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review 2017-09-22 19:53
The Crime at the Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham

I read this one for Country House Murder, and it is a good example of that particular type of mystery. It would also work for Murder Most Foul and Amateur Sleuth


The Crime at the Black Dudley is designated as the first of the Albert Campion mysteries, but as others have noted, his appearance is pretty minimal. The main character is Dr. George Abbershaw, who seems to be at Black Dudley primarily to cement his relationship with the adorable Meggie. 


Shades of The Big Four, Abbershaw and his friends seem to have stumbled into some sort of an inexplicable criminal gang conspiracy involving a German man who is referred to as the Hun, who plans to set the place on fire and burn them up with it. The plot is bizarre, convoluted and somewhat incomprehensible. No one seems to be able to figure out why Campion is there or who invited him. 


I am going to reserve judgment on Allingham and her detective, since I don't think that this book is a particularly good example of her work. As a country house mystery, it was just all right, no where near as good as The Mysterious Affair at Styles or Peril at End House. As a detective, Campion isn't flattered by comparison to Poirot and his leetle grey cells or Peter Wimsey and the fabulous Bunter. 


The next book in the Campion series is Mystery Mile, but I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off digging deeper into the series. Martin Edwards mentioned Traitor's Purse & The Case of the Late Pig in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, and I've heard good things about The Tiger In The Smoke, so I'm thinking of trying one of those the next time I give Campion a try.



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review 2017-09-13 15:48
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey

This book has popped up on my radar screen several times - when I started it, I wasn't entirely sure where it might fit into Halloween bingo, but figured that I would be able to find someplace to slot it. After finishing, it fits into Amateur Sleuth, Murder Most Foul, Country House Mystery and Terrifying Women.


Those preliminaries out of the way, this was a really good book. It relies on the trope of the "prodigal son" or the "missing heir restored," but puts an interesting twist on that theme. Also, more generally, the writing is sublime. 


We initially meet Brat Farrar when he is being persuaded to impersonate the missing Ashby heir, Patrick, who seems to have committed suicide by walking into the sea at the age of 13. A body was recovered and buried, but it was so badly decomposed that no identification could be made. Brat bears an uncanny resemblance to the missing Patrick, whose twin Simon has inherited Latchetts, the country manor seat of the Ashby's, in his stead.


As the story unfolds, Brat is accepted into the Ashby family and we are introduced to his new relations: Aunt Bee, the spinster aunt who has single-handedly saved the family from financial ruin by building up its fortunes with a horse breeding program, Simon, Brat's "twin," a brash 20 year old who has been superceded by the return of "Patrick," and who has seemingly accepted this with such equanimity, Eleanor, the sensible 18 year old cousin, and yet another pair of twins, Jane and Ruth, who are as different as two sides of the same coin. The domestic details of the family are doled out in a way that is both soothing and convincing. 


However, it becomes clear early on that something is rotten in Denmark, and the tension continues to ratchet up between Brat and Simon. 


Simon asks, "'Who are you?'
Brat sat looking at him for a long time.
'Don't you recognize me?'
'No. Who are you?'


Tey's ability to build suspense is incredible, and by the end of the book, I was reading as quickly as possible to get to the end of the book and learn the truth. In fact, I was reading so fast that I really need to go back and re-read the last two chapters to make sure I entirely understand the resolution of the book!


Highly recommended as an outstanding example of vintage crime fiction - the domestic details are perfectly rendered, the tension is built with unerring precision and the ending is startling but doesn't come out of left field.

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review 2017-09-12 12:54
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall - Vaughn Entwhistle

Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde alongside a European Count, a medium with pophyria, Daniel Dunglas Home and several other members of the Society for Psychical Research attend a seance weekend at Thraxton Hall, which is apparently haunted and Lady Hope Thraxton has had a vision that she will die.  Doyle wants to leave London to escape his readers who currently hate him because he killed off Holmes and takes the opportunity to escape London and his dying wife and embroil himself in a mystery.  Then things take a twist with a murder, and it's not who everyone expects.


Wilde was the more interesting character but a little overblown.  It wasn't a bad read but it felt like the story had to fit the characters used rather being a good plot in itself and might have been better if the author had made his own characters up.  


Falls into Gothic, Country House Mystery, supernatural, ghosts, Haunted Houses, Amateur Sleuth and there's a locked room mystery also.  I'm going to use Country House Mystery.

