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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-16 01:10
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 7 -- Bingos No. 3 & 4!
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson
Cronica de una muerte anunciada - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Coffin Road - Peter May
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
She Walks These Hills - Sharyn McCrumb

Bingo No. 3: First column to the right.

Bingo No. 4: Second row.

 

 

The "bingo" squares and books read:

Bingo No. 3:

   

                                                                

 

Bingo No. 4:


                                                                                

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                      
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     

 

I'll have a double bingo in the wings once "Amateur Sleuth" is called, and more immediate bingos for "Classic Horror" and "Country House Mystery."  Complete blackout should tumble in within the next 10 days or so, depending just how the remaining bingo calls come up.  So, I'll be taking my time finishing my last bingo book, Sharyn McCrumb's She Walks These Hills -- there hardly seems to be any reason for a particular rush.

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

Books Read / Finished - Update 7:


Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Well, if this doesn't count for "Darkest London," then I don't know what will.  Our narrator is tossed into the Marshalsea prison for being in debt to the tune of several months' salary -- a bit more than £20.00, which would have been a year's salary or more to the poorer classes, but our Tom is an academic (albeit one without a degree, having been thrown out of Oxford for disorderly behaviour), so he'd have reached higher ... instead of which, however, he has managed to drink and gamble it all away and then get himself robbed off the spoils when trying to win it back by turning a lucky card.  Even though Tom, being perceived as a gentleman, is spared the ultimate humiliation of being locked away on the Common Side of the prison (where conditions are sub-human and jail fever or some other form of death would be his certain fate in a matter of days or weeks; months at best), even the so-called "Master's Side" -- where Tom ends up -- is a cut-throat place ruled by the diabolical whims of the prison governor and his brutal turnkeys, where your life and health is only worth as much as you are able to pay for them, and where you'll find yourself deprived of either quicker than you can count to three if you're stupid enough to trust even a single person.

 

To top it all off, Tom is given a choice of sharing either a putrid cell with a man dying of the pox for a cell-mate or occupying the bed of a recently-murdered man and sharing a cell with the man perceived as the most dangerous of all the inmates on the "Master's Side," nicknamed "the Devil" by the other prisoners ... only to be then clandestinely tasked in short order to investigate the murder of the former occupant of his bed as a price for being released from prison.

 

Antonia Hodgson certainly has a way with words and with building the atmosphere of a place, and I do believe she has done her research thoroughly.  I nevertheless didn't take to this book wholeheartedly; in no small part because -- aside from Kitty, a kitchen maid whom Tom meets in the Marshalsea -- I didn't find anybody I could truly empathize with; and that most definitely includes Tom himself. 

I also disliked the ending, which was (a) incredibly rushed and (b) a pronounced case of the solution being jammed up the investigator's nose without him having managed to uncover any significant clue on his own, so he hardly deserves any credit for it, and for a series that is billed as a historical P.I. series beginning with Tom's first "successful" investigation in the Marshalsea, that is simply not a very auspicious beginning.

(spoiler show)

  I've got the next two books of the series on my TBR and I'm going to leave them there for the time being -- I won't rule out that I am going to return to them at a later point after all.  It likely will not be anytime soon, however.

 

 


Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada
(Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

I read this book  in Spanish and I am glad I did -- based on the translation of the title alone, I don't know how many other subletlies I might have missed if I had gone for a translated version.  García Márquez's novella deals with an honor killing, and beyond what is implied in the book's English title, the resulting death is one that is both "foretold" (namely, in a dream) and blatantly announced by the would-be murderers, to all and sundry but to the victim himself. -- At the beginning of the book, the murder has already happened, and the story is told circuitously in reverse, leading up to an almost surreal, slow-motion pacing in the minutes before the actual killing, when fate, circumstances, cowardice, lethargy and ill luck conspire to see opportunity after opportunity to save the intended victim being missed.

 

In just over 100 pages, García Márquez employs pacing, perspective and contrasts (of perspective, plot elements, personalities, potential and actual murder weapons and much, much more) to deconstruct the society where the murder occurs -- a small coastal town in Columbia -- and its prevailing attitudes that excuse and justify the murder, a justice system unable to adequately deal with the crime, and of course the honor code that causes the murder to be committed in the first place.  It's a gut-punching book as far away from Love in the Time of Cholera as it could possibly be and it's been sitting on my shelves unread for far too long -- I'm glad I finally did something about that.

 

 


Peter May: Coffin Road

This book is billed as a stand-alone following May's Lewis Trilogy, but that's not actually quite correct, as the policeman from whose perspective part of the story is told (DS George Gunn) actually features in an important role in the Lewis Trilogy as well, and even the actual protagonist of that trilogy (Fin Macleod) and his girlfriend Marsailie are name-checked here.

 

That said, the book's primary protagonist is a gentleman who at the beginning of the book finds himself washed up on a beach in the Western part of Harris island (the two major northern Outer Hebrides islands, Harris and Lewis, for geographical and all practical purposes form a unity), wearing a life jacket and with not a clue to his own identity, which to recover henceforth obviously becomes his primary obsession.  In a matter of days, he takes a boat trip to the Flannan Isles, a small group of islands some 30 miles west of Lewis (and double the distance, correspondingly from Harris), on the largest of which -- Eilean Mòr -- he

stumbles across a corpse, and as he has clear indications that he must have visited the island before, he begins to suspect that he himself is the dead man's murderer.

(spoiler show)

 

The book's second protagonist is an Edinburgh teenager at odds with herself and the world ever since her scientist father is believed to have committed suicide two years earlier, and who is trying to find out whether that is actually what happened (and if so, why), or if not, where he is.

 

I tremendously enjoyed the book; May is a phantastic writer who manages to make the Hebrides come alive in all their magic austerity time and again.  Yet, this book has certain undeniable similarities to the first book of the Lewis Trilogy (The Blackhouse), which I read for last year's Halloween Bingo -- most notably, in that each book features a tiny, ocean-, wind- and rainswept island off the Outer Hebrides where the actual solution to the mystery haunting the hero is to be found, as well as contrasting narrative perspectives (first person present for the main protagonist, third person past tense for all other characters) -- and I also have to admit that loss-of-memory stories aren't my favorite type of mystery; chiefly because I never know with absolute certainty to what extent the described effects of the memory loss are in keeping with what is neurologically and psychologically / psychiatrically realistic.  (Which isn't to say that I distrust Peter May's level of research into the issue; still, there's always the odd little detail that has me thinking, "wow, for purposes of storytelling it's certainly convenient that he should [not] be able to remember this.") 

