logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: MbDMystery
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-18 06:57
The Circular Staircase
The Circular Staircase - Mary Roberts Rinehart

My second read of this book and it's almost as good as the first.  

 

I continue to like Rachel; I'd like to think she comes closest to how I'd act in a parallel situation.  The humour held up too and I still marvel at Rinehart keeping all the plot points of her story straight.  I've read too many contemporary books that have half the plot complexity and holes you could drive a train through.

 

But the racism is still confronting enough to take me out of the story; Thomas might have been well respected by the characters, and the story a product of its time, but the descriptions and use of vernacular were the bruises on what would have been a perfect peach of a story in my time.  And on this second read, I marvelled at how anyone believed so pitiful a disguise could have worked so thoroughly for so long.

 

Still, this is a great story; a gem that shows some things transcend time (in this case almost 110 years): there have always been crafters of labyrinthine plots, there have always been strong women with resourceful intellects, and there is always a place for humour and wit, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. 

 

I'll continue to heartily recommend this book to lovers of a great mystery.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-12 06:31
At Bertram's Hotel
At Bertram's Hotel - Agatha Christie

I grew up with Agatha Christie the way some people grew up with the Bible; she was a constant presence in our house.  Being a contrary child, that means I'd read everything except Christie.  Mild guilt about this while I was in my 20's had me picking up the Miss Marple short stories (minimal commitment, you see).

 

I gotta say, while I could understand the attraction, I didn't understand the devotion.  Miss Marple was smart and the mysteries were great, but the abuse of village parallels was too much.  Towards the end,  I was just yelling "just say what you mean you old bat!"

 

Which is why it's now very many years later and, with few exceptions, I still haven't read most of Christie's work, even though I've been slowly accumulating them.  When my current booklikes-opoly square required a book set between 1945 and 1965, At Bertram's Hotel was just about the only book I had that fit the bill.  

 

So, here I am, finally reading my first full-length Miss Marple.  I'm happy to report only one village parallel!  And Miss Marple does more than just sit on a bench and knit; she's actively eavesdropping and inventing mishaps to get closer to people who are up to no good.  She felt like an active participant in the mystery, even if she wasn't really sleuthing and had no idea about what exactly was going on until the end.

 

But the book was generally a bit odd.  At 192 pages I should have had it read in a few hours; instead I kept falling asleep every time I picked it up so that it took me 3 days instead.  It wasn't boring; Christie is a master at pulling you into whatever setting she's cooked up and I quite enjoyed Bertram's Hotel, but the momentum was very slow to build and ultimately, what should have been a tidal wave of a story was more of a small surge: I felt the pull, but nothing so strong as to suck me in completely.

 

I also got the impression that Christie was rather fed up with Miss Marple when she wrote this, or maybe just feeling wistful herself about the way the world seemed to be changing rapidly around her.  I kept imagining Christie as Miss Marple; longing for a time when England, and by extension, her mysteries, were more elegant, well-mannered, and gracious.  Even though there would be at least 10 more books after this one, At Bertram's Hotel feels like a nostalgic look back by an author who's feeling her age.

 

So, not her best, but I'm betting it's nowhere near her worst; definitely more likeable than reading the Marple short stories back-to-back.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 192

$$:  $2.00

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-06 10:20
Jasper Jones
Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey

A few months ago, I accidentally joined a book club (long story).  

 

The first book chosen was Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  Immediately, at least a couple of objections sprung to my mind:

1. Australian fiction and I don't have a harmonious track record.

2. Generally, literary fiction is not my jam.

3. No way could I read this 3 months before the club meeting and have any hope of remembering it, especially since I totally planned on skimming it (see 1 & 2, above).

 

So, I procrastinated.  I procrastinated BIG. TIME. I didn't buy the book until Wednesday, and as I was in the midst of finishing up my Dewey bonus rolls, I refused to start this one until they were all done.  (I was also hoping I could use this for a monopoly space - kid on cover, woot!) 

 

Which means I started it last night at 10pm.  Bookclub met today at 2.  Now, this wasn't going to be a problem, because I was totally going to skim read it. Then I read the first page.  Boy did that first page suck me in.  So did the second, and the third, and the fourth and OMG IT'S 2AM!!!

 

I woke up at 8 and plowed through the entire thing by 1pm (taking a "break", and I use that term loosely, to ferry all three cats to the vet for annual appointments - something I cannot recommend).

 

It was good.  Seriously, it was really damn good.  The Australian fiction I've been subjected to so far have all had one thing in common: a thread of cruelty that wove subtlety or not so subtley through the narrative.  Jasper Jones is not an exception, which is why I'd hesitate to call it a YA read.  There are some very confronting scenes and descriptions of abuse, violence, and racial hate crimes.  It might be a good fit for some, but not all, teens. 

 

This common thread is what turns me off trying new Aussie fiction, but here it's offset by the humour and genuine innocence of Charlie, and his banter with his best friend, Jeffry Lu, who often steals the scenes from Charlie by dint of his sheer equanimity.  Some of the banter gets tedious, but only because it's exactly the tedious banter of just about any two 13-year-old boys.

