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review 2017-11-12 22:57
Fabulous Historical Romance
A Devil in Scotland: A No Ordinary Hero Novel - Suzanne Enoch

A Devil In Scotland is a thrilling historical romance by Suzanne Enoch.  Ms. Enoch has provided us with a well-written book loaded with amazing, lovable characters...and animals.  Becca is marrying Ian, the brother of her best friend Callum.  Callum throws a fit and is sent away and stays away until he learns of his brother's death.  Becca and Callum's story is full of intrigue, suspense, action and sizzle.  This is one historical romance you won't want to miss.  I loved reading A Devil In Scotland and look forward to reading more from Suzanne Enoch in the future.  A Devil In Scotland is book 3 of the No Ordinary Hero Series but can easily be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.


I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book that I received from NetGalley.

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text 2017-10-29 19:34
The Sunday Post: Halloween Fun

With Halloween happening on a weekday night this year, my friends and I had a bit of seasonal fun this weekend at this lovely place: Glamis Castle.



Glamis is my favourite castle hands down (and I have visited ... many). It's not just the Macbeth connection, or the connection with Queen Mother, or anything like that, it is because they (still privately owned by the Strathmores) really care about the place and about making visitors feel welcome. There is always something special about what they put on. And it is a community thing - the castle is staffed by locals who have been there for a long time, the guides have been there forever, the old castle kitchens (now the restaurant) uses local produce from the estate, etc. I seriously love visiting this place and try to do so at least once every year. 

This year, the castle put on a Halloween event - A Halloween themed tour of the castle and they also made up a Macbeth inspired walk around the grounds that was fitted with sculptures and a light and sound installation.
One of my friends has problems with her eyesight at the moment and can't really manage well in the dark. So, we decided to get there in the afternoon and walk around the castle gardens and woods first, while there was still daylight.
It was so much fun. The other friend who came was a bit sceptical at first because, well, how much fun can trees with lights really be, right? However, we spent nearly the whole walk laughing and being shocked by the sounds. At one point my sceptical friend found a big, bright red button in from of the witches sculpture - of course she pressed it! The thunder, lightning, and smoke that ensued set us jumping. One of us even lost her shoe! Seriously, we had so much fun.
After the woods, we joined the castle tour that we had booked. It was fab! They had dimmed the lights so the parts of the castle were completely dark, others just lit by candles. They decorated everything with gargoyles, skeletons, cob webs ... and live actors dressed as ghosts, zombies, knights, witches...all turning up at random times to make you feel really, erm, uneasy. 
(This photo was one I found on the Glamis Castle Facebook page.)
The tour told only of the castle's ghosts and gory stories, and a little history. Not much history, tho, because this was a Halloween tour and there were kids present (who might have been bored). And still, we all learned something new. 
At the end of the tour, I ended up as a tribute to the resident witches but managed to escape just in time to follow my friends to the old castle kitchens for homemade roast pumpkin soup and a well deserved and absolutely huge pot of tea. 
So much fun.
On top of that, I picked up from the tour that there seems to be a connection between Glamis and Bonnie Dundee (Graham Claverhouse or Bloody Dundee) - who was the subject of Josephine Tey's only (as far as I know) work of non-fiction (which is on my TBR). And because of how rabbit holes work, I now need to know what the connection is. (There is a portrait of Claverhouse in the portrait gallery at Glamis...) 
Happy Sunday!
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text 2017-10-24 01:49
Help me with my project please

I want to learn more about Colonial American to help with my genealogy research. I didn't learn much about this in school (or didn't retain anything) other than the bit about Paul Revere. I went to a small private Christian school so the emphasis was on religion and compared to what my children learned in public school there is a lot I missed and in some instances what I was taught is not the same as what they learned. I´m looking for nonfiction or historical fiction without too much romance. The heaving and sighing kills me but I can handle a little bit of romance if it is worth it. Any mysteries would be a bonus as that´s my thing. I am especially interested in books about settlers to the North Carolina, GA, and Alabama area since that is where my family immigrated from Ireland, Scotland, and England. Some of my family were Quakers fleeing religious persecution in Ireland and England.  I wouldn't mind some books about things on the other side of the pond.  I made a list and would love for anyone to help by adding any books you know of that might be helpful. Don´t worry too much about me not liking them. I don´t mind checking them out to see.  


Colonial America booklikes list


Thanks in advance,

Donna J.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-08 17:31
The Babes in the ... Loch?
Murder of a Lady (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Wynne


Well, this was a fun read.


Anthony Wynne (real name: Robert McNair Wilson), Martin Edwards informs us in this book's preface and in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, was the long-standing medical correspondent of The Times; a man with many and varied interests which, in addition to his medical profession and  publications in subjects ranging from science to history and, well, detective fiction -- also included politics and national economics.


