

In terms of the Detection Club bingo, this would obviously qualify for the Miraculous Murders square / chapter, which I've already covered -- but I'll definitely be counting it as an additional read for that square.

 

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text 2018-04-02 06:38
Reading progress update: I've read 21 out of 387 pages.
Dark Hollow - John Connolly

Billy Purdue was poor, poor and dangerous with some bitterness and frustration added to spice up the pot. The threat of violence was always imminent with him. It hung around him like a cloud, obscuring his judgement and influencing the actions of others, so that when he stepped into a bar and took a drink, or picked up a pool cue for a game, then sooner or later, trouble would start. Billy Purdue didn´t have to pick fights. Fights picked him.

It acted like a contagion, so that even if Billy himself managed to avoid conflict - he generally didn´t seek it, but when he found it he rarely walked away - five would get you ten that he would have raised the testosterone level in the bar sufficiently to cause someone else to consider starting something. Billy Purdue could have provoked a fight at a conclave of cardinals just by looking into the room. Whichever way you considered it, he was bad news.

 

John Connolly is so good at describing the personalities of his characters (even if they are only minor characters). And I have to admit, the fighting cardinals made me giggle.

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