Also, again at the ending, the recovery of memory is happening a bit too quickly and completely, but what do I know ... if this is what May found to be possible, then so be it.   See what I mean about that little bit of uncertainty of where writerly imagination and storytelling needs come into play, though?

(spoiler show)

This all notwithstanding, however, I'm glad I've taken another, albeit "only" literary trip to the Hebrides -- and not just Harris and Lewis, either; some small parts of the book are also set on the Western Scottish mainland, just south of an area I particularly love, as well as on the Isle of Skye ... from where a couple of the story's characters take the early morning ferry to Harris, which is exactly what I did a few years ago, so this part of the book evoked a whole lot of memories as well.

 


Eilean Mòr, Flannan Isles: The lighthouse, chapel of St. Flannan and erstwhile rail tracks leading up to the lighthouse from the mooring place -- the novel's key Flannan Isles locations (photos from Wikipedia).

 


Leaving Uig (Isle of Skye) on the early morning ferry to Harris.

 


Harris Island: approach at dawn

 


The bridge connecting Harris and Lewis, from the sea.

 


On Harris Island

 


Tabert, Harris -- the ferry back to Uig, Isle of Skye.
(Even the bright yellow railing is mentioned in May's novel ...)




Isle of Skye: Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye Bridge



Isle of Skye: Sligachan Old Bridge



Western Scotland, near Achnasheen:
View towards the Torridon Mountains and Loch Maree

 

 


Western Scotland: in the Torridon Mountains, near Kinlochewe

 

 

 


Western Scotland, Applecross Peninsula: view of the Isle of Skye

 

 


Western Scotland: Sunset on Loch Torridon
(all photos of Harris, Skye and the Western Scottish mainland mine)

 

 

 
Joseph Sheridan Le  Fanu: Carmilla

I'd never read anything by Sheridan Le Fanu, even though In a Glass Darkly -- the short story collection which includes Carmilla -- has been sitting on my TBR for a minor eternity ... no pun intended.  So when Carmilla was picked as the "Classic Horror" group read, I made a snap decision to jump in and join, though I'm using this read for my card's "Vampire" square.

 

Carmilla predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 25 years, and either both authors were equally inspired by the Romanian "Count Drácul" myth and its mountain setting or Stoker took a page and a half out of Sheridan Le Fanu's book.  Certainly, both vampires have similar attributes; not least their ability to shape-shift into a large mammal (a cat in Carmilla's case, a dog in Dracula's), which makes me wonder to what extent vampire and werewolf lore have common roots as well; and in both stories, ultimately a "vampire expert" is consulted and helps bring about the destruction of the vampire, strictly according to the rule book ... a stake through the heart coupled with a beheading.

 

Yet, Sheridan Le Fanu's story doesn't begin to come close to Stoker's in terms of atmosphere, and while Stoker's Jonathan Harker does acctually seek (and barely manage) to flee once he's clued into who his host is, Carmilla's hosts -- father and daughter alike -- keep wandering about with their eyes wide shut until it's almost too late, and have to be made wise by a friend who made the same mistake at the cost of his young ward's life.  Sheridan Le Fanu may have intended this approach as a concession to his readers' expected attitude ("well, really, there is no such thing as vampires"), but Stoker convincingly shows that if you're writing a book about supernatural monsters, there just comes a point where you have to kiss that attitude goodbye, and the more brutally and straightforward you do it, the more convincing it will ultimately come across.  (Heck, even Anne Rice managed that one better in Interview With the Vampire.)

 

That all being said, I'll likely go on to read the rest of In a Glass Darkly, too, even though probably in bits and pieces and not all in a single go.

 

 

Currently Reading:



 

First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

  

 

 

Second Bingo (Update 5 -- Oct. 7, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

   

                                                                           

                                                   

                                                   

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

 

 
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

 

 

 
Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

 

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

 

 

  


Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

 
James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

 

 


Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

 

 


Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Updates 5 & 6:

 
C.S. Forester: The African Queen

 

 

 
Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(David Thorpe audio)

 

 

 


Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose

Change of plan:

C.S. Forester: The African Queen




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum

Change of Plan:

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Carmilla




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-10-09 22:30
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 6
The African Queen - C.S. Forester,Michael Kitchen
The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham,David Thorpe
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Updates 5 & 6:

 
C.S. Forester: The African Queen

C.S. Forester's wartime story about a trip down a mighty African river -- OK, so it's typically billed as a blend of romance and adventure (which is doubtlessly correct), but there are also enough elements of suspense for me to feel justified to claim it as a "Romantic Suspense" read -- heck, there's even a court martial.

Forester's original Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnutt are English, not American as in the movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, of course (and just in case you forget, Michael Kitchen's -- excellent -- reading leaves absolutely no doubt about this fact), which to a certain extent makes them different from the characters in the well-known movie adaptation, insofar as socialization impinges on behavior: both Rose and Charlie are class-conscious products of Edwardian Britain, and they have thus even more unwritten hurdles to overcome than the movie adaptation's characters.  Yet, they rally admirably, and their exchanges are great fun to follow along. -- The book doesn't answer my one big personal eyebrow-raiser any more satisfactorily than does the movie (namely, how Rose manages to not only learn to navigate at all, but to navigate skillfully enough to successfully steer the African Queen through a series of vicious rapids in a matter of days since she first grasped the meaning of terms such as "starboard" and the basic functioning of the boat's steering mechanism), but I suppose realism is a priority only up to a certain point in an adventure story, and by and large the fun and excitement in the narrative maintains the upper hand, and I am glad to have finally listened to a book that's on my TBR for way too long.

 

 

 
Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(David Thorpe audio)

 

Oh, good grief, can you say repetitive, redundant and stuffed with filler?  There is a story in there somewhere in this book, but by the time of the main characters' third (re)capture at the hands of the bad guys and subsequent failed escape attempt I'd essentially forgotten -- and stopped to care -- what the book's actual murder mystery was supposed to be concerned with.  If the whole kidnapping thing was in service of misdirection, then Ms. Allingham managed to direct me clean out of the book ... or she would have, if it hadn't been for David Thorpe, whose narration makes the most of the novel's characters and is the only reason this audiobook ever even got beyond the 2 star mark on my radar.  Even aside from the obvious filler and repetitiveness, the story is flat-out ridiculous (even more so than that of Look to the Lady, and that is decidedly not one of my favorite Campion books, either) -- the Golden Age mystery reading public must have been one forgiving sort of readership if Ms. Allingham was able to build a career as a mystery writer on the basis of this particular book.  If I hadn't already read other books from the series and thus didn't know that the quality of the plots actually did improve later on, this first book certainly would not have been an incentive for me to continue with the series at all.