His abiding interest in psychology (by training, he was a cardiologist and a nerve specialist) is certainly at play in this novel as well, in which the spinster sister of an impoverished Scottish laird is found dead in her bedroom, after its locked doors have been forced open.  The room's windows are likewise locked, and though she has suffered a brutally-administered (and obviously fatal) wound, no murder weapon is found, and she has lost surprisingly little blood given the nature of her wound.


Dr. Eustace Hailey -- Wynne's "great detective" and almost certainly at least in part a stand-in for the author, whose opinions and outlook on life he seems to share in quite a number of respects -- is called in to the investigation by the regional Procurator Fiscal, but shooed away again with comparatively little grace by the inspector sent by Police Headquarters in Glasgow to investigate the murder ... only to be resorted to once more (with equally little grace) in a matter of days, when the inspector's investigative trails have summarily run cold.


The murdered woman locally had a reputation touching on saintlihood, but was in fact a manipulative witch of the worst order who held her entire household in an oppressive stranglehold -- she was, in other words, a textbook Golden Age mystery victim.  Motives for her murder abound, but neither they nor the apparent opportunities to commit the crime are consistent with the psychology of the potential suspects, and just like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Dr. Hailey refuses to attach guilt to a would-be suspect as long as motive, means, evidence and psychology are not aligned.  It also doesn't seem to help that local rumour soon ascribes the lady's death to a selkie believed to be living in Loch Fyne, where the events are taking place (I'd initially thought the book was set on Loch Lomond: turns out I was in error by two Trossach mountain ranges; still, the scenery is similar), on the strength of a fish scale found near the dead woman's body.


The novel is tightly-plotted, and I tremendously enjoyed both its psychological aspects and Wynne's way with words -- and unlike Tigus and Moonlight Reader I also didn't mind the amount of dialogue.  There were some things that didn't make sense to me, which I'm going to address in the spoiler below, but they didn't impinge on my enjoyment half as much as they might have in a weaker book.  By and large the story hangs together very well, and though the calamities certainly pile up towards the end, Wynne also manages to tie it up neatly and without any obvious rush.


As a coincidental side note, several elements of this book also tied in with my recent Halloween Bingo reads ... one of them being a reference to "the babes in the wood," a proverb based on a traditional children's tale dealing with -- you guessed it -- two kids all alone in the woods, after their parents have unwittingly left them to the care of their evil uncle, who in short order proceeds to deliver them into the hands of murderers.  The tale was first published as a ballad by Thomas Millington in Norwich in 1595 -- the late 19th century Caldecott version is available for free on the Project Gutenberg site -- and has given rise to a proverb indicating essentially the same as someone being "in over their head"; i.e., being overwhelmed by situation requiring decidedly more experience than one really possesses.  That would certainly be an apt description for many a member of the dead woman's household in this novel -- at least as much, if not more so than in Ruth Rendell's novel of the same name, which I read for (obviously) the "In the Dark, Dark Woods" square of the Halloween Bingo.


All in all, I am very grateful to Martin Edwards and the British Library for having unearthed this little gem after almost a century's worth of neglect, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for more books by Anthony Wynne ... hoping I can find them, that is.


NOTE: Don't read the below spoiler if you haven't read / finished this book yet; I'm going to address, inter alia, the novel's conclusion there.



Alright, so here are the things that had me scratching my head, and which prevented this from getting an even higher star rating:




1.) The "concealed" footsteps outside the writing room window below Mary Gregor's bedroom. "Covering up" footsteps with dirt (from the same ground they're in, in the first place) and they're supposed to still remain pristine underneath the "covering" dirt just waiting to be, ahem, unearthed by a detective unsatisfied with the apparently untouched appearance of that particular piece of ground?  Balderdash.


2.)  Eoghan's and Dr. McDonald's response to Dr. Hailey's arguments on the boat.  We're talking about an era when, and a social class where, people (well, men, anyway) who had terminally failed -- either in business, i.e., who had gone bankrupt, or personally, including having committed a crime or caused any other situation that would bring their family and loved ones into abject disrepute (like a murder trial certainly would, even if they were innocent; and both Eoghan and Dr. McDonald explicitly make reference to this) -- were quite literally socially expected to execute justice on themselves by committing suicide.  (Thomas Mann, for one, derived considerable mileage out of this circumstance alone in his writings.)  In fact, we're explicitly told repeatedly that the Duchlan family code, too, firmly embodied this line of thought.   Similarly -- as the odious Inspector Barley observes in one of his astuter moments -- husbands were expected to throw themselves on the sword in order to safeguard the honour of their wives, innocent or not; and Eoghan has demonstrated his willingness to do precisely that once already (and I couldn't help but root for him then, if only because it managed to shut Barley up good and proper for once at least).  And I know enough about people facing up to a terminal crisis that -- unlike people running away from it -- the only arguments these people will listen to are arguments conclusively addressing the worst case they see before themselves. Unless you can show them a convincing way to deal with that worst case, they won't care a jot about any spurious hope that it just might not come to that -- they are leagues past that sort of hope.


