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review 2018-10-09 22:39
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club / Dorothy Sayers
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L. Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey bent down over General Fentiman and drew the Morning Post gently away from the gnarled old hands. Then, with a quick jerk, he lifted the quiet figure. It came up all of a piece, stiff as a wooden doll . . .
But how did the general die? Who was the mysterious Mr X who fled when he was wanted for questioning? And which of the general's heirs, both members of the Bellona Club, is lying?

 

I’m still enjoying Lord Peter Wimsey and Dorothy L. Sayers. I am entertained by the mysteries that Sayers invented, but I think what I truly adore is getting to know Lord Peter and his history more fully with each installment. While I think that Sayers started out making Wimsey more like Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster (only in the first book mind you), but I am so glad that she turned right around and began to use him as her agent in both sleuthing and social commentary. Wodehouse’s Jeeves may completely run Bertie’s life, but Mervyn Bunter is a co-conspirator for Lord Peter.

Sayers starts in right away depicting the Bellona Club as a waiting room for death:

'What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?' demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the Evening Banner with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.

'Oh, I wouldn't call it that,' retorted Wimsey amiably. 'Funeral Parlour at the very least. Look at the marble. Look at the furnishings. Look at the palms and the chaste bronze nude in the corner.'

'Yes, and look at the corpses. Place always reminds me of that old thing in Punch, you know - 'Waiter! Take away Lord Whatsisname. He's been dead two days.' Look at old Ormsby there, snoring like a hippopotamus. Look at my revered grandpa - dodders in here at ten every morning, collects the Morning Post and the armchair by the fire, and becomes part of the furniture til the evening. Poor old devil. I suppose I'll be like that one of these days. . .'


An interesting issue in this work—what happens if one sibling leaves her earthly belongings to her brother if she predeceased him, but then they die at virtually the same time? Will anyone suspect murder if they are two elderly, unwell people? (This is why a string of nursing-home murders went undetected in Ontario—Elizabeth Wettlaufer had a nine year span of overdosing elderly patients with insulin before she was caught. All because health professionals just expect folks in nursing homes to die and are unwilling to look further).

All becoming much more relevant as the Baby Boom generation speeds toward nursing care and the funeral parlor.

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review 2018-10-01 22:44
Cat out of Hell / Lynne Truss
Cat Out of Hell - Lynee Truss

For people who both love and hate cats comes the tale of Alec Charlesworth, a librarian who finds himself suddenly alone: he’s lost his job, his beloved wife has just died. Overcome by grief, he searches for clues about her disappearance in a file of interviews between a man called "Wiggy" and a cat, Roger. Who speaks to him.
            It takes a while for Alec to realize he’s not gone mad from grief, that the cat is actually speaking to Wiggy . . . and that much of what we fear about cats is true. They do think they’re smarter than humans, for one thing. And, well, it seems they are! What’s more, they do have nine lives. Or at least this one does – Roger’s older than Methuselah, and his unblinking stare comes from the fact that he’s seen it all.

And he’s got a tale to tell, a tale of shocking local history and dark forces that may link not only the death of Alec’s wife, but also several other local deaths. But will the cat help Alec, or is he one of the dark forces?

 

  I read this book to fill the Thirteen (13) square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I am always a fan of books that involve libraries and librarians, so this book has been on my radar for a while now. So it was very handy when the black cat on the cover qualified it for the ‘unlucky 13’ choice for bingo!

If you’re a cat lover, I think this book will also make you snicker, as you discover who cats *really* report to and how much their traditional powers have lapsed! Roger and the Captain will have you giving your moggy the side-eye and listening a little more carefully to what they have to say.

But I hate to report, it’s a dog that really stole the show. Watson is Alec Charlesworth’s dog, named by his deceased wife. The quotes from Sherlock Holmes that the two of them used with regard to Watson are outstanding. For example, when Watson comes in dirty from digging in the yard, their line is, “You have been in Afghanistan I perceive.” When calling Watson at the dog park, “Watson, come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.”

A very short, amusing horror-lite tale. Perfect for a quiet afternoon before Halloween, though you may want to put the cat out first.

 

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review 2018-10-01 21:49
The Franchise Affair / Josephine Tey
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey

Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison -- the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks -- which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.

