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review 2019-02-04 22:02
The Hanging Tree / Ben Aaronovitch
The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street was the last trip of the condemned. Some things don't change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world's super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant.


I must admit that I just enjoy hanging out in Peter Grant’s London. I enjoy each and every one of these novels and the graphic novels in varying degrees, all positive. I adore the diverse set of characters—and I don’t get the feeling that Aaronovitch is actively trying to have “diversity” of cultures, languages, or skin colours. My conclusion is that this is how London is now and he’s just reflecting his city. I’m loving how much Guleed is figuring in this installment and I’m glad to see the River goddesses back in full force. I love both Peter’s Sierra Leonean Mama and his Caucasian jazz-man father.

Not only does Aaronovitch create a diverse police force, but he is gradually assembling quite the range of supernatural people/creatures for Peter et al. to cope with too. Nightingale has been playing his cards pretty close to the vest, not letting Peter know what else might be lurking out there until he has to share. Probably a good way not to send your apprentice screaming away into the scenery.

Peter is acknowledged as a “cheeky bugger” and his internal dialog gives a lot of humour to the series. I love his assessments of police work and those folks that his work brings him into contact with. I love that Aaronovitch gives us these asides, guiding what we think without just clubbing us over the head with his opinions. Plus, I adore Peter's experimenting with his magical powers, testing exactly what distances from electronics are safe, for example.

I’m now caught up to date and the next volume awaits me at the library. Life is good.

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review 2019-01-24 18:43
Strong Poison / Dorothy L. Sayers
Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers

Can Lord Peter Wimsey prove that Harriet Vane is not guilty of murder--or find the real poisoner in time to save her from the gallows?

Impossible, it seems. The Crown's case is watertight. The police are adamant that the right person is on trial. The judge's summing-up is also clear. Harriet Vane is guilty of the killing her lover. And Harriet Vane shall hang.

But the jury disagrees.


Change is afoot in the world of Lord Peter Wimsey. People are asking Peter to stay the way he is and it is chilling his soul. Not only does he envision his own altered future, but he sees the societal changes taking place around him, and he knows that change is inevitable.

Enter Harriet Vane. She is an author in the mystery genre, she has lived with a male author without the benefit of matrimony, and she is on trial for that man’s murder. It is said that Harriet is an alter-ego for Dorothy L. Sayers herself. I have a hold on a biography of that wonderful woman at my public library and am eagerly awaiting my chance to investigate! Especially since Harriet proclaims,

”Philip wasn't the sort of man to make a friend of a woman. He wanted devotion. I gave him that. I did, you know. But I couldn't stand being made a fool of. I couldn’t stand being put on probation, like an office-boy, to see if I was good enough to be condescended to. I quite thought he was honest when he said he didn't believe in marriage -- and then it turned out that it was a test, to see whether my devotion was abject enough. Well, it wasn't. I didn't like having matrimony offered as a bad-conduct prize.”

Ms. Sayers writing is divine and methinks she was a force to be reckoned with!

Also shining brightly in this volume are Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison, part of Lord Wimsey’s army of unattached women, whose talents are being put to full use! Whether they are learning to pick locks or staging séances to uncover evidence, they take great pleasure in being underestimated by the stuffed-shirt men who stand in their way.

Sayers is recording the shift that is leveling the social classes, allowing Wimsey to pursue his authoress and his sister to snag her policeman, and the beginnings of the escape of Western society from Victorian values that continues to this day.

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review 2019-01-16 18:54
The Advent Killer / Alastair Gunn
The Advent Killer - Alastair Gunn

Christmas is coming. One body at a time. Three weeks before Christmas: Sunday, one a.m. A woman is drowned in her bathtub.  One week later: Sunday, one a.m. A woman is beaten savagely to death, every bone in her body broken.  Another week brings another victim.

As panic spreads across London, DCI Antonia Hawkins, leading her first murder investigation, must stop a cold, careful killer whose twisted motives can only be guessed at, before the next body is found. On Sunday.  When the clock strikes one . .