Now, when Eoghan and Dr. McDonald take Eoghan's boat out on the loch, they have both been both facing up to the consequences of a murder trial involving Oonagh and Dr. McDonald -- they aren't running away (without Oonagh, at that) but planning to commit suicide in order to spare her the trial and safeguard the Duchlan family name.  Yet, Dr. Hailey's arguments when persuading them to desist do not actually address the eventuality of a guilty verdict; nor the risk that nothing would actually be gained in Oonagh's favour by their proposed suicide.  His arguments are, essentially, of the "well, it might not come to that" and "surely, the jury would be more reasonable than you in your muddled-brain and worried current state expect them to be" brand that would easily convince only someone running away from a problem and willing to cling to every bit of spurious hope.  But both Eoghan and Dr. McDonald are past that point; in addition to which, as Dr. McDonald points out, between drowning and the rope, drowning would conceivably have been the easier death. -- So I was very surprised at the ease with which Dr. Hailey manages to get them to, literally, turn around; this didn't strike me as in keeping with the psychological insight at play in the rest of the novel at all.


3.)  The murder method.  By which I don't mean the use of ice as such -- that's a time-honoured "impossible crime" trope that has been used by everbody from John Dickson Carr (who even included it expressly as an example in his lecture on the seven types of locked room mysteries) and Roald Dahl to ... the author of another Halloween Bingo read of mine, James D. Doss.  Yet, leaving aside that killing someone by hitting them with a huge block of ice from a considerable height requires both a great deal of precision and for the victim to stand still long enough for that block of ice to hit its target (i.e., a hell of a lot of coincidence at play), only in the two last murders do I even buy into the reason why the victim ended up standing where they could be killed that way in the first place: Barley was enticed to move that way, and Duchlan had the misfortune to move where Dr. Hailey had set his trap; i.e., in his case, coincidence actually was at play in the worst of all possible ways.


However, most buildings from before WWI -- even "ordinary" city dwellings; even more so, centuries-old castles like Duchlan in this novel -- have outer walls that are easily several feet worth of massive stone in width.  And I know from personal experience (having lived in turn-of-the[19th-to-20th]-century buildings both as a kid and for several years while I was living in Berlin) that nothing works as a more efficient bar shielding the interior of such a building from outside weather conditions than these walls -- no air conditioning required whatsover.  Thus, even if it is (as we are told) swelteringly hot outside, you won't feel the heat indoors; in fact, it may even be so cool indoors that you find yourself resorting to a sweater, only to wish you could dispense with any and all clothing the second you step outside.  And yet, in precisely such a building, we're to believe that people move to the window for purposes of cooling down ... at a time when the air outside is (even though it's evening) quite likely still warmer than the air indoors?  Not on your life. -- (Added to which, again there is some mighty coincidence at play in the first murder, as there was no reason to expect Mary Gregor to even step to the window in the first place, as only the sudden shock she had received minutes earlier made her decide to close it at all, whereas usually it was her habit to sleep with her windows wide open.)

(spoiler show)


This novel fullfills the chapter 5 square on the Detection Club bingo card, "Miraculous Murders" (locked room mysteries and impossible crimes).


In the context of the Halloween Bingo, it would fit "Amateur Sleuth", "Country House Murders", "Murder Most Foul" and, of course, also "Locked Room Mystery."


The Detection Club bingo card:


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text 2017-10-07 12:12
Reading progress update: I've read 180 out of 288 pages.
Murder of a Lady (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Wynne

Well done on your response to the odious Inspector Barley's cross examination, Eoghan.  That was admirable (even if predictably ultimately futile), and it makes me hope that you and your immediate family will come out of these strange events OK and with possibly even a hope for a better future.


I'm not buying into any of the suspects that are being shoved under my nose, however much it may seem that logically they are the only persons that can have committed the crimes (and however much superficially they might have had a motive).  There's an agent manipulating things in the background, I'm fairly certain -- Wynne places way too great an emphasis on psychology and on Mary Gregor's stranglehold of the entire Duchlan clan, from her youth onwards.  The solution has to be connected to that.

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