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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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review 2018-12-31 22:47
The Leper of St. Giles / Ellis Peters
The Leper of Saint Giles - Ellis Peters

A savage murder interrupts an ill-fated marriage set to take place at Brother Cadfael's abbey, leaving the monk with a terrible mystery to solve. The key to the killing is hidden among the inhabitants of the Saint Giles leper colony, and Brother Cadfael must ferret out a sickness not of the body, but of a twisted mind.

 

I do love Brother Cadfael and his calm ways of solving the mysteries of his community. It helps that he has been a man of the world and has experience that those who took Holy orders early in their lives are missing. His knowledge of the behaviour of his fellow man, both positive and negative, makes him uniquely qualified in the monastery to undertake these investigations.

I wonder if a medieval Abbott would truly be so accepting of Cadfael’s adventures, but they make an excellent story series, so I’m glad that Peters came up with the idea. I love the way that she documents the details of daily life during this time period, and gently teaches the reader a bit of history along the way. A very pleasurable way to expand one’s knowledge.

I’ll look forward to reading the further adventures of the good Brother and learning more when I pick up the next book in the series.

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review 2018-12-30 18:32
Seven Dead
Seven Dead (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards,Eleanor Farjeon

This is not Ted Lyte’s story. He merely had the excessive misfortune to come into it, and to remain in it longer than he wanted. Had he adopted Cardinal Wolsey’s advice and flung away ambition, continuing to limit his illegal acts to the petty pilfering and pickpocketing at which he was fairly expert, he would have spared himself on this historic Saturday morning the most horrible moment of his life. The moment was so horrible that it deprived him temporarily of his senses. But he was not a prophet; all he could predict of the future was the next instant, and that often wrongly; and the open gate, with the glimpse beyond of the shuttered window, tempted him.

Oh I wish we had more of J. Jefferson Farjeon's books widely available to us, but alas I only have one more of his books to look forward to (The Z Murders) - unless I want to give the Ben, the Tramp series another shot.  

 

Seven Dead was a curious book. It didn't start out like the usual Golden Age mystery. There was little that was twee about the start of the book (and even less about the ending!), we didn't get to meet any characters that we can fully trust (apart from the police), we get snippets of facts that seem to be pieces of a horrible puzzle, but each turn of event just put a question mark on the suppositions made in the previous chapter. 

 

The only guide through all this is Detective Inspector Kendall, whose no-nonsense approach is lauded in mockery.

“You mentioned your name. There are plenty of Kendalls in the world, but I remember one who did pretty good work recently at Bragley Court, in the case of the Thirteen Guests. What I liked about him was that he didn’t play the violin, or have a wooden leg, or anything of that sort. He just got on with it.”

 

Fear not: Kendall gives as good as he gets.

 

So, there is a fun undertone to the story, some flippancy, some snark, but this really is only light relief from the tense atmosphere that Farjeons sets up for us - especially whenever we are near the scene of the crime, the ironically-named Haven House:

“Hey! What’s that?” jerked the sergeant. Something was happening in the house. As they darted towards it, an unearthly noise issued from the hall, and the sergeant admitted afterwards that it “fair went up his spine.” The sound grew venomously. It was like a hive of bees that had gone mad. There seemed no rhyme or reason in it, unless it had been designed as a macabre overture to what was to follow.

 

The light touch, the mockery, and the jokes are still not enough to lift the story into the realms of a cozy mystery. The underlying plot - even tho we do not find out until the end what actually happened - is entirely sinister and just plain horrible. 

"There’s some mighty queer story behind all this, and maybe, when we’ve unearthed it—as we’re going to—suicide will fit the climax. But I’m not going to accept that theory until it’s explained to me how

they got into the house, why they nailed up the shutters, why they stuffed two weeks’ papers up the chimney, how they destroyed themselves—that’s your job, doctor, and it’s going to mean Westminster Abbey or professional extinction for you!—who used the revolver, why he or she shot a picture in another room, where the Fenners are, why they left in a hurry, and how the devil—here’s another little tit-bit I’ve just had from the station, Mr. Hazeldean—how the devil these seven people, before settling down to their final job, locked themselves in the drawing-room with the key on the outside

(spoiler show)

.”

Farjeon wasn't writing in the horror genre but there was something about the three books that I have read by him that makes me think he could have been at home in it. The atmosphere of his settings, and the suspense in his plots are well-crafted and reminded me of some of the Gothic tales written by late Victorian authors. I'd also wager that he may have been influenced by the writing of Arthur Conan Doyle, not just the Holmes stories, though I was somewhat reminded of them when reading the conclusion of Seven Dead (not a spoiler or a clue, btw.).

 

Btw, this story also had another one of Farjeon's delightful romances in it, which is improved only by the fact that I couldn't figure out until the end if any of the characters were trustworthy:

“Good-evening, Miss Fenner.”

She almost dropped her book. The brown eyes were on his again, bright with both astonishment and alarm. He discovered within himself an intense desire to dispel the latter, and dreaded the moment ahead when he would have to introduce a far greater alarm than any she could now be feeling.

“I’m quite harmless,” he smiled.

“Who are you?” she asked. “I don’t know you. Do I?”

“No.”

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text 2018-12-29 23:29
Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 237 pages.
Seven Dead (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards,Eleanor Farjeon

This is one creepy and delicious book, more creepy, tho. It's like taking all of your expectations of a twee Golden Age cozy mystery and then turning it very, very dark. 

 

There is no gore in this. At least, there hasn't been so far - if you don't count the "discovery" at the oh-so-ironically-named Haven House, which may as well be called Hill House. There's no relation to the plot of Jackson's story of course, but the atmosphere is as tense whenever Farjeon takes us near that building.

 

And he does it well, even coming back to the house at the time of ... 

Well, ... find out for yourselves.

 

But to make up for this, we get a charming young bloke, who's just made a bad error in dealing with a woman whose...

"large bosom almost filled the width of the doorway, and her high complexion and too-gold hair loomed unnaturally, almost garishly, in the dimness. The air became heavily scented."

 

LoL.

 

Tom, that's what you get for following Mrs. Danvers into an attic room, you silly lamb.

 

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