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text 2017-09-12 11:03
Halloween Book Bingo

This is for my own reference and I intend to tick off stuff as I go (my work PC hates the image of my bingo sheet and I borrow books from my work - libraries).  Bolded is the squares I have, strike through is done and dusted, underlined is called.  I'm also going to list possible books and state the book I've read for the square here for my own reference.


The 31 spaces:

Locked room mystery: A subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime—almost always murder—is committed under circumstances which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime and/or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene.

Country house mystery: A closed circle mystery, occurring at a gathering like a house party. Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwhistle

Classic noir: A subgenre of mystery that includes authors such as Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Raymond Chandler and Cornell Woolrich. Anything that also qualifies as "hard-boiled" will work for this square. The Thin Man by Dashiel Hammett

Murder most foul: any murder mystery! And only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

Amateur sleuth: this mystery will have a main character who is not a member of law enforcement. Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters

Romantic suspense: any romance which has a significant sub-plot that involves mystery, thriller or suspense.

Serial/spree killer: any book that involves a serial killer or a spree killer, no matter what genre/sub-genre it involves.

Cozy mystery: a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.

American horror story: horror, set in the USA.

Genre: horror: this seems obvious.

Gothic: any book with significant: a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. 

Darkest London: any mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural book set in London. Frail Human Heart by Zoe Marriott

Modern Masters of Horror: horror published in or after 2000. The masterful These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Klaw

Supernatural: mystery, suspense or horror books which include elements that defy current understanding of the natural world, including magic, witchcraft and/or crypto-zoological aspects.

Ghost: any mystery, suspense or horror which involves a ghost, or a character who believes that the events involve a ghost.

Haunted houses: any structure or location that is, or is believed to be, "haunted" qualifies - it doesn't need to be a house.





Classic horror: horror that was published prior to 1980

Chilling children: any book tagged horror, YA horror or MG horror that includes a child or children as a main character.

Aliens: beings from outer space.

Monsters: any crytpozoological or mythological creature that isn't a vampire, werewolf, or demon. Or zombie.

The dead will walk: basically, zombies.

80's horror: any horror published between 1980 and 1989, or which is set in that time period.

In the dark, dark woods: a mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural book in which a forest/woods plays a significant role, or which has a forest/woods on the cover.

Terror in a small town: horror set in a small town.

Magical realism: a genre which expresses a primarily realistic view of the real world while also adding or revealing magical elements.

Terrifying women: any mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural book written by a woman.  Death by Water by Kerry Greenwood

Diverse voices: any mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural book written by an author of color. Currently reading Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin for this


I'm going to have to work on 80s Horror and actually anything with horror in the title, Diverse Voices (mostly because I don't pay attention to the race, colour or creed of an author, so now I have to look) and Locked Room Mysteries because I read a full book of these a while ago.  Easy ones are going to be Terrifying Women (90% of what I read are women) and Darkest London, because I have a Peter Grant Mystery waiting for me.  We'll see how we do.

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review 2017-09-10 03:00
The Beginning of our Egg Shaped Detective
The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie

I read this for "Country House Mystery" square. "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Agatha Christie deals with the murder of the wealthy Mrs. Emily Inglethorp at her country home, Styles. This book brings together for the first time, Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and Inspector Japp.




This was a cleverly done plot though I'm not going to lie, I really didn't understand a thing til the ending. I'm still maybe a bit confused about things since I think the final solution was a bit convoluted. I mean I don't care, I liked the story a lot, but Poirot connecting things at the end I did go wait a second, what. 


I will always love Poirot treating Hastings like an imbecile though. And we get to see Hastings at 30 and acting a fool over women per usual. I did crack up at one scene where he makes his intentions clear, the woman laughed at him. Twice. 


Poirot was great, though I see signs of the later Poirot that started to bug me with his keeping everyone in the dark and revealing all later. I do wonder why no criminals would not start refusing gatherings held by Poirot in the later books. I would have declined and fled.


We do get some key players in this one that I liked though. We follow two brothers, stepsons to Mrs. Inglethorp. However, it is really the women that shone more for me in this book. Mary Cavendish, John's wife, and the friend of the family, Cynthia were great. 


The book takes place during World War I so we get to see an England at war, though it doesn't read that way except for a few small details here and there. 


I would still rate "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" higher than this one, though this is a favorite too. 


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