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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-17 15:45
No one reads the same book twice
The Waiting Sands - Susan Howatch

This has some mild spoilers, so read at your peril. I doubt that many people will end up reading this book, though, so I figured why not?

 

I had a unique perspective on this book - it was a book that made an indelible impression on me when I was around 12 years old. I had found it on my mom's bookshelves, she was a fan of these old-fashioned gothic romances, or maybe at the used book store, and I remember staying up late one night and reading it. The climactic scene on the Cluny Sands etched itself on my memory quite deeply.

 

I didn't remember the name of the book, or the author, or even a single character name (how could I forget Decima or Rohan?), but I remembered the sense of brooding suspense and the horror of being trapped in quicksand. I actually looked for this book for several years before stumbling on The Waiting Sands in one of my random searches. I initially thought that it was probably The Shivering Sands, but reading it ruled it out for me. If I had reviewed this when I was 12, I would've given it a breathless, terrified five stars.

 

But, as the expression goes, you can't read the same book twice. I'm not 12 anymore, drawn to unhealthy, and emotionally abusive, relationships. Things that I skipped right over when I was a girl were unable to ignore as a woman. I'm still giving it three stars, mostly for nostalgia's sake and because the writing was quite good and that climactic scene in the quicksand was still pretty intense.

 

The romance, though, was just a total no go for me. I was astonished when I read Rachel's self-confession of undying love for Daniel after knowing him for all of perhaps 36 hours, both because she barely knew him and because he'd been a monumental asswagon to her. And then her decision to, in essence, pledge herself to eternal celibacy because some guy that she thought was hot for about two days, who was all mixed up in a murder and whom she actually believed WAS the MURDERER, was no longer available to her made me snort aloud. 

 

I've known a fair few murderers, guys. None of them are worth three minutes of celibacy, much less a lifetimes worth.

 

All of the characters were basically vile. Howatch tries to redeem Daniel, and at least partially succeeds, but it's a bit too little too late for my taste. Rachel is a wet mop.

 

This is a test: You find yourself on the edge of quicksand with someone you believe to a be a murderer. You are in a completely isolated spot and there is no one else for miles. He has fallen asleep and you are able to grab the gun. Do you:

 

a. Scamper away and dump the bullets into the quick sand and then pretend you were asleep, too or

b. Hold the motherfucker at gunpoint until you can get back to the boat and escape

 

If your answer is a, you might be the heroine of a gothic romance. Because heaven forfend that you might try to save your ownself.

 

It was fun to reconnect with that moronic tween who used to think that guys like Daniel were romantic. I'm really glad I grew the hell up before I picked a spouse.

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text 2018-10-17 05:40
Updates
The Waiting Sands - Susan Howatch

Page 123:

 

The heroine is dumb as a box of hammers, and all of these characters are vile.

 

Page 48:

 

I agree with Linda about the dog - it's a St. Bernard and better not get harmed or killed. I am thinking that this is the book I was thinking of - the reference to quicksand is very familiar. It scared the crap out of me when I saw about 12!

 

Page 1

 

This is the cover on my copy of The Waiting Sands - totally lame. Also, it doesn't look anything like Scotland to me. What do you all think?

 

I'm getting ready to start this one, although I also need to buckle down on The Career of Evil and get it finished as it is due back to the library quite soon! I'm going to work on both of them tonight.

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review 2018-10-16 23:57
Sparkling Cyanide or Remembered Death
Sparkling Cyanide - Agatha Christie

This was my first book for the 1944 club, hosted by Kaggsy at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a Book.

 

1944 was quite a year for Agatha Christie. She published Towards Zero and Sparkling Cyanide, as well as Death Comes As The End and Absent in the Spring under her romance nom de plume, Mary Westamacott. Interestingly, none of these books involved either of her main two sleuths, Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple. Towards Zero is a Superintendent Battle book, Death Comes as the End is her sole foray into historical fiction, and Absent in the Spring is one of six romance novels that have been mostly lost to the sands of time – by which I mean they are available, but largely ignored.

 

Sparkling Cyanide was a reread for me – my first experience with the book was an audiobook on a trip with my family, which everyone enjoyed. This time around, I read the Pocket Book edition which I picked up for $3.00 at a bookstore in Newport, Oregon, which has, sadly, permanently closed. It was one of those lovely bookstores which has a cat, a fireplace, and teetering piles of books in which treasures are often buried.

 

While I do love both Poirot, with his leetle grey cells, and Jane Marple in her fuzzy cardigans, I am also a huge fan of both Superintendent Battle and Colonel Race, as I have probably mentioned before. Sparkling Cyanide is a fantastic example of Agatha Christie’s skills in plotting and misdirection, and is the fourth in the Colonel Race series.