 

That said, knowing that Albert Campion wasn't the star of the book I was surprised to see him being given more stage time than I had expected, and next to Mr. Thorpe's narration he was one of this book's saving graces for me; even though he is decidedly more of a cipher than in the later books, and even though the one voice I didn't care for in this audio version was Campion's, of all things.

 

Final note: Not even the cover of this audio recording is correct -- the murder weapon is a dagger, not poison or something else being imbibed.  Oh well.  Onwards and upwards from here, I suppose!

 

 


Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

I debated giving this book a 4.5 star rating for the addictive quality of Nesbø's writing alone -- but let's face it, I don't particularly like serial killer novels, I found few characters here with whom I could truly empathize; and between Harry Bosch, John Rebus and Kurt Wallander I've also reached a certain saturation level when it comes to policeman protagonists with a seriously bruised and damaged ego.  So, even if I will likely be reading more books from this series, I probably won't be rushing back to it.  That said, the story was well told; Nesbø certainly has a way with words (and with scenery and atmosphere), and even though I had an inkling early on where things would end up -- based both on the clues given at the very beginning as much as based on the inner dynamics of virtually every serial killer story

(namely, the personal duel between the killer and the policeman in pursuit of him, and the killer's desire to hit the policeman where it will hurt him most)

(spoiler show)

-- the book held my attention until the very end, and I could certainly have picked a much inferior book for this particular Halloween square.

 

May thanks to Tigus for the recommendation -- as I said, Nesbø is an author I'll likely want to return to at a given time, even if not in the very immediate future.

 

 

Currently Reading:

 

 

First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

  

 

 

Second Bingo (Update 5 -- Oct. 7, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

   

                                                                           

                                                   

                                                   

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

 

 
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

 

 

 
Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

 

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

 

 

  


Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

 
James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

 

 


Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

 

 


Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose

Change of plan:

C.S. Forester: The African Queen




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

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text 2017-10-07 14:15
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 5 -- BINGO No. 2!

Third (= middle) row.

 

 

The "bingo" squares and books read:

 

   

                                                                           

                                                   

                                                   

 

Plus a bingo-"ready" completed column (second from right), another bingo in the wings as soon as "Classic Horror" is called, and several more completed rows and columns.

 

Considering that I've approached this bingo chiefly in "mood reader" mode, the calls continue to be extraordinarily lucky for me.

 

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 Reviews for the books I've read most recently will follow separately!

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review 2017-10-01 23:45
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 4
Grandmother Spider - James D. Doss
Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) - Terry Pratchett
Metamorphosen - Ovid
Metamorphoses - Ovid,David Horovitch,Ian Johnston
The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics) - Apollodorus,Robin Hard
Plutarch’s Lives: Life of Theseus - Plutarch,John Dryden
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                    Read = Called

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

 
James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

I "rediscovered" James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series during last year's bingo -- in fact, I had been sufficiently impressed with what I'd read about the books when I first found out about them years ago to buy several of them at a time, only to let them get buried, however, under a pile of other purchases in the interim.  Thank God, therefore, for last year's "Full Moon" square, which made me undust White Shell Woman, the serie's no.7 book ... whose events follow closely on the heels of Grandmother Spider, the book I chose for this year's "Diverse Voices" square!

 

Charlie Moon, the series's protagonist, is Acting Chief of the Ute Tribal Police; he usually teams up in his investigations with his friend Scott Parris, the Police Chief of Granite Creek, CO (who used to be the protagonist of the series's first book -- though Charlie took over from him soon enough).

 

Doss seemed to have a penchant for doings during dark and stormy nights; however, there is nothing Bulwer-Lytton'ish about his settings: You could easily be scared sh*tless by the atmosphere that he creates, if it weren't for the laugh-out-loud crap shots that he takes at himself and his characters just when things are on the point of getting serously spooky.  As such, at the beginning of Grandmother Spider, Charlie Moon's aunt Daisy -- a Ute shaman and tribal elder -- at nightfall tells her nine year old ward Sarah the legend of Grandmother Spider, a giant arachnid demon / deity / monster / spirit believed to live below Navajo Lake, to come out and avenge the death of any spiders killed by humans (such as, you guessed it, Sarah has just done) and to store any human bodies she isn't ready to eat just yet high up in a convenient tree.  (Shelob and her kin from The Hobbit, anyone?)  Only minutes later, they are confronted by a huge, round thing with eight tentacle-like legs and flashing lights that may or may not be eyes, flying past Daisy's trailer at the mouth of Canyon del Espíritu in Southern Colorado ... which does an instant vanishing act after having absorbed two rounds of bird shot that Daisy has emptied into it on the suspicion that it just might be a UFO carrying space aliens.  Minutes earlier, the same mysterious apparition has already been witnessed, in not-quite-biblical fashion, by a lone sheperd watching his flock at night on a nearby mountain ridge (failing any other logical explanation, he blames the apparition on the Government in D.C., once more out to annoy its loyal citizens out West), and somehow, the whole thing also seems to have something to do with the unlikely drinking-and-fishing -- mostly drinking -- fellowship spontaneously formed on the shores of Lake Navajo by a Ute tribesman and a New Mexico scientist passing through on his way to Albuquerque, who maybe would have done better heeding the warning in the rearview mirror of the Ute's truck: "Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."  (One of them will, shortly thereafter, be discovered in a state of severe hypothermia up a tree quite a distance away, which of course does nothing for dispelling the supernatural overtones of these events.)

 

The solution to it all is, I am happy to report, anything but supernatural; however, high marks to Mr. Doss for sheer wackiness and invention alone.  What I like most about his books, though -- aside from his dry and spot-on sense of humor -- is the way in which the Native American spiritual world and beliefs and the secular world of the late 20th century blend together in a truly engaging storyline, with equal respect being paid to both; and on that count, Grandmother Spider delivers every bit as successfully as White Shell Woman.  What a pity Mr. Doss passed away in 2012 and there will be no new instalments to the series ... though I am looking forward to the 15 volumes I have yet to discover!

