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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 2018-02-06 04:36
Murder on the Links
Murder on the Links - John Moffatt,Agatha Christie
Murder on the Links - Agatha Christie

Meh.  But probably 'meh' because I listened to the BBC Audio full cast dramatisation and it wasn't as well scripted, or whatever it is they do, than the last one, Crooked House.  It was shorter, but somehow much more scattered, less cohesive.

 

What I can say that applies to any edition of this book is that:

1.  Dumb title; there's nothing here to do with golf, except the location of the body.  

2.  I really can't stand Poirot.  Sorry, but I just wanted to reach through the speakers and yank on his silly moustaches.  Hastings doesn't come through so well here either, although that might have been how he was played in the audio; hopeless romantic falling instantly in love?  Ugh.

 

I'm going to have to read the print book to have anything more to say, i.e. plot and characterisation.  The murderer in this one totally blindsided me, but how much of that is to Christie's credit and how much because I never knew quite what was going on, I can't say.

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review 2018-02-02 03:28
Crooked House
Crooked House - Rory Kinnear,Anna Maxwell,Phil Davis,Agatha Christie
Crooked House - Agatha Christie

I checked this BBC Adaptation of from my library because I was in a hurry and it said "unabridged", but it has to be abridged somehow.  It was only 1 hour and 45 minutes long?  It's a full cast dramatisation though, and perhaps that allowed it to tell the full story without all the descriptive text and 'he said' stuff.

 

Either way, it was an excellent production, although it's obviously meant to be seen as well as heard, so some of the sound effects didn't work as well as they could have (the 'love' scenes just sounded... damp).  I thoroughly enjoyed the production once I got used to the format.  But I will read this book in print at some point; I want to know if I've missed any subtleties that Christie is famous for. 

 

The story is one of my favorites so far - definitely darker than her usual, but not as bad as I feared at all.  I admit I guessed the murderer, but only because I suspect the actor played the part too well.  Something was said midway - I can't even remember what - and I thought, it's probably 'x'.  I was never sure, and Christie almost let me astray at one point, but the reveal wasn't the shocking twist it might have been.  It didn't diminish my enjoyment in the least.

 

I have one other of these dramatisations checked out for Murder on the Links and I'm going to go ahead and listen to it (I think golf is boring, so I need the drama), but after that I'll take the time to hunt down the full, true audiobooks of Christie's work; at least for the first read.

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review 2018-01-20 07:19
Speedy Death
Speedy Death - Gladys Mitchell

I'm not sure what I think of this.  It dragged a bit in the middle, mostly as the plot was so odd.  So much was crammed in that by the time I got to the end, I barely remembered the beginning.  It seems like another book entirely that started with a dead man – who was really a woman –  in the guest room bathtub.

 

But Mitchell's writing is strong and very readable.  She painted a very compelling country house setting with characters that really worked well in the plot, even if they're rather 2 dimensional in that way I find all third person, golden age crime characters to be.  My biggest gripe is that there is an awful lot of unspoken truths throughout the dialog.  Two people talking about the murder, sharing information and one starts to reveal Something Important when the other gasps "You don't mean..." and the other cuts him off and exclaims "Exactly!".  And the reader is left saying "what?  what do you mean?  what the hell did I miss?!"

 

Of them all, I liked Carstairs best; I am conflicted about Mrs. Lestrange Bradley though.  I like her intelligence and her strength and I'm offended on her behalf of the way she keeps getting referred to as an ugly old lady.  Mitchell gives us her age via formula, by stating that her son is 39 and she was 18 when he was born.  With a bias that grows stronger every day, I hardly think 57 is an age that warrants 'ugly old lady' status.  But Mitchell sacrifices a great deal of Bradley's humanity for the sake of her intelligence and strength.

 

This led me to an interesting personal quandary because the character she most reminded me of is my personal ideal of literary perfection: Shelock Holmes.  He too is cold, calculating, analytical to the extreme, and designed to be unpleasing to the eye, so why do I find him to be the acme of literary perfection, but am left unsure, at best, about Lestrange Bradley?  I was set to face some hard truths about my own gender bias, but thankfully that can be saved for another day, as the answer really is much simpler: Holmes' analytical genius is grounded in facts and hard science; Lestrange Bradley's on psycho-analysis.  That is my bias; I don't condemn psychoanalysis, but neither do I trust it, and I do not find it all that interesting. 

 

So, long story short, this is a book with merit and definitely worth reading, especially for anyone who enjoys classic crime, and Mitchell's writing is worth seeking out.  I just don't know if I enjoyed it enough to pursue other books in this series.

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review 2018-01-08 02:08
The Mayor's Wife
The Mayor's Wife - Anna Katharine Green

Anna Katherine Green was an American novelist at the turn of the 20th century and is considered by many to be the mother of the detective novel.  I first read a short story of hers last year, featuring Violet Strange, and immediately wanted to read more.  I couldn't find a collection of her Strange stories, but I did find a beautiful, first edition copy of this book for 15 bucks and I didn't think twice.  

 

It was worth every penny.  I only dinged it 1/2 star because there was a massive clue the protagonist 'forgot' she saw early in the book that I didn't forget reading about.  Of course this clue was the thing that the mystery's couple in peril needed to secure their HEA (although it didn't matter to the mystery itself). 

 

Miss Saunders is working for an employment agency of some sort - it's never explained, although it's obviously not your average job placement firm - when she is hired by the Mayor to be a companion to his wife, with the secondary task of discovering what event happened two weeks previously that substantially altered the Mayor's wife's personality.

 

Not only is the book very well written, but it has a little bit of everything fun and suspenseful in a vintage mystery: tales of hauntings, cryptic codes, unexplainable occurrences, dodgy butlers, and crazy old ladies staring out of attic windows.  The pacing is quick and even; I had a really hard time putting it down last night and it was the first thing I picked up this morning (thank goodness for school holidays!).   I did not see the ending coming, although it wasn't altogether shocking.  

 

I'll definitely be looking out for more of Green's work!

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