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review 2019-09-18 09:28
The High Window (Philip Marlowe #3)
The High Window - Raymond Chandler

Maybe I shouldn’t have started with the third book in the series. Maybe Raymond Chandler just isn’t my cuppa. Maybe I should stick to old black-and-white films for my noir fixes. Maybe I’ll just leave you with this quote from Chapter 4 that pretty accurately describes my reading experience:

My face was stiff with thoughts, or with something that made my face stiff.

 

(Read for Halloween Bingo Classic Noir square)

 

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text 2019-08-07 16:43
Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty -- Question for 08/07 (Day 7): Favorite Halloween Bingo Authors?
Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
White Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier,Sally Beauman
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Bernadette Dunne
Death In A White Tie - Ngaio Marsh
The Blackhouse - Peter May
The Ballad of Frankie Silver - Sharyn McCrumb
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

Going by the list of my favorite reads from years past, my favorite Halloween authors so far have been (in alphabetical order and not entirely surprisingly):

 

* Raymond Chandler

* Agatha Christie

* Arthur Conan Doyle

* James D. Doss

* Daphne Du Maurier

* E.T.A. Hoffmann

* Shirley Jackson

* Ngaio Marsh

* Peter May

* Sharyn McCrumb

* Edgar Allan Poe

* Terry Pratchett

 

All of these feature with anywhere from two to five favorite reads over the course of the past three bingos.

 

That said, Joy Ellis was a bingo 2018 discovery (perhaps the biggest discovery of last year's bingo, in fact), and I've read several other books by her in the interim already, so I'm definitely going to try and wiggle another one of her mysteries into bingo 2019 as well.  Similarly Fredric Brown's Ed & Am Hunter mysteries, another one of last year's  great discoveries (huge hattip to Tigus!).  And even just generally speaking, I'm definitely planning to make room for some classic mysteries from both sides of the Atlantic. 

 

On the other hand, it's very much going to depend on the makeup of my card how much horror I'm going to (re)visit, be it classic or otherwise.  So even though I read two novellas by E.T.A. Hoffmann for bingo 2016, it's not a given that I'll return to his oeuvre this year; and the same is true for Poe (and virtually all other horror writers).

 

 

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text 2019-08-01 22:01
Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty -- Question for 08/01 (Day 1): Mystery or Horror?
Wer knackt die Nuss?: Band 1 - Wolfgang Ecke
The Secret of Terror Castle (The Three Investigators #1) - Robert Arthur
After the Funeral - Agatha Christie
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers
Brother Cadfael: A Morbid Taste for Bones/One Corpse Too Many/Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters
Death in Holy Orders - P.D. James
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
Angels Flight - Michael Connelly
Rebus: Capital Crimes - Ian Rankin

Mystery, definitely. 

 

For one thing, I'm a total chicken -- I can't look at blood (not even, or rather, especially not my own, e.g. in medical procedures); and anything shocking, spooky, or otherwise unnaturally unsettling just has me running for the rafters.  That's particularly true at night -- which is when I'm doing a good deal of my reading -- but basically, it applies 24/7.  So that not only rules out slashers and other forms of gory horror, but pretty much any and all forms of psychological horror as well.  The only stories typically classified as "horror" that I can go near are classics where I essentially know what's going to happen from the word "go" (e.g., Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), or ghost stories (mostly classics as well) where the appearance of the ghost(s) is (1) in itself not overly unsettling, at least not in the way in which it is presented to the reader, and / or (2) tied to a larger point that the author is trying to make.  (E.g.  most of Edith Wharton's ghost stories, Charles Dickens's The Signalman and -- of course -- A Christmas Carol and The Chimes, and Oscar Wilde's hilarious send-up of the genre, The Canterville Ghost.)  Edgar Allan Poe is a special case ... I do love some of his writing (e.g., The Masque of the Red Death and The Raven), but The Tell-Tale Heart creeped the hell out of me way back in high school, and that cat story (which shall remain unnamed in this post) ... well, let's just say once was once too often.

 

And then -- well, I became a mystery reader all the way back in elementary school, and that was probably the most formative reading experience of my entire life.  It started with a series of books specifically targeting elementary school kids, whose (idiomatic) title went straight to my little smarta$$ jugular, challenging me to demonstrate I had what it took to solve them.  From there, it was practically guaranteed I'd move on to and love the Three Investigators series -- by which time my mom had caught on once and for all, too, and in short order presented me with my first Agatha Christie -- After the Funeral, which for that reason alone will always be one of my personal favorites.  And the rest, as they say, is history!