 

 


Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

I'm not a big fan of werewolf or shifter literature -- but I'll gladly use any excuse out there to read another book from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, so here we go!

 

Men at Arms is part of the Night Watch subseries; it's the first book in which the Watch's werewolf recruit Angua makes her appearance, and to lasting effect ... though the star of this particular instalment, truth be told, is a flea-ridden canine mongrel about a third (or a forth) Angua's size named Gaspode who's acquired the gift of speech (and trust Pratchett not to go all soppy and anthropomorphic on this one).  After a bit of a meandering beginning, the story settles on the mysterious disappearance of a unique, lethal invention by local polymath Leonardo da Quirm, consisting of a barrel connected to a cylinder holding six cartridges filled with a "No.1 Powder" that are discharged pyrotechnically, and known as "the gonne".  Very much to the Guild of Assassins' annoyance, Sam Vimes and his Watch (which in addition to Angua has also acquired a dwarf and a troll recruit) discover

(1) the "gonne"'s existance, which had heretofore been a closely-guarded secret, (2) the fact that it had been entrusted to the Guild of Assassins for safekeeping, (3) the fact that it seems to have been stolen, and (4) the fact that it seems to be associated with several suspicious deaths occurring in quick succession.

(spoiler show)

 

Furthermore, we learn that Sam Vimes is getting married, and how it comes about that

(despite all appearances to the contrary) he remains with the Watch after all and the subseries doesn't come to a grinding halt with this particular book.

(spoiler show)

 

Although I loved Angua's and Gaspode's exchanges in particular, for some reason this book didn't grab me quite as much as some of the others in the series -- though don't get me wrong, this is measured only by Pratchett's very particular standards.  I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly spoiled at this point, and I'll gladly take any book by Pratchett over many another writer's best efforts.

 

 


Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

For the "Monsters" square, I decided to revisit Ovid's Metamorphoses -- I had initially only been planning on the "Perseus and Medusa" and "Theseus and the Minotauros" episodes, but David Horovitch's fabulous reading drew me right back in and I decided to -- with apologies to Odysseus and his companions at Circe's court -- go the whole hog after all. If you only know Mr. Horovitch as the Inspector Slack of the BBC's 1980s adaptations of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries, do yourself a favor and run, don't walk to get an audiobook narrated by him.  I recently listened to his reading of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, and his narration alone lifts the gut-punch quality of that novel to a wholly different visceral level in a way I would never have believed it to be possible, short of Franco Zeffirelli's movie adaptation, that is.  I get goosebumps merely thinking about that audio recording.

The Metamorphoses are Roman poet Ovid's tour de force parcours through a millennium's worth of Greek and Roman mythology, focusing on the stories that (as the title says) involve some sort of transformation of one being into another -- nymphs into plants and animals, humans into all sorts of creatures (animal, vegetable, mineral, you name it) ... and of course, gods into whatever they please to be as well.  The book begins with the Greek creation myth (the three "prehistoric" ages -- golden, silver, and iron --, the creation of humanity from "the bones of mother Earth," i.e., rocks, by Deucalion and Pyrrha after the end of the Deluge, and the beginning of a new age), and it successively moves forward until it reaches the Trojan War, the travels of Aeneas, the mythical origins of Rome and, finally, the ages of Caesar and Augustus (i.e., Ovid's own lifetime).  The narration is somewhat difficult to follow at times, as it is not strictly linear and contains numerous "stories within a story"; yet, for its sheer narrative and topical audacity this is justifiedly one of world literature's great classics.

 

Yet, for almost all of their topical content, the Metamorphoses are only one of several sources; many of the myths recounted by Ovid are also to be found in other collections, such as those by Hesiod, Homer (of course), Vergil's Aeneid (ditto), even historians such as Plutarch and Livy -- as mythology and history formed a seamless blend in Antiquity -- and, especially, also the Library of Greek Mythology traditionally attributed to Apollodorus of Alexandria.

 

So for comparison's sake, I also consulted some of these sources; namely, Apollodorus's Library -- which contains among the most detailed renditions extant of both the Perseus and the Theseus myth -- as well as Plutarch's Life of Theseus, which collectively relies on all Greek sources available to Plutarch (some of which are now considered lost) and gives an overview of the, in part, substantially different versions of the Theseus saga.

 

(Just in case, for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology:

 

Medusa was a Gorgon, one of three erstwhile very beautiful sisters bewitched so as to have snakes for hair; whoever looked directly at Medusa's face was instantly turned to stone. Perseus was able to kill her after the goddess Athena (Minerva to the Romans) had given him a shield polished to mirror clarity; he cut off Medusa's head while she was sleeping and later used it to rescue a princess (Andromeda) from a sea dragon -- as a result of which her grateful parents gave him Andromeda's hand in marriage -- and to defeat his own enemies, including Andromeda's former suitor.

 

The Minotauros was half human and half bull; he was the offspring of an adulterous relationship of the wife of the king of Crete (Minos) and the sacred bull of Zeus (to the Romans; Jove / Jupiter). (Minotauros means "Minos's bull"). As a result of a war between Crete and Athens that Crete (Minos) had won, Minos was entitled to demand tribute from Athens, and his demand was a yearly tribute of seven Athenean young men and seven Athenean virgins.  Theseus, the son of Athen's king, sailed to Crete as one of the seven young men to be delivered on the third such voyage, and with the help of Minos's daughter Ariadne (who had fallen in love with him and had given him a thread so as to not lose his way), he was able to make his way into the labyrinth where the Minotauros was kept and kill the monster, thus freeing Athens from its obligation.

 

 


The Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete:

Even in Antiquity, not everybody believed the version that Minos had a labyrinth built in which to hide the Minotauros, and indeed, the royal palace itself consists of such a myriad of rooms and hallways that it must have been very easy to get lost there: very likely it was reports of the palace itself that were embellished and expanded on in the process of repetition, until the legend of the labyrinth was born. (Photos: mine.)

 

Agios Nikolaos, Crete: Statue of Europa and the Bull

Crete is the location of a number of important Greek myths; among others, that of the abduction of Europa by Zeus / Jupiter, who is believed to have approached her in the guise of a bull.  This story, too, is (of course) recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Photo: mine.)

