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review 2018-12-07 16:56
Day Of Penance Book: "In The Bleak Midwinter - The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries #1" by Julia Spencer-Fleming
In the Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming

The only thing better than a good book is a good book that is the start of a series. "In The Bleak Midwinter" was a great read that starts a series which currently sits at eight novels.

 

I took a risk when I bought this book - a mystery about a new woman priest and the Chief of Police of a small town in upstate New York could have been a recipe for saccharine scenes, hallmark sentiments and a story targetted for prime time on a Christian TV channel.

 

I knew I was safe at the 2% mark when the book made me laugh out loud at the scene where the small town Police Chief unexpectedly meets the new priest and discovers she’s female. The Police Chief asks himself:

What was he supposed to call her? “Mother?”

“I go by Reverend, Chief. Ms. is fine, too.”

“Oh. Sorry. I never met a woman priest before.”

“We’re just like the men priests, except we’re willing to pull over and ask directions.”

I was still surprised at just how good the book is. There's more to it than smart dialogue, Julia Spencer-Fleming has come up with two strong, likeable characters, with military backgrounds, who have their own, non-clichéd, approaches on how to exercise their authority. The rapport and the conflict between them is credible and engaging.

 

The Reverend manages to be caring and tough. The Police Chief manages to be authoritative without creating conflict.

 

The two are brought together when a newborn is abandoned on the steps of the Reverend's church with instructions that he be given to a member of her congregation and an as yet unidentified young woman who has recently given birth is found murdered.

 

What follows is a solid mystery that is a pleasing mix of detection, exploration of moral dilemmas/social issues and tense action. 

 

The Reverend's continuing close involvement in work that should be done by the police requires a little suspension of disbelief but is well managed. I found her ignorance of the clothes and vehicles needed to cope with mountain winters a little harder to accept but perhaps that's because I've spent so much time in those conditions.

 

This isn't a "cosy mystery" nor is it a voyeuristic rid into violence. It's something much rarer: a character-driven crime story that manages to acknowledge the bleakness of reality without being overwhelmed by it.

 

I've already bought the next book in the series, which has the rather off-putting title of "A Fountain Filled With Blood".

 

I read this book for the Day Of Penance Door in 24 Festive Tasks.

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text 2018-12-01 19:54
24 Festive Tasks: Door 12 - St. Andrew's Day, Task 4 (Books Featuring Golf)
4:50 from Paddington - Agatha Christie
Murder on the Links - Agatha Christie
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Agatha Christie
The Clicking of Cuthbert - P.G. Wodehouse
Goldfinger - Ian Fleming
Murder in the Mews and Other Stories - Agatha Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Jar: A Short Story - Agatha Christie
The Sunningdale Mystery: A Short Story - Agatha Christie

Golf is key to a number of books by Agatha Christie (not only in the Poirot series -- Hastings is not the only character by Christie who is an ardent golfer).  So my list of favorites is largely a mash-up of BrokenTune's and Obsidian's:

 

Agatha Christie favorites:

1.  4:50 From Paddington

2.  Murder on the Links

3.  Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

 

Honorable mentions from my TBR:

 

1.  P.G. Wodehouse: The Clicking of Cuthbert (short stories)

2.  Ian Fleming: Goldfinger (I've seen the movie but have yet to read the book)

 

... and a few Christie short stories:

 

1.  Murder in the Mews (Poirot)

2.  The Mystery of the Blue Jar (standalone)

3.  The Sunningdale Mystery (Tommy & Tuppence)

 

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text 2018-11-24 08:57
Reading progress update: I've read 2%. Not many books make laugh out loud at the 2% mark but this did
In the Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming

Heres what happens when the small town Police Chief unexpectedly meets the new priest and discovers she’s female. The Police Chief asks himself:

 

What was he supposed to call her? “Mother?”

“I go by Reverend, Chief. Ms. is fine, too.”

“Oh. Sorry. I never met a woman priest before.”

“We’re just like the men priests, except we’re willing to pull over and ask directions.”

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review 2018-09-04 17:05
Goldfinger / Ian Fleming
Goldfinger - Ian Fleming

Auric Goldfinger, the most phenomenal criminal Bond has ever faced, is an evil genius who likes his cash in gold bars and his women dressed only in gold paint. After smuggling tons of gold out of Britain into secret vaults in Switzerland, this powerful villain is planning the biggest and most daring heist in history-robbing all the gold in Fort Knox. That is, unless Secret Agent 007 can foil his plan. In one of Ian Fleming's most popular adventures, James Bond tracks this most dangerous foe across two continents and takes on two of the most memorable villains ever created-a human weapon named Oddjob and a luscious female crime boss named Pussy Galore.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

I spent part of the Labour Day weekend finishing up my Summer of Spies and finishing up Goldfinger. I’ve had fun with earlier installments of Bond, but found this book a bit of a grind. It started, Goddess aid me, with card games yet again and then continued on with one of the only subjects that I consider more boring than cards, golf! There was much eye rolling and boredom on my part, but I realize that these subjects excite other people, and certainly were passions of Mr. Fleming.

Add to that statements like Koreans being “the cruelest, most ruthless people in the world” and a criminal organization consisting of lesbians under the direction of Pussy Galore, and well, this one went way off the charts of the stereotype-meter. I’ll take the TV show “Kim’s Convenience” over Oddjob any day for an example of Koreans in our society. Next time I’m feeling down about the role of women and minorities in our society and feeling like change is taking for-bloody-ever, I’ll pick up the next Bond book for a reminder of exactly how far we have come.

I will reiterate what I said in my review of Casino Royale, that I am surprised and pleased at the caliber of Fleming’s writing. I shouldn’t be so surprised, I guess, as he read a lot and spent a fair amount of time with literary people, including one of my favourites, Raymond Chandler. I guess that I’ve unfairly absorbed the literary judgements of his wife’s literary circle, who looked down their noses at Fleming’s work. I’m glad to have read several of the books that have created their own enduring niche in popular culture.

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text 2018-09-01 20:44
Reading progress update: I've read 178 out of 347 pages.
Goldfinger - Ian Fleming

 

According to Auric Goldfinger, Koreans "are the cruellest, most ruthless people in the world."

 

I can hardly wait to tell my Korean cousins about this. Ha!

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