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Search tags: all-the-vintage-ladies
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review 2017-10-15 04:23
Dream of Orchids by Phyllis Whitney
Dream of Orchids - Phyllis A. Whitney

Phyllis Whitney was 82 years old when she wrote this book. Seriously, guys - she was my mother-in-law's age (and I'm 51) and she would go on to write another 10 freaking books after she was 82. I'm giving it a third star just for that reason.

As far as the book itself, it certainly wasn't a bad book, although it also wasn't a great book. It's set in Key West, and at times Whitney got a little too travelogue in her descriptions. She usually does a better job integrating the setting details into the story itself. But, did I mention that she was 82 years old when she wrote this book? I'm still dealing with that fact.

This book definitely follows the Whitney formula: appealing young woman goes to a place where she is on her own, and some sort of dangerous situation develops. There is always romance, and sometimes the object of desire is a decent sort and sometimes he's the villain. There's always at least one questionable death that is usually murder, and the villain - who can be either male or female - often has a tenuous grip on reality. Often times, some historical crime is exposed.

In Dream of Orchids, Laurel is a young bookseller in New England whose mother has recently passed away, and who was abandoned by her father, Clifton York, a well known author. A young man shows up at her bookstore, asking her to visit it her father in Key West. Once she arrives in Key West, she learns that things are not as she had believed, and that there is something quite sinister going on with her father, her two younger sisters, Iris and Fern, a sunken Spanish galleon and the orchid house where her step-mother, Poppy, bled to death in a bizarre accident. There's also a creepy secretary, her scarred ex-husband, and Iris's much older and far too sketchy fiance, Derek.

This is not Whitney's best work. But goddammit, she was 82 when she wrote it. And that's amazing.

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review 2017-09-22 19:53
The Crime at the Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham

I read this one for Country House Murder, and it is a good example of that particular type of mystery. It would also work for Murder Most Foul and Amateur Sleuth

 

The Crime at the Black Dudley is designated as the first of the Albert Campion mysteries, but as others have noted, his appearance is pretty minimal. The main character is Dr. George Abbershaw, who seems to be at Black Dudley primarily to cement his relationship with the adorable Meggie. 

 

Shades of The Big Four, Abbershaw and his friends seem to have stumbled into some sort of an inexplicable criminal gang conspiracy involving a German man who is referred to as the Hun, who plans to set the place on fire and burn them up with it. The plot is bizarre, convoluted and somewhat incomprehensible. No one seems to be able to figure out why Campion is there or who invited him. 

 

I am going to reserve judgment on Allingham and her detective, since I don't think that this book is a particularly good example of her work. As a country house mystery, it was just all right, no where near as good as The Mysterious Affair at Styles or Peril at End House. As a detective, Campion isn't flattered by comparison to Poirot and his leetle grey cells or Peter Wimsey and the fabulous Bunter. 

 

The next book in the Campion series is Mystery Mile, but I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off digging deeper into the series. Martin Edwards mentioned Traitor's Purse & The Case of the Late Pig in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, and I've heard good things about The Tiger In The Smoke, so I'm thinking of trying one of those the next time I give Campion a try.

 

 

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review 2017-09-19 21:41
Does what it does well
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

This is a book about books. Specifically, this is a book about a specific type of book written during a specific time period. I expect that I will refer to it, and have decided that I really need to buy in a physical book as well as have it on my kindle.

 

Themis-Athena did us all a solid by creating, at this point, two separate lists of the books that Edwards mentions in his book:

 

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (this list is 100 books long)

Books Mentioned - Chapters 1 through 5 (this list presently has 107 books on it)

 

This has been a huge undertaking, and I am so grateful that she has taken the time to do it! Now, to read!

 

 

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review 2017-08-30 15:52
Domino by Phyllis Whitney
Domino - Phyllis A. Whitney

This book had a whisper of familiarity about it. I'm not sure if that is because I've previously read it, or because it shared so many plot points with The Trembling Hills and The Window on the Square. Either way, I absolutely loved this one.

 

Whitney has such a way with setting. I know that I've said this before, but I have to say it again. I have family in Colorado, where this book is set, and so much of this book rang true for me. I really don't know exactly how she does it, but she takes the tiniest details and inserts them into the story in a way that is both effective and familiar. Reading this was like returning to the Estes Park of my childhood. 

 

I'm also reminded by reading these older books that authors hadn't yet stumbled onto the money grab of writing series with narratives that extend across books. It is so refreshing, really, to read a book that is a complete story all on its own, without having to worry that there will be a cliff-hanger at the end, leaving me to drop $11.99 on a new release in a year. I miss the days of the stand-alone.

 

This one is just vintage Whitney, with all of the recurring dreams, mysterious deaths, decrepit and fading mansions, and attempted murders that go along with her contemporary gothics. If I have quibbles, she relies way too much on her heroines meeting an older boy to whom she was emotionally attached as a child and somehow turning emotional resonance that into adult passion. I grow a bit weary of that trope.

 

With Halloween bingo approaching, my Phyllis Whitney binge is likely over for a time. And, they do all have a sameness to them that becomes more obvious reading multiple books in a short time period. This is true of a lot of authors and genres, so this isn't so much a criticism as it is an observation.

 

It has occurred to me several times that a Netflix or an Amazon could make a wonderful series by adapting these books for television, in the vein of the series adapting Christie's Hercule Poirot canon. They are so deliciously atmospheric.

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text 2017-08-28 21:58
Reading progress update: I've read 9%.
Domino - Phyllis A. Whitney

Obviously, I decided to go with Domino for my next "vintage ladies" read. I was feeling more Colorado than Arizona, although I'm sure I will read The Turquoise Mask at some point quite soon.

 

Whitney seems to love sinister flashbacks from repressed childhood events. Laurie, our heroine, experiences debilitating panic attacks under certain circumstances. Her psychiatrist husband is dead after having exploited her condition for his own gain. Sounds like an ass, to tell the truth.

 

She's now met a dashing actor, Hillary Lange (this is a man, in spite of the name) and he's become her lover. I do admire Whitney's open acknowledgment that Laurie is a sexual being, even if she does seem a bit drippy at this point. 

 

The summons back to her childhood has come from her grandmother. This is another feature of the Whitney gothic - along with the sinister flashbacks, Whitney likes to take her heroines back to the place that it all began, so that they can confront the demons.

 

Contrived. But entertaining.

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