 

 

Next Reads:

 

 

 

First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:

  

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

 

 
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

 

 

 
Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

 

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

 

 

  


Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)

 


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-24 22:30
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 3, Part 2 -- Catching up on Reviews
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
Wuthering Heights (abridged) - Emily Brontë
An Amateur Corpse - Simon Brett
House of Shadows - Bernard Knight,The Medieval Murderers,Susanna Gregory,Michael Jecks
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Bernadette Dunne
Murder Most Foul...: The Collection - Derek Jacobi,Brian Cox,Edward Hardwicke,Jack Shepherd,Patrick Malahide,Various Authors
The Dupin Stories - Edgar Allan Poe,Kerry Shale
Knockdown - Tim Pigott-Smith,Dick Francis
Endless Night: A BBC Full-Cast Radio Drama - Lizzie Watts,Jonathan Forbes,Agatha Christie
Surfeit of Lampreys: WITH Death and the Dancing Footman AND The Colour Scheme (The Ngaio Marsh Collection) - Ngaio Marsh

 

The "bingo" squares and books read:

 

  

 

 

My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.


Black Kitty:
Read but not called


Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                  Read = Called

 

 

 

Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)

 

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

 
Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

The standout read among this batch of bingo books; a tour de force parcours through 50 years of British crime writing (from 1900 to 1950), with sidelights on authors and books published in the U.S., continental Europe, Argentina and Japan.  Martin Edwards is concurrently President of the Crime Writers' Association and the Detection Club, but more importantly for present purposes, he was the Detection Club's first archivist: In my first reading status update I compared this book to what it would sound like if you get a walking encyclopedia talking, and to the print equivalent of having your favorite actor reading the phone book, but what could easily have been bone-dry in another author's hands makes for a more than compelling read in Edwards's.

 

Though the "100 books" (in effect, 102) chosen to exemplify the various stages and aspects of British crime writing as it emerged in the first half of the 20th century are the primary narrative vehicle, each section of the book has a short introductory chapter, and it's these in particular that make your head spin, because they're jam-packed with references to all manner of crime fiction, from the unduly forgotten to the justly remembered -- on average, no less than 20 books per chapter (and in some chapters, over 40). In fact, it is this "cramming" that ultimately made the book a tiny fraction less than a 5-star read for me: I'd either have appreciated more space to explore some of these other books at greater leisure, too, or, as this would probably have blown the book up by the hundredfold, maybe in the end less would occasionally have been more after all.

 

That all being said, I'm doubtlessly going to refer back to Edwards's book frequently from here on out when exploring the countless new authors, Great Detectives and series I've been introduced to, and I'm also OCD enough to have started creating reading lists here on BookLikes for all the books mentioned by Edwards (currently up to and including Chapter 15):

 

The "100 Books" Presented

Other Books Mentioned:

Part 1: Chapters 1 - 5

Part 2: Chapters 6 & 7

Part 3: Chapters 8 - 10

Part 4: Chapters 11 - 15

 

Reading status updates:

98 of 357 pages

158 of 357 pages

219 of 357 pages

357 of 357 pages

 

 


Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)

It's with no small amount of surprise that I find myself registering a 4 1/2 star rating and a "favorite" check for this audio recording of Emily Brontë's one and only novel. 

 

Though I didn't have any doubts that the mother and son team of Prunella Scales and Samuel West would pull off a stellar performance (which they of course did), Wuthering Heights has so far, in my perception, always veered dangerously close to the over-the-top melodramatic, with more than an occasional foray into the very heart of that territory, which is not my line of country at all.  Yet, actually hearing the bulk of the story being told by Prunella Scales in the voice of a down-to-earth Yorkshire woman -- Nelly Dean -- opened up a whole new perspective for me, and even the high drama of "I am Heathcliff", "he's more myself than I am" and "be with me always -- take any form -- drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! ... I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!" for the first time came across as totally believable to me -- because it wasn't told in the voice of the novel's equally tempestuous author (if contemporaneous characterizations are to be believed), but rather, in the voice of a sympathetic friend and surrogate mother, who genuinely cares for the speakers and worries about them but is apt to take a step back from their outbursts and relates those outbursts more in sorrow than in anguish.

 

The novel's format doesn't place Mr. Lockwood's (here: Samuel West's) framework narration on nearly the same footing as that of Nelly Dean, so the bulk of the narration is Prunella Scales's, but I particularly also enjoyed the "handover" moments from the outer framework to Nelly Dean's story.  They are brief enough moments of dialogue, but in this recording they "clicked" seamlessly, like perfectly matching links of a well-made chain.

 

So, while of all the Brontës' novels, Charlotte's Jane Eyre (which I also revisited this summer on audio) will probably always remain my favorite, I enjoyed this particular return to Wuthering Heights much more than I anticipated and will probably revisit it more often and with greater enjoyment than I initially thought.

 

 


Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse

An actor and BBC broadcast journalist in addition to being a writer, Simon Brett is one of Martin Edwards's predecessors as President of the Detection Club.  In the early 1970s he began writing a series of mysteries centering on an actor named Charles Paris; this is the fourth of these books.  Paris is invited to do a "critics circle" live discussion review of an amateur theatre production of Chekhov's Seagull, but before he even gets to give his talk, the company's new leading lady (the only professional actor in their midst) is found strangled.

 

Given that the edition of this mystery which I own is part of a four-book omnibus including the first four installments of the series that I acquired used and dirt-cheap, I may well give this series another shot at a later time; however, this particular novel (written in 1975) hasn't aged very well and was a rather uncomfortable reminder of all the reasons why I'm really not sorry to have left the 1970s far, far behind (the part that I consciously lived through, in any event) ... I don't think the occasional whiff of staleness emanating from the pages of the book was due to its external condition alone.  I was also less than enchanted with Mr. Paris's midlife crisis woes and attitude towards women and commitment, and his insufferably arrogant stance vis-à-vis amateur theatricals, however ill-informed or pretentious they may be in turn.

 

That being said, the writing itself is OK, the murderer's alibi was cleverly plotted, Paris's reasons for getting involved with the investigation in the first place (worry about the chief suspect under arrest, the victim's husband, who is a friend of his, and guilt over having gone along with said friend's drowning his woes in booze instead of trying to provide some more substantial support) came across as just about credible enough, and some of Paris's deductions were nicely drawn; even though the final clue was -- incredibly -- as far-fetched as it was, at the same time, telegraphed narratively from ten miles away, and the ultimate path to the solution was (literally) more a case of stumbling over it than brain work à la Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.  So, as I said, I may well give the series another shot at a later point in time.  It probably won't be anytime very soon, though.