 

I read this book to fill the Country House Mystery square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

This was my first Josephine Tey, but it will certainly not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty little mystery. Although it is nominally part of the Alan Grant series, Grant appears in the novel as a secondary character. His thunder is stolen by a bachelor lawyer, Robert Blair.

I thought Tey did a masterful job of describing Blair—a man of a certain age who has never married, never left his small town, and never left the care of his aunt with whom he shares a home. When he receives a plaintive phone call from Marion Sharpe, asking him to come to her country home, The Franchise, he initially wishes that he’d left the office five minutes earlier and had missed the call. He is shaken out of his overly comfortable routine—into a portion of the law that he is less familiar with and dealing with people and events that he is not familiar with.

It is marvelous to watch Blair rise to the occasion, to become more aware of his community, his surroundings, and himself. His kindness to Marion & her mother was above & beyond the call of duty and I ended up liking him very much.

The twists & turns were well written, the motivations of those involved revealed, and the mystery eventually solved. Now I just want to know how Blair’s visit to Saskatchewan to his sister turned out!

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review 2018-09-24 21:50
The Invisible Man / H.G. Wells
The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells

This masterpiece of science fiction is the fascinating story of Griffin, a scientist who creates a serum to render himself invisible, and his descent into madness that follows.

 

I read this book to fill the Classic Horror square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I remember owning the Classics Illustrated comic book of this title as a child and being rather fascinated by the idea of an invisible person. I remember being captivated by Griffin’s fake nose! If I’m remembering correctly, though, I don’t think the violence in the comic was equal to Wells’ original work. It was probably watered down a little to be suitable for a juvenile audience (although nowadays I’m not sure that would be necessary).

I spent a great deal of last year on the cataloguing of a very large collection of books by and about Herbert George Wells and I was interested to read another of his fictional works. I’ll work through more of them as I can. He was an interesting person and a prolific writer.

This is definitely horror-lite. The most horrifying part is actually the behaviour of Griffin, the invisible man of the title. His lack of empathy for his fellow human beings (and the cat that he tests his invisibility device on) is scarier than his actual achievement. During the reading I kept wondering, was he mentally ill and became fixated on this idea or was he fixated on the idea before he became mentally ill? Someone with more empathy could have charted a far different course—co-operating with his fellow beings, rather than trying to terrorize them.

Reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, another tale of a scientist making dubious moral choices.

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review 2018-09-07 16:48
The Body in the Library / Agatha Christie
The Body in the Library - Agatha Christie

Colonel Bantry has found the strangled body of an exotic blonde bombshell lying on his library hearth - and the neighbors are beginning to talk! When Miss Marple takes an interest, though, things begin to move along nicely, and its all far more convoluted - and sordid - than the genteel Bantrys could have imagined.

A curmudgeonly financier, his self-absorbed adult children, a couple of pragmatic and clever hotel workers, tons of money and influence, a wild local lad, some smitten girls, the film business, mix into a classic Christie plot filled with twists, turns, and double-backs galore. Plus the glorious settings of A Great House, a fancy Hotel, and an excessively genteel little village, and let's not forget Miss Marple...

 

 

I read this book for the Terror in a Small Town square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

Another Miss Marple mystery, which Dame Agatha crafted carefully to deceive the reader. One mystery author quoted on the cover claims that no matter what twisty thing you think up, you soon find that Christie did it first. This is why she is still the Queen.

Miss Marple knows human nature—she’s an observant woman who has lived in a small village all of her life and has taken note of the goings on. She’s been an employer too, having hired and fired maids and other assistants over the years. There’s nothing like job interviews to teach you about paying attention to details of human behaviour.

I loved Dolly Bantry, who states that if a murder is going to be committed in her house, she’s going to enjoy it. She summons Jane Marple and they begin their investigations by bullying a young copper into letting them have a good look at the body. A reminder of how strong class differences still were at this point in history. Inspector Slack is obviously on the forefront of the change in respect for the gentry and is viewed with some distaste by his boss, Colonel Melchett, as a result.

I had to laugh when one of the young men in this story bragged about having autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie! I enjoy the work of both of these women and I don’t blame him for his excitement.

So was is Colonel Bantry in the library with a rope? No need to play the game of Clue to find out, just enjoy this compact little mystery. It is a fabulous way to spend an evening.

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