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review 2020-02-26 21:25
Gonzo Galore.
The Siamese Twin Mystery - Ellery Queen,Otto Penzler

I found myself getting more ecstatic every time this whodunit got more outrageous. The fact is, I'm long past the point of thinking "very clever, but big demerit points because this simply would not happen" when I read these things. In fiction, countless murders have happened in gentle little villages, in country houses filled with respectable people - with murder schemes and techniques that leave stunningly entertaining clues hinting at yet another slaying as "murder as intricate work of art, with flaw". It doesn't always happen, but I do love adding stars to my star rating, for every outrageous, over-the-top development, instead of deducting them.

 

This is one of those. It's so deliciously absurd - but it operates much like a truly great John Dickson Carr effort; I could not help thinking of the main underpinnings of The Crooked Hinge...but this is so much better, so much more fun - and so, more like The Mad Hatter Mystery.

 

I love the fact that I take issue with a major clue, and yet...I guess statistics would prove that someone would (reveal omitted) almost every time he or she (reveal omitted). Ellery Queen sure does sell a key piece of logic attached to a clue, and I'll allow it.

 

I love the fact that as the 'Reveal With Detailed Walk-Through' portion of the book started unfolding near the end - I GOT IT! I had an epiphany! I grabbed at a few slight reveals hinting at something, and I very stunningly figured out who the killer was, and how something "impossible" had to have happened...and I thought "Even though I figured out the brilliant trick, it's still brilliant, and the author is brilliant, and I'm brilliant for figuring it out, and it's a lovely, brilliant world, when it's brilliant.".

 

Of course I was wrong. Do you even need to ask?! Looking back at my epiphany - I loved my little epiphany, it was a good epiphany as epiphanies go; it meant well...it was just the wrong epiphany. I watched as the Big Reveal continued on its merry way, and became mystified as each further bit of clearing-up seemed to be taking me farther away from my epiphany. "This doesn't seem to be supporting what has to be the finale of the book - I don't understand...you're making it very hard for my brilliant realization to be the explanation for everything that has happened. Stop that! If you keep going on like this, Mr. Queen, it's going to be impossible for you pull a Big Reverse of this bullshit Big Reveal you've got going, and, y'know, brilliantly jump over to the real brilliant solution that I know is the truth!!".

 

Turns out: I don't know nuthin'.

 

Even. Better. Reveal! Thrilled I was all wrong (more shocked and pissed off, at first...but that fades)!

 

This book features a fire raging up the side of a mountain, at the top of which Ellery Queen and his crusty dad are trying to solve a murder (author and lead detective have same name, in case that's news) before everyone fries (probably asphyxiates, actually). It just keeps getting stranger and stranger, and then it all makes sense.

 

But don't trust your first epiphany. Sort through them, if a few pop into your head, and pick something less shiny, but smoother. ("I mean, okay, looking back, that was a wild idea - even for this nutty book!").

 

Recommended to all fans of Golden Age Mysteries! It is endlessly entertaining, like all the best.

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review 2020-02-26 18:10
The phone was smarter than he was.
Loose Tongues - Chris Simms

I remember, years ago, I caught something on "Talk Radio" that reeled me in and had me listening, even though I normally avoid talk radio (I can't remember why I was tuned to the station at all). Some fella who had a radio program was dedicating air-time to what was, basically, a confession. He was, it seemed to me, still riled up over something that had erupted in his personal life, and because he had his own radio talk-show, he could come on and, well, expiate his sin.

 

He told how he had been at an ATM, doing his banking business, and a young woman behind him who was on her cellphone suddenly shrieked out an expletive about as loudly as a person can. Just yelled to her friend, over the phone - out of the blue, from the point of view of the man in front of her, our radio personality. He blazed into anger...and turned around and slapped her in the face. She had sent his nerves jangling up through his spine that he lost control and slapped her. And there he was, on his own radio show, telling the story - regretting, yes, but also trying to explain how politeness and decorum seems to be dissolving with the arrival of cellphones. This was fairly soon after cellphones had arrived and taken over.

 

I remember when cellphones were just starting out, but quickly becoming all the rage, and I was already sick of them. I was. I was intuitively unhappy about all the one-sided chat around me - this was a new thing - and some people were loud. But my first annoyance was all the advertising, that was trying to make me buy one of the things. And I remember walking in a mall, and a guy planted outside a store was suddenly in my face with a lot of fake, "I'm selling you something so I'm nice and I'm energetic" friendliness, and I interrupted him and said "Augh - enough with the cellphones.". And he looked very unfriendly and said something like "Enough with the cellphones?!". This means he wasn't really rude to me - he just seemed shocked that I was anti-cellphone. I was a troublemaker, speaking heresy...a talking pebble trying to slow down the steamroller of the future.

 

And he wins. We got steamrolled. "Buy a cellphone and get hooked on it - Make a billionaire richer!". Last word goes to cellphones, now smart-phones...but I've never owned one. I can only see myself owning one of the damn things if I ever need it to help find a new job. And these are uncertain times - but for now, I'm employed.