 

 

The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows

The Medieval Murderers round robin series is, literally, one of those products of an idle evening at the pub -- I guess that's what you'll get when you have five authors of medieval whodunits talking shop over a pint or two (or three ...) of ale.  Permanent members of the group, which itself goes by the name "Medieval Murderers", too, are Michael Jecks (another past President of the Detection Club), Bernard Knight, Philip Gooden, Ian Morson and Susanna Gregory; with Karen Maitland and C.J. Sansom having joined for individual installments of the series.

 

All but one Medieval Murderers books are moulded on essentially the same template, in that they follow one particular (allegedly) "doomed" or "cursed" object from the (typically: early) Middle Ages to the present day in several separate but interlinked episodes, written by the group's individual members and typically featuring their "own" individual series protagonists; the sole exception being, so far, The Deadliest Sin, which is modeled on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales -- themselves also a round robin of sorts, modeled in turn on Boccaccio's Decameron.

 

In House of Shadows, the series's third installment, the "object" whose journey the writers and their protagonists follow is Bermondsey Abbey, a real life monastery founded in the 11th century by Cluniac monks near the banks of the River Thames, opposite the Tower.  The abbey, rich and influential in the Middle Ages, was dissolved under Henry VIII and subequently repeatedly built over; it seems to have been the abbey ruins' excavation in the early 2000s -- in the course of the construction of a huge shopping and office complex now forming part of the newly- and substantially-gentrified Bermondsey and Southwark shoreline -- that apparently inspired the premise and opening chapter(s) of House of Shadows.  The authors do go to some lenghts to assure the reader, however, that the events placing a curse on the abbey at the beginning of this book are fictitious (as are the plotlines of the subsequent chapters), and though not inconceivable in the so-called "Dark Ages", it would indeed be shocking for a medieval house of God to have been carrying such a terrible legacy.

 

While the individual chapters' storylines are thus fictitious, again as in many Medieval Murderers books, real, documented historic persons are used in the stories alongside fictitious characters, and the research into details of social and geographical history is solid.  Also as with virtually all round robin efforts (not just by this particular group), the writerly approach varies both in style and in quality, and this installment of the Medieval Murderers series does not necessarily show all of the participants at the top of their game.  Still, it's enjoyable enough, some of the chapters really are a delight to read, and once more as is so frequently the case, the sum total is decidedly more than its constituent parts.

 

 
Sketches of medieval Bermondsey Abbey
(Sources: Wikipedia (top) and South London Guide (bottom))

 


Bermondsey Abbey ground plan (source: British Library)

 


Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (attr. -- formerly attr. John Hofnagel): A Fête at Bermondsey (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 


Bermondsey Abbey excavations and memorial plaque
(sources: Wikipedia (left) and London Remembers (right))

 

The sacred taper's lights are gone,
Grey moss has clad the altar-stone,
The holy image is o'erthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll:
The long-ribb'd aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrine to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk;
God's blessing on his soul!"
Sir Walter Scott: Bermondsey

 

Bermondsey Abbey history and excavation (YouTube)

  
Bermondsey shoreline today (photo mine)

 

 

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)

Terrifying women all around with this one -- Shirley Jackson delivers every single time when it comes to sheer psychology-based horror (and so, for that matter, do her characters).  You're barely ten minutes into the story, and you're already supremely uneasy -- and boy, does this ever have a slow, peeling-away-layer-by-layer burn ending in a gigantic dynamite fuse.  There's no way to write about this book without instantly giving away spoilers, so I ... just won't, even though most people here are probably already familiar with the story anyway.  Truly masterful storytelling, in any event; truly unsettling social commentary and, in the audio version I own, also truly masterfully rendered by Bernadette Dunne.  I started listening to this one night when I really should have gone to bed much earlier -- and ended up finishing the complete audio in a single sitting; there was no way I could have stopped, even though ultimately it was solely due to my being crash-and-knocked-out tired from entirely unrelated RL excertions that I was able to sleep afterwards at all.

 

 

And finally:

  

... an audiobook extravaganza, though in the case of the Edgar Allan Poe, Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie books (see below), I do own paper copies of the respective novels, too, and had read them before; this was strictly in the spirit of revisiting them in a different medium.  (Hah.  So much for "I'm going to use this square to do something about those books on my mystery TBR that I can't fit into any other bingo square, because clearly something needs to be done about reducing that stack" ...)

 

To start off -- well, let's be honest, how could I possibly not use an audio collection entitled Murder Most Foul for this particular square?!

 

This is a collection of eight short stories by different authors, read with great aplomb by five well-known British actors.  It starts of with Bluebeard's Bath by Margery Allingham -- read by Patrick Malahide --, a "non-Campion" twist on the black widow trope (the twist being, as the title implies, that here it's a black widower), which derives most of its suspense from the fact that it is told from the murderer's perspective. -- 4 1/2 stars for this story individually; it's one of the strongest of this lot.

 

Next is Wilkie Collins's Who Killed Zebedee? (read by Derek Jacobi), which concerns the death of a lodger in an apartment house, and a would-be accidental amateur sleuth's attempt to clear the woman with whom he is infatuated from the suspicion of murder. (3 stars, individually -- Collins himself could do better, and the story doesn't really measure up to the rest of this collection, either.)

 

The third story is An Alpine Divorce by Robert Barr (read by Brian Cox), where a married couple that has come to secretly hate each other's guts vacations in the Alps ... with starkly differing notions as to how those vacations are supposed to end, and with a deliciously-executed evil final twist. -- Easily 4 stars.

 

Barr's story is followed by Edward Hardwicke's reading of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Speckled Band: Although overall I prefer the Derek Jacobi and Stephen Fry readings of the Holmes canon, it's always a true pleasure, too, to have a story narrated by the actor who was Watson to Jeremy Brett's Holmes for the better part of my personal "Sherlock Holmes to end all Sherlock Holmes" series, and certainly nobody nails Holmes's occasionally strident tone as well as the man who was at the receiving end of that very tone for a considerable amount of time (even though in real life Brett and Hardwicke got along like a house on fire, and when Brett's illness reared its ugly head, Hardwicke was the first to be protective of him). -- I already own several collections of Sherlock Holmes stories read by Hardwicke, and this reading nicely complements those collections. (5 stars -- this is a stand-out even in Conan Doyle's amazing body of work.)