 

The plot begins with Rosemary, the empty-headed, pretty and very, very rich, young woman who has died of cyanide poisoning at a birthday party at the Luxembourg in London, surrounded by her husband, George Barton, her sister, Iris, her husband’s terrifyingly efficient secretary Ruth, Stephen and Alexandra Farraday, a Member of Parliament who is also her secret lover and his wife,and Anthony Browne, another of Rosemary’s erstwhile lovers. The death is ruled a suicide due to depression after influenza. About six months later, however, George begins to receive poison pen letters claiming that Rosemary’s death was no suicide.

 

It was murder.

 

The middle, longest section of the book deals with the six suspects. Each of them is given his/her own chapter and narrative where Christie lays out their motives. Rosemary was one of those careless, beautiful women who’ve long profited from being lovely, who breaks things and people simply because she can’t conceive that they might have needs that are different from her own. Everyone had motive to murder her, and her death almost universally profited her friends and family. Iris inherited her wealth, George was the cuckolded husband, Alexandra the cuckolded and devoted wife to Stephen, Stephen fears the truth of the affair being revealed, Ruth is in love with George, and Anthony is a cipher.

 

Colonel Race makes a brief appearance in the book as a friend of George’s father, who has known George since boyhood. He has been off in exotic places, far away, staving off threats to the British empire and arrives back in London to learn that George, on the heels of the letters, has scheduled a reenactment of Rosemary’s birthday party on the anniversary of her death, a spectacularly dangerous and terrible idea.

 

The solution to Sparkling Cyanide, or Remembered Death as it was called in America, is ingenious. All of the clues are there, but they are nearly impossible to put together until the end, when the answer comes together. It’s Agatha at her most brilliant, and I highly recommend it for fans of golden age/classic mysteries as well as fans of Agatha Christie.

 
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review 2018-10-16 17:14
The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

This is the 7th of the Miss Silver mysteries, which I read for the #1944 club on my blog. It is my favorite of the Miss Silver mysteries to date, better even than Latter End, which I also really liked. In fact, this is my sixth Patricia Wentworth - I've read fiveof the Miss Silvers (Grey Mask, Latter End, Poison in the Pen, The Eternity Ring, this one) and one stand-alone (The Dower House Mystery) - and it's my favorite of all of them. Grey Mask is still the weakest, and I wonder how many people have been put off Patricia Wentworth forever by reading that one first. Tragic, really.

 

For me, this was a near perfect Golden Age mystery. It had the closed circle, and the country house feel. The entire mystery takes place over a couple of days, from New Years Eve, where it all begins, to a few days later, when the mystery is solved and the murderer is revealed. We start with a brief interaction between James Paradine, patriarch of the family, and Elliot Wray, when James summons Elliot to the Paradine house over some stolen aircraft plans. He informs Elliot that one of the family has taken them, he knows who it is, and requires that Elliot remain in the home for the evening so he can put his plan into motion.

 

The plan is to announce at News Year Eve dinner that he knows that someone in the family has been disloyal, he is not going to expose them at dinner, but he will be in his study until midnight, and the guilty party must come and confess their misdeed to him or suffer the consequences. At the dinner we have all of the members of the Paradine family: Aunt Grace, the spinster sister, Phyllida, Grace's adopted daughter and Elliot's estranged wife, Elliot, Frank & Irene Ambrose (son of James's first wife & his spouse), Mark Paradine, the heir, Richard, a cousin, Lydia, Irene's sister and Andrew, the odd man out, who is a shirt-tail relative of some sort and is also James's secretary. The characterizations were really well-done. James himself is a bit of a Simeon Lee /Penhallow type patriarch, but he was much nicer than either of them. 

 

As a sometime romance reader, I've become convinced that Wentworth actually walks that line between romance and mystery better than any of the other golden age women - better, even, than Christie. She creates convincing romantic subplots that work with the mystery but don't subvert it. Heyer loses the mystery for the romance and Christie loses the romance for the mystery, but Wentworth balances them almost perfectly. The only issue with this is that it does make her mysteries a bit easier to solve, because the primary romantic coupling is pretty well removed from suspicion - part of the solution always involves moving the obstacle out of the way for their happiness.

 

I've definitely concluded at this point that it isn't necessary to read Miss Silver in order, and I would advocate for skipping Grey Mask altogether. I'm just pleased as punch that, since I've read about 90% of Christie's full length mysteries, and all of Sayers, that I have at least 50 more Wentworths before I've read them all.

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text 2018-10-16 01:05
Reading progress update: I've read 148 out of 315 pages.
The Clock Strikes Twelve - Patricia Wentworth

I am making a guess here. Don't look under the spoiler tag unless you have read it!

 

 

I don't think it is either Elliott or Phyllida, because Patricia Wentworth enjoys her matchmaking and putting marriages back together way too much. I am leaning against Mark & Lydia for much the same reason. 

 

I'm going to go with Aunt Grace, for reasons which I can't really explain. Maybe because she is angry at her brother for interfering and trying to get Elliott and Phyllida back together. 

(spoiler show)

 

 

We'll see!

 

Aaaah! I'm already second guessing myself!

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