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review 2018-02-13 05:38
File on Fenton & Farr
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick

As a young kid, my absolute favorite reads were Encyclopedia Brown books.  I devoured them.  For those unacquainted with Encyclopedia Brown, he was a middle-school aged boy genius who went around solving mysteries in his neighbourhood, a la Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys, but he did it using pure Sherlock Holmes-style deductions.  Each book was a collection of individual mysteries, but the twist was that each was written in a solve-it-yourself style.  Each story contained everything the reader needed to solve the mystery, and the stories would end before E. Brown revealed the solution.  The reader had a chance to solve the crimes, then look at the back of the book to see if they were correct.


The File on Fenton & Farr is a like a great big, grown up, Encyclopedia Brown story!  Everything the reader needs, as they follow the police investigation of a double homicide set up to look like a suicide pact.  Police reports, memos, telegrams, ticket stubs, notes, even a tiny sample tube of lipstick!



The story is very neatly done and not at all easy; every suspect had a motive and an alibi and none of the clues were anything out of the ordinary.  Patrick did a brilliant job writing out all of this material without being dry or overstepping the bounds of realism.  Each member of the police force exhibits enough personality to keep the reader turning the pages.


It was amazing.  And I'm not just saying that because I WAS RIGHT!  Woot!  Somebody get me a badge!  ::grin::


I was extraordinarily lucky to get this book; it was a monstrous splurge on my part when I bought it, far and away more money than I ever spend on a book, but I'd read about these publications and was dying to see if all these years reading mysteries had done me any good.  I am so, so glad I splurged.  This book is special and I can only imagine the amount of grief it caused its publishers back in 1937 to put it together.  


Now, it's MT's turn to see if he can solve the mystery; I've put my solution in a sealed envelope and we'll compare notes afterwards.  I'm not betting against him...

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review 2018-01-31 00:27
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - Frederick Davidson,Jerome K. Jerome
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - Jerome K. Jerome

As part of my plan to knock off TBR books quicker by checking out audio versions, I started this book just at the tail end of last year, but didn't make enough progress before holidays, so picked it back up this month.  But there were problems:


My first audio, checked out from my local library, was a popular edition with holds, so my check-out expired before I could finish it and I couldn't renew - there are currently still 2 holds on it before mine.


When I went to dig out my paperback copy to finish reading it, I couldn't find it.  I remember showing it to MT because he'd heard mention of the book somewhere, and now neither of us can find it.  Not a happy camper.


Because my library copy has numerous holds, I went to a neighbouring system I have a card with and checked out their audio edition - a different one, but it's narrated by Hugh Laurie, and he can't suck right?  Right.  But when it ended much sooner than I expected it to, I discovered it's abridged.


SO - I'm reviewing it anyway and when I get home there will be a possibly violent rummage through the house and the paperback will be found.  At which point I will figure out what I missed.  It doesn't really matter though, because the book is lovely.  Light, amusing, entertaining and often poetic.  While Hugh Laurie was brilliant, I think I have to give an extra nudge to Frederick Davidson's edition.  He adds a certain ironic gravitas to his reading that makes lightly amusing anecdotes hilarious.


Highly recommended in any form.

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review 2017-11-29 06:54
The Moonstone
The Moonstone - Ronald Pickup,Sean Barrett,David Timson,Wilkie Collins,Dale Brown,Jonathan Oliver,John Foley,Fenella Woolgar,Joe Marsh,Jamie Parker

What can I say other than the book is worth the hype?  


I wasn't sure at the start; I listened to the audiobook version - which was excellently done - and Gabriel Betteredge's opening narrative is... trying.  I loved his character the best and the narrator who played his part played it to the hilt, which meant it felt like there was an amiable, loveable, old man telling me a story by taking the longest possible route.  I was charmed, while at the same time wanting to prod him along, and honestly, if I had to hear much more about Robinson Crusoe I might have started pulling out my own hair.


Once we get past Betteredge's ramblings (which take up the first 40% of the book), the story moves along much quicker and the story becomes far more interesting, as the twist at the midway point was riveting.  I only ever listen to audio while I'm in the car, because I'm so easily distracted, but I found myself carrying my phone and portable speaker out to the garden to listen to The Moonstone while I weeded, and found 3.5 hours disappeared in a blink.  I got so close to the end today by the time I got home, I came straight in and grabbed my print edition so I could finish it. 


I guessed who the villain was at the start, but then the twist came in and I had NO idea where he was going with the mystery; subtle misdirections were everywhere in the narratives and so, while I never really gave up my notions of who was guilty, I was entirely ready to believe I had the wrong end of the stick until the end. 


The Moonstone is excellent and I highly recommend it; it's not a light, breezy read to be done in one or two settings, but it does reward the reader's commitment at the end.  


Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.


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review 2017-11-20 07:17
The Chosen
The Chosen - Chaim Potok

I seem to have inadvertently found myself on a theological reading streak.  Like The Alchemist, this book was recommended to me by a friend (although more enthusiastically), and also like The Alchemist, I picked it up for reasons that ended up having nothing to do with the book.  I thought The Chosen was about baseball.


It's not about baseball.


What it is about, at its core, is exactly the same thing The Alchemist is about (which almost defies coincidence):  the power of silence, listening to your heart/soul, and following your own true path.  But while The Alchemist uses parable, allegory and fantastic storytelling to get its message across, The Chosen tells the same message using an opposite style, set in WWII New York, and using first person-past tense POV.  This is the story of two boys brought together by a softball game; one is a Hasidic Jew and one is Conservative (I think–it's never explicitly stated whether he's Conservative or Reform).  Although they live only 5 blocks apart, they inhabit completely different worlds within the same religious faith, and have very different relationships with their respective fathers.


I can't do justice to this book in my review, but it works for me so much better than The Alchemist did; while I could appreciate the beauty of the writing and the story Coelho created, Potok's creation had the profound effect on me that I think the author was aiming for.  The Chosen is going to be one of those that stay with me permanently.


Book themes for Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people


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review 2017-10-22 04:15
The Red House Mystery
The Red House Mystery - A.A. Milne

Before there was Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robins, Eeyore and Piglet, there was murder most foul.  Before there was murder most foul, there was a stint as editor of Punch, a British weekly magazine of humour and satire published until 2002.


Now I don't see a huge influence of the murder most foul at the house on Pooh corner, but Punch definitely left its mark on The Red House Mystery.  A.A. Milne set out to write a traditional mystery following all the 'rules' of fair play, and he took the plotting very seriously, but that did not keep him from planting his tongue firmly in his cheek while he wrote the story.  It's alive with small jokes aimed at Holmes and Watson, mysteries in general, and at the characters themselves.


As such, it's a great mystery - heaps of fun to read, if sometimes it felt a tad long.  I thought to only give it four stars for this reason, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for two reasons:  I read this while flat out with hideous, unrelenting back pain, and I read the introduction.  The former might be more obvious than the latter, but Milne was very careful in his introduction, to state his desire to play fair and make sure the reader had all the same clues as the amateur detective.  So I might have over-focused on recognising the clues instead of enjoying the ride.


Not that it did me an ounce of good.  By the time the denouement arrived I had no idea who did it or why.  I can't say the ending was a massive ::gasp:: shock, but it was definitely not anti-climatic.


I wouldn't' suggest for a moment that the world could have done with less Winnie-the-Pooh, but it is a shame that Milne didn't write more than this one murder mystery.  I can't help but wonder if this was his first effort, what future bafflement, wonder and entertainment he might have achieved with a bit more practice.


(For the Golden Age of Crime bingo, this could be used for Singleton, or Birth of the Golden Age of Crime)

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