 

The next story is probably my favorite of the lot -- next to the Holmes entry, obviously, and with Allingham's offering not far behind: P.C. Wren's The Perfect Crime (read, again, by Brian Cox), which is based on the explicit premise that yes, "there is in fact such a thing as the perfect crime: I know, because I have committed one."  As in Allingham's story, the chief element of suspense is derived from the fact that the story is told strictly from the murderer's perspective, and again similar to Allingham's story, the plot is constructed so as to slowly and deliciously peel away layer by layer, with a slow burn that ends in a supremely devious final twist. -- 5 solid stars as well.

 

The final three stories (like Wilkie Collins's) are made of weaker stuff than the three highlighted above in particular:

 

Sapper's Thirteen Lead Soldiers (again read by Edward Hardwicke) is a story from the "Bulldog Drummond" canon whose crucial twist turns, as the title implies, on a collection of toy soldiers that one participant of a secret meeting of high-ranking international diplomats (to which Drummond has been invited at Scotland Yard's suggestion in an effort to highten security) has made for and gifted to the hosting nobleman's son.  This is both a "whodunit" and a "howdunit" -- where Drummond manages to foil the murderer's intentions to rather lasting effect -- and though I didn't care enough to try and unravel every last detail of the solution in advance, both "whodunit" and the basic outline of "howdunit" are fairly easy to work out. (3 1/2 stars, individually.)

 

Algernon Blackwood's First Hate (read by Derek Jacobi) is based on the contention that, just as there is such a thing as love at first sight, there is also such a thing as purely instinctive "hate at first sight" -- quod erat demonstrandum by way of an "around the fireplace" narration of just such an encounter, with a competition for the hand of a woman thrown in as a sideline (or as a more plausible motive?  I couldn't make up my mind which was which, and ultimately didn't care), and with an ending high up in the Canadian Rockies -- where the story moves from its London beginnings -- that for all practical purposes amounts to cold-blooded murder dressed up as self-defense ... unless you buy into the central premise, which I manifestly don't.  (Jacobi doesn't seem to, either; this is definitely not one of his most convincing narrations, and coming from someone who'd willingly listen to him reciting the phone book, that should tell you something in and of itself.) -- 2 1/2 stars, because I'm feeling generous and because Blackwood still knows how to tell a story, even if it's a supremely implausible one.  Also, um, Derek Jacobi.

 

Finally, Robert Louis Stevenson's Markheim (read by Jack Shepherd) is highly atmospheric and skillfully constructed until about its halfway point (or shortly thereafter): It starts with a customer's (the eponymous Markheim's) visit to a pawnbroker's store on Christmas Eve and the exchange between the customer and the pawnbroker, which after a short while ends in murder.  There's a nice, slow build-up to the murder itself (which build-up even includes an adroitly-executed slight of hand), and a further slow burn while the murderer is rifling the shop and trying to cover his tracks.  However, then we literally get a deus ex machina appearance that radically changes the state of play, and unfortunately that was the point where Stevenson lost me. -- 3 1/2 stars, chiefly for the story's first part; a writer of Stevenson's caliber shouldn't have needed (or even explicitly sought) any deus ex machina, and certainly not this one; not even in a story set on Christmas Eve.

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter
(Kerry Shale audio)

 

I debated using this for either the "Locked Room" or the "Classic Horror" bingo square, but there was compelling competition for both of those, and anyway, I already knew the stories and chiefly bought this CD for Kerry Shale's narration: Ever since I first listenend to his audio versions of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance cycle, I've been on the lookout for further recordings featuring him.

 

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with having created the first professional detective in C. Auguste Dupin -- a fact that, unsurprisingly, doesn't go down particularly well with Sherlock Holmes when mentioned to him by Dr. Watson -- and in fact, Dupin and Holmes share a number of traits and abilities, including their disdain (benevolent or not) for the professional police, their reliance on "trifles" (apparently unimportant details), and their rather astonishing ability to deduct another person's silent thoughts by "reasoning backwards" and then thoroughly startle the other person by responding to those very thoughts explicitly.  But while Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories rely on Holmes's fully-rounded character, as well as on action and plot development, as much as on Holmes's deductive methods, and while they invite the reader along on the investigation, Poe's "stories of ratiocination" -- once Dupin has been (or considers himself) called on  to help solve the case -- are almost exclusively a rendition of Dupin's own thought processes and reasoning.  This, to me, makes them somewhat more monotonous and consequently somewhat less easy to follow (even with a splendid narrator like Kerry Shale).

 

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the earliest locked room mysteries in the history of crime fiction, and together with the even earlier Mademoiselle Scuderi by E.T.A. Hoffmann (which however is more "impossible crime" story than locked room mystery in the strict sense), and with Gaston Leroux's Mystery of the Yellow Room, it pretty much laid down the template for this particular mystery subgenre.  Its solution is as, um, colorful as some of Dupin's conclusions, however, and it requires a healthy portion of suspension of disbelief -- here, too, both Conan Doyle and Leroux did better, and so did E.T.A. Hoffmann.

 

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt was Poe's response to a widely-publicized real life murder case in New York: Poe transposed the events to Paris and, through the voice of his fictional detective, set forth what he believed to be the solution of the case; disecting, in the process, the various competing theories advanced by the newspapers writing about the murder -- the only material that Poe himself had to go on.  (Despite its notoriety and the public hunt for the killer, the real life case of the murder of Mary Rogers still remains unsolved.)

 

The Purloined Letter is easily my favorite among the three Dupin stories: Like his famous London colleague frequently half a century later, our Paris detective is called on by a high government official (the Prefect of Police) with a request to assist in recovering a document which, in the wrong hands, might wreak all sorts of political havoc.  The solution to the case relies on both a rather brazen attitude by the culprit, which Dupin divines, and on an oversight that, I very much hope and trust, should not happen to any well-organized modern police force.  Dupin's deductive process is sound and fun to watch, however, and we're also invited in on a bit more of the chase than in the other stories.

 

 

Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

I said not so long ago that (barring Christie's overwhelmingly abysmal final books) Enless Night isn't exactly my favorite book by her and that I probably wouldn't revisit it anytime soon -- then this CD crossed my path for a song during a recent book store browse, and I figured it had to be karma, so here we are after all.