 

This crime novel - Loose Tongues - involves police detectives, especially DI Sean Blake, tracking a psychopath they don't want to think of too early on as a serial killer. However, the reader quickly learns - via frightening opening sequences - that this is the dark and timely tale of a man who already hated all the noise from our cellphone world, but who then, because of one incident, wrecked his life by slapping a cellphone user. Consider him filmed and fired.

 

There are tricks and traps ahead, for the police and the reader. What we know leads to things we think we know - so, let it be said that the novel is a little sneakier than what I've laid out so far suggests. I do feel like I've read a book that can stand in for the just-releasing film The Invisible Man, in which a woman is stalked by her ex-boyfriend, who cannot be seen. The male obsessive, snapping, and embracing violence that soothes the anger - temporarily...and for the longest while, no one can see what is really going on. In the Simms novel, Sean Blake is dragged through a nightmarish subplot that only adds to the tension - but the main story, involving a misogynist who decides he can't tolerate loud women on cellphones, is chilling. A few weeks ago, I was on the bus and going home from work, and one woman glared hate at another woman who was shouting her personal financial details into her phone (the cellphone shouter is a regular on that bus, at that time every workday, and I just ignore her as best I can, because this is now our world - and on a short trip home, I am not freaking out at anyone, or slapping them, because I can't handle it).

 

I don't know how much violence has erupted in our world, due to someone wanting someone else to be quiet while on their phone - but this book seems like a believable version of who would take it to murder, and why. It's got some stuff to think about, and it's very suspenseful, if, y'know, kind of formulaic at times.

 

Anyway, it did make me think back to maybe the first person in front of me on a sidewalk - again, cellphones a fairly new phenom - talking loudly into his phone, but also so distracted that he was weaving around in front of me and making himself difficult to avoid or pass. I finally passed him, barely, and I was shaking my head. He chuckled and said to his buddy "This guy is all upset at me because I'm on my cellphone.".

 

These days, when seven out of ten people walk past me on their phones and with their heads down, or someone in front of me jars to a halt and starts texting while I try not to bump into them and win myself a dirty look...it's just...normal. I'm in the city, having a day in the life. No slapping, okay? And no killing!

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review 2020-02-22 20:14
The Barrakee Mystery
The Barrakee Mystery - Arthur W. Upfield The Barrakee Mystery - Arthur W. Upfield

(Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte #1)

 

I knew I was going to have a hard time with the racist tones of this book but I also know it is an example of how life truly was during that time. It is very sad to me but we can't go back and change the past. I did get into the story and enjoyed it although a few things didn't make sense to me. I'm pretty sure a mixed race child that is born white doesn't really get darker with age. Of course, I don't know anything about Australia so maybe things are different there. Still, some of the things said at the end where the details were all laid out to the young man where annoying to me, like how he suddenly started to talk like the natives.

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text 2020-02-22 01:51
Weekend Plans
C S Lewis - Colin Duriez
The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday - Saad Z. Hossain
The Shooting Party - Isabel Colegate
Good Behaviour - Molly Keane,Marian Keyes
All the Hidden Truths: one shocking crime: three women need answers: Winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Debut of the Year! - Claire Askew

It's Friday night after a crappy week at work, which saw a departmental restructure that can only be described as A Game of Thrones...but without dragons, and therefore just stupid. So, I have resorted to watching films (The Two Popes is excellent) for comfort since I've come home, and I am planning to make the most of the weekend before work brings another week of madness (I have some new people starting and need to travel abroad for a meeting with another colleague, while trying to keep an eye on goings on ... preparing for another new start and the company's big office move in three weeks' time). 

 

Anyway..... It's also Granite Noir weekend. So, I am out with friends tomorrow to see Dial M for Murder at the theatre, then have a guided walk around town which is lead by one of my favourite local historians, and lastly, I have finally managed to get a ticket to Katheryn Harkup's Poisoned Tea Party on Sunday. I've been to her Poisoned Cocktail Evenings before but have never been quick enough to get tickets for the tea party.

I am very excited.

 

As for reading, I really, really want to start the Kelly book, but I just can't at the moment - it's a mood thing. 

The C.S. Lewis biography has turned out to be surprisingly good so far. Nothing entirely new, but I very much enjoy that Duriez has included quotes from correspondence that gives much more insight into Lewis' life so far, and has refrained from giving meaning or interpreting events in his life against Lewis' later work and faith. This is something I very much appreciate. He is also not coming across as a "fan-boy" of Lewis', which puts Duriez at an advantage (imo) over other biographers I have read. 

 

And I know that I won't have much time to read anything else this weekend, but I really want to pick up something else. Something from the category of "comfort read".

And of course, I will need a book for the flights on Monday/Tuesday.

And this month's book club read is due on Wednesday.... Erm.

 

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review 2020-02-22 01:00
A Crime in Holland - Georges Simenon,Siân Reynolds

This was a really good read. Maigret finds himself dealing with Dutch people (the horror!) with the mystery of a dead husband.

The characters are well drawn. Miagret is a pleasure to read and this book looks closely at the pressures of a small community.

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