 

There's a mystery plot beneath all the other issues facing Charlie and it was tragic; its final solution even more so.  There's not a lot of winning for the good guys here, but the story does end on a note of hope, if not complete happiness.  

 

Most of all, the writing was just incredibly engaging, with a minimum of Aussie slang and/or vernacular.  If you can find this one, read the first couple of pages - you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 397

$ earned: 3.00

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-05 11:45
Fast Women
Fast Women - Jennifer Crusie

I've been talking up Agnes and the Hitman lately, and it got me in the mood for a re-read.  I wanted something slightly less madcap than Agnes though, so I went with Fast Women.

 

I've read this book at least half a dozen times - it's one of my favourite Jennifer Crusie books - and it never gets old for me.  Its three female leads are all extraordinarily three-dimensional; their marriages extraordinarily realistic; their coping strategies extraordinarily commonplace.  I love the interaction between the women, and between the women and their men.  What keeps this book from becoming a dreary, depressing drama is the humor that is constant throughout; these people are struggling, but they keep it in perspective.

 

Add to all of this a delicious murder mystery and for me it was, and still is, love.  The mystery is so well plotted, that even when you know how it's going to end, Crusie leaves you surprised at the end.

 

Chick-lit isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy some dramedy with strong female characters, tossed in with a murder mystery, I don't think you can go wrong giving this a try.  

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-15 22:36
The Book of God and Physics
The Book of God and Physics: A Novel of the Voynich Mystery - Enrique Joven,Delores M. Koch

I loved every single thing about this book.  Except the writing.  Or maybe the translation.  Probably the translation.  Either way, what could have been a story to blow The DaVinci Code out of the water, was instead a worthy read for only those that are interested in the Voynich Manuscript, astronomy, and/or the intersection of faith and science.

 

I am incredibly fascinated with all of those things - except astronomy, of course - so I couldn't give up on the book.  For those unaware of the Voynich Manuscript, it is a real, illustrated manuscript believed to be about 500 years old.  It's full of beautiful ink and watercolour drawings that encompass chemistry/alchemy, botanicals, and astronomy, and it's written in a language that doesn't exist anywhere else.  It remains to this day undecipherable.  The manuscript currently resides at the Beinecke Library of Yale University and they have it online here.

 

Anything that has remained untranslatable for over 500 years becomes an unavoidable conspiracy theorist magnet, but the author of this book includes an introduction, where he makes it clear that other than the creation of the MC and his two friends, everything else in the book is historically accurate; all the other characters are real and their back-stories were kept intact without creative license.  Knowing this also kept me glued to the book when the prose would have sent me fleeing long before chapter 2.

 

The book is heavily centered in the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).  (They owned the Voynich Manuscript until 1912 when Voynich secretly bought it from them.)  My gender aside, the Jesuits are my people.  I make no secret of my faith in God and my faith in science; a stance that neatly pisses off everyone in one go: atheists because I believe in God, and those calling themselves Christians because I'm a heretic for accepting the Big Bang (first hypothesised by a Belgian priest*, btw) and evolution. The Jesuits also find no contradiction between God and science and in fact, most of the major contributions to science - experimental physics, specifically - in the 17th century were made by Jesuits. They weren't slackers in the 18th century either.

 

So, a story about a real coded manuscript, in its historically accurate setting, involving science and theology, taking place in a Jesuit school in Castile.  And I haven't even mentioned the secret tunnels, hidden passages and coded messages, or the major supporting characters that include Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Dee, Kelly, Galileo and Cassini.

 

Unfortunately, as I've already said, the writing translation is the major sticking point. The narrative was choppy and there was a general abuse of pronouns, leaving the reader sometimes wondering who was being talked about at any given time.  Dialogue jumped around too so that there were a few leaps of logic I couldn't follow because I couldn't parse the writing.  The ultimate care the author takes to make sure the history and the science are explained carefully (and sometimes repetitively), inclines me to fault the translation.  The author's love and knowledge of the subject matter screams from the page, as does his concern that the reader understand as much of the hard stuff as is possible, so it doesn't make sense that the story itself was written with so little care.

 

If I were only rating the writing, this would be 1 star.  But the subject matter and the plot were 5 stars, so in the end I split the difference and went with 3.  Don't bother with this one if you're only looking for a thriller or adventure, but if you're fascinated by the other stuff, maybe see if your library has this one and give is a go.  It'll be work, but it'll be fascinating too.

 

(* Georges Lemaître was the first to formally propose his hypothesis of the primeval atom, which became known as the Big Bang Theory, first published in 1931 in Nature.  He was a Jesuit priest and professor of physics.  He was also the first to note the expansion of the universe, and the first to derive Hubble's law and made the first estimation of what is called Hubble's constant - all misattributed to Hubble, at least in name.)

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?