 

I'm still not exactly enchanted with the story (let alone its narrator and protagonist), though, and if there is one thing that this audio adaptation makes clear it is that this is a story that does not easily lend itself to the transformation to another medium -- too subtle, nuanced and slow is the burn up to the final climax.  That said, the adaptation's cast handles the material very well, and the script avoids the pitfalls that some of the novel's incidental elements would undoubtedly create in less expert hands.  So, if you just want to know what happens in this novel, this is a decent enough introduction -- just don't expect the depth of the written original.

 

 

Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)

I love horses and used to be an enthusiastic horseback rider throughout my entire school years, and I also love mysteries, so Dick Francis's books were a natural go-to choice for me once upon a time.  Having revisited a Dick Francis novel after many years, though, I find that this, too, hasn't weathered the passage of time particularly well, even though it's still a pleasure to go horse trading with Mr. Francis and have him share his experience of life on and off the racetrack -- and Mr. Pigott-Smith is another audio narrator who has once more solidified his hold on my attention.

 

Knockdown is the story of Jonah Dereham, an ex-steeplechase jockey turned bloodstock agent who gets into trouble when he takes a stance against a de-facto syndicate exploiting a gap in the rules of trading for purposes of profiteering at their clients' (the horse owners' and breeders') epxense.  The book doesn't start out as a murder mystery -- there's plenty of assault and battery, arson, and other assorted violent behaviour (as well as, obviously, greed, extortion and [near-]fraudulent machinations), but the murders -- several of them in quick succession -- only happen once the profiteering racket's chief organizer is beginning to feel the hounds closing in on him, with Jonah at their forefront.

 

 


 

 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)

Finally, my audio extravaganza consisted of a five-volume foray into Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, next to Agatha Christie's, Dorothy Sayers's, Margery Allingham's and Patricia Wentworth's one of the major Great Detective series of the Golden Age; taken together, these five writers are unquestionably the era's "Queens of Crime."  (I own print versions of all of Marsh's novels, too, and pulled those in addition to the audio recordings.)

 

Of the five novels revisited, Death and the Dancing Footman had previously been my favorite novel and it continues to be so; it's a slightly wacky country house locked-room mystery (so would also fit these two squares) where a group of guests with previously-existing antagonisms are invited to a house party ... with predictable effects; and it certainly doesn't help that the house is snowed in and thus locked off from its surroundings.

 

Death and the Dancing Footman is an intra-series sequel of sorts to Overture to Death, which is set in the village closest to the manor where Death and the Dancing Footman is set in turn, with the vicar from Overture to Death briefly making a reappearance as Alleyn's and his wife's host in Death and the Dancing Footman.

 

Marsh's writing particularly shines where it focuses on characterization, and there are two settings -- in addition to country house mysteries -- ideally suited for this: village settings and the theatre. Overture to Death is a nice example of the former, Opening Night (published as Night at the Vulcan in the U.S.) of the latter. In Overture to Death, village jealousies and intrigues culminate in a rather cleverly-constructed "murder by piano" (with a built-in service revolver) on the day of the opening of the local amateur theatricals' latest production. -- Opening Night is set in London's West End, at the (fictitious) Vulcan Theatre (which had already been the setting of Marsh's second Alleyn novel, Enter a Murderer); and it concerns the "death by greasepaint" of an actor who has made one enemy to many in a cast of bickering performers, also inclduing an idiosyncratic and irrascible playwright.  The actor manager of the Vulcan is rather obviously modeled on Laurence Olivier -- and he is not the only leading actor appearing in Marsh's novels with whom that is the case.  As Marsh herself was, first and foremost, a highly-reputed theatrical director who had built an especially solid reputation for her productions of the plays of William Shakespeare, this particular milieu was second nature to her, and consequently her portrayals of actors and the world of the theatre are a special delight to read -- and a character's aptitude at quoting Shakespeare is a near-infallible indication that he is likely one of the "good guys."  (Obviously, Alleyn himself speaks Shakespeare fluently.)

 

Opening Night is, again (and very losely speaking), an intra-series sequel of sorts to Surfeit of Lampreys (in the U.S., published as Death of a Peer), where the death of the wealthy Lamprey family patriarch brings Alleyn into an investigative encounter with the dead peer's quirky, chronically impoverished family -- one of whose sons, as a result of the encounter, eventually seeks employment with the Metropolitan Police and returns as P.C. Lamprey in the later novel.

 

Artists in Crime, finally, is the novel where Alleyn meets his wife-to-be, the feisty, self-assured painter Agatha Troy.  Again, as Marsh (in addition to being a director and writer) was also a trained painter she could speak from experience when writing about Troy, who would become one of the series's greatest assets and a great complement to "the nice detective" Roderick Alleyn.

 

Of the audio versions I listened to, I preferred those read by Anton Lesser to the one by Benedict Cumberbatch: While Lesser clearly knew and appreciated the material, Cumberbatch did bring his considerable talent to bear, but it was rather obviously "just a job" to him and he knew nothing about the series.  This showed most obviously in his pronunciation of Alleyn's name: Ngaio Marsh had named her inspector for Elizabethan actor Edward "Ned" Alleyn, the star of the Lord Admiral's Men (the chief competitors of William Shakespeare's King's Men), whose name was pronounced ALLen -- and Marsh was adamant that this was how her inspector's name was to be pronounced as well.  Anton Lesser knew and respected that -- Cumberbatch didn't, and to a fan of the series, it was seriously jarring to hear him saying All-EYN over and over again, particularly given the frequency with which the name appears.

 

 

Next Reads:

 

 

and

 


Angua!!

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:



Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

 

 



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

 

 

 

Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

 

 



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)

 

 

Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:



 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

 

 


Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh

 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

 

 


Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window

 

 

 

 

The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings

Alternatively:

* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun




Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier




Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose




Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance

Alternatively:

* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes




Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries

Alternatively:

Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer




Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum




One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes




Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker




One of two "Joker" Squares:

 

To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!




Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)




Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones




Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms




Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.

 

Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.




Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

Alternatively:

* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man




Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)

Alternatively:

* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills




Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road

Alternatively:

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours




Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More




Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)

Alternatively:

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart




Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade

Alternatively:

* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village




Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea

Alternatively:

* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries




Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)

Alternatively:

* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe




Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses

Alternatively:

* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau




Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

Alternatively:

* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear




Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones

Alternatively:

* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte




Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.

 

 

 

 

 

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