Somehow this murder mystery didn’t grab me the way some of them do. I started it in late December, but then had a long hiatus until finishing it in early January. It’s a solid enough story, with enough red herrings to keep me from being positive who dunnit until close to the end of the book.

My problem was that I didn’t really connect with the main character, Antonia Hawkins. She seemed to me to be rather thin-skinned and inept for someone who had risen as high in the ranks as she had. And I really disliked her tendency to mix her work and private life indiscriminately. I know that it can be hard to keep those lines from blurring, but Tonia seemed to just heave herself precipitously back into a work relationship with no self-reflection at all. And there’s far more snotty weeping that I care for in a main female character!

Nevertheless, it’s not a bad book and was certainly appropriate for the Christmas season. A few good murders keep the holiday from getting too saccharine sweet.

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review 2019-01-07 21:39
Very Good, Jeeves / P.G. Wodehouse
Very Good, Jeeves! - P.G. Wodehouse

Whatever the cause of Bertie Wooster's consternation — Bobbie Wickham gives away fierce Aunt Agatha's dog; again in the bad books of Sir Roderick Glossop; Tuppy crushes on robust opera singer — Jeeves can untangle the most ferocious muddle.


What an excellent first book for 2019! Wodehouse writes like a charm, making me giggle whilst turning a gorgeous phrase. And it’s as if he knew the women in my family when he says, “Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can’t get it.” My sisters, my niece and myself frequently suffer from being hangry if we are not fed & watered on a regular basis. Having a pleasant outing requires copious amounts of coffee, regular feedings, and sufficient snacks for the day. So Jeeves plan to disrupt Mrs. Bingo Little’s school friendship through depriving her of lunch plus delaying tea-time was entirely believable to me.

I love Bertie’s willingness to flee the house to avoid unpleasantness, his suffering being known as a lunatic in order to avoid jobs & women. He is the ultimate peace-at-any-pricer. The all-knowing expertise of Jeeves is the perfect foil to the very fallible B. Wooster.

If you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of Mr. Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves, what are you waiting for?

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review 2018-12-31 23:00
The Crossing Places / Elly Griffiths
The Crossing Places - Elly Griffiths

When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, quirky, tart-tongued archaeologist Ruth Galloway lives happily alone in a remote area called Saltmarsh near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants - not quite earth, not quite sea.
      When a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach nearby, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls Galloway for help. Nelson thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing ten years ago. Since her disappearance he has been receiving bizarre letters about her, letters with references to ritual and sacrifice.
      The bones actually turn out to be two thousand years old, but Ruth is soon drawn into the Lucy Downey case and into the mind of the letter writer, who seems to have both archaeological knowledge and eerie psychic powers. Then another child goes missing and the hunt is on to find her. 
      As the letter writer moves closer and the windswept Norfolk landscape exerts its power, Ruth finds herself in completely new territory – and in serious danger.


I’m still analyzing why I enjoyed this little mystery as much as I did. There are several factors, but I think I’m starting to put my finger on the appeal.

This book was like a cross between Lyn Hamilton’s Lara McClintoch mysteries and Steve Burrows' Birder Murder Mysteries. Like Hamilton’s main character, Lara McClintoch, Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist. Like Steve Burrows’ main character, Domenic Jejeune, Ruth lives in Norfolk, in an isolated house on the saltmarsh.

Griffiths’ writing falls somewhere in between the two, not unusual for a first crime novel. Thankfully, she is much closer to Burrows in quality and her characters make up for a plot that lurches a bit from suspect to suspect. 

Ruth Galloway is a wonderful main character. She is very, very good at her job (Iron Age archeology) but she is pushing 40, weighs more than she would like to, and is a bit sensitive about all the people around her who seem to think that marriage and children are the only possible fulfilling things in a woman’s life. I hear you, Ruth! Our Western culture has certainly decided that we women cannot possibly be happy without husbands and children and yet there are many of us out here who are doing just fine, thank you very much!

So, I obviously identify with Ruth, I adore reading about archaeology, I love Norfolk (although I have only visited there once), and I found the writing decent. The book encompasses both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, making it a wonderful little read during my Christmas vacation days from work. I will definitely be reading more about Ruth in the future!

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