 

I've long stopped looking "just" for clever puzzles in mysteries, although that is still at least one of the things I want to see -- it takes a lot of other things in a book to work well for me if I've solved the mystery early on and still end up liking the book.  But on the other hand, I'll be just as unhappy if I can't connect, on some level or other, with the main character (or if not them, at least an important supporting character) -- or if I'm presented with shallowly drawn, cardboard or just flat out boring characters, or if the plot just ties one trope onto the next or is otherwise devoid of originality.  In other words, a mystery that works for me will always be more than merely the hunt for a killer (or other criminal, as the case may be) -- it will be a complex blend of well-drawn, individual characters and an intelligent plot, and ideally the characters will also have some other (e.g., personal) challenges to deal with on their journey to the mystery's solution.

 

Since I also love historical fiction (and nonfiction), historical mysteries are a particular favorite -- provided they're well-researched, such as Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael series (a long-time favorite) and C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series (my most recent "must-read" series) --, but I've never lost my love for the Golden Age classics -- next to Christie, in particular Sherlock Holmes and everything Dorothy L. Sayers, as probably everybody here knows -- and am thrilled to also see Golden Age crime fiction above and beyond the eternal great ones making such a huge comeback in recent years.  Martin Edwards, the current president (and chief archivist) of both the Detection Club and the Crime Writers' Association, may not be everybody's cup of tea personally, but there's no denying that his lobbying for the revival of Golden and Silver Age crime fiction has a lot to do with this, and I think he deserves huge plaudits on those grounds alone.  That said, P.D. James's writing (and her Inspector Dalgliesh) also has had a special place in my heart for longer than I can remember ... and I'm inordinately happy to have discovered many more great women crime writers and women detectives in recent years; most recently, Joy Ellis's Jackman and Evans series (*waves to Jennifer*).

 

Oh, and for the record, the "I can't look at blood" thing applies to mysteries as well, of course -- which is one of the reasons why as a rule I don't read serial killer books; nor any other mysteries where I know, going in, that the corpse or the crime scene will be described in gratuitously graphic terms.   [She said, side-eying J.K. Rowling for the second Cormoran Strike book, which definitely should come with a warning label attached.]  However, I am not at all opposed to grit and grime in a mystery's setting -- in fact, I particularly enjoy both classic noir crime fiction (with Raymond Chandler a particular favorite) and modern crime fiction that takes a look at the state of society, such as Michael Connelly's and Ian Rankin's books.

 

 

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text 2019-06-25 17:33
A couple of more books for MR´s list
The Big Sleep (Penguin Essentials) - Raymond Chandler
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy,Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany - Norman Ohler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
The Orenda - Joseph Boyden
The Prestige - Christopher Priest
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea - Sebastian Junger
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: The Philip Marlowe books are quintessential noir, with all it apparent flaws of this time period. And Marlowe is such a great character.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Since we are allowed to name classics, this simply has to be on the list. 

 

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Oehler: The fascinating account how all of Germany was on drugs throughout WWII.

 

 

The Blind Assassin by Margarete Atwood: A wonderful story of two sisters in WWII times. Even though I´m a bit fuzzy about the details of the plot (have to reread this book), I still remember how it made me feel while reading it.

 

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: A book about first nation Canadians and their struggle with another tribe and the Jesuit priest, who try to convert to Christianity. As this might suggest, this book is incredibly brutal at times, but it is also absolutely amazing. 

 

The Prestige by Christopher Priest: You will finish this book without having the faintest clue what you just have read. It´s so good, though.

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: I´m comparing every true crime book that I read to this one and not a single one has even come close to Truman Capote´s masterpiece.

 

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger: The first non-fiction book I have ever and still one of my favorites. The second part of the novel is an edge-of-the-seat reading experience.

 

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: I don´ think this has been mentiones by anyone, but this simply has to be on the list too. I even enjoyed reading about the page long description of the door fresco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-03-24 18:07
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler creates Philip Marlowe
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

I wanted to read Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe series, but I was worried that I might be too influenced by 50 years of watching movies. I was concerned that I might keep picturing Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, but once I started the novel, the characterization is so well done that my worry now seems silly. Not only are the characters well-written, the novel itself is a joy. It's self-assured yet manages to be surprising. Despite modern sensibilities I felt far less put off by the depictions of women and minorities than I have been in some other literature (though it's important to remember the time in which it was written,) and just as I've come to expect from this era's literature - everyone drinks a lot (that's not a good thing, but it is true.) Even knowing how this story was going to unfold, I was drawn in by the crime, characters and setting, and I could picture every step Marlowe took. There are "broads" and "dames" but the books feel less tawdry than the label "noir" does. I had planned on working my way through the series, but the tone wears a bit thin if I read too much without throwing another book or type of book in the mix. so I've only gotten through two books so far. That's fine - unlike the characters and their liquor, I will savor each one slowly, imbibing over time.

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