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text 2018-06-09 18:20
Summer of Spies - Tracking Post
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Stephen Crossly,Emmuska Orczy
N or M? - Samantha Bond,Agatha Christie
The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel - Kate Westbrook
Secret Asset - Stella Rimington
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
The Looking Glass War - John le Carré,Michael Jayston
Smiley's People - John le Carré
The Cutout - Francine Mathews
Collection: The Tailor of Panama / Our Game / The Night Manager - John le Carré
Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 - Stella Rimington

Memorial Day Weekend -- Labor Day 2018

 

Finished, to Date:

Emmuska Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel (revisited on audio, narrated by Stephen Crossly) ****1/2

Agatha Christie: N or M? (revisited on audio, narrated by Samantha Bond) ***

Ian Fleming: Quantum of Solace (short story only; new / audio, narrated by David Rintoul) *1/2

Kate Westbrook: Guardian Angel (new / audio, narrated by Eleanor Bron) ***1/2

Stella Rimington: Secret Asset (new / audio, narrated by Rosalyn Landor) ****

Francine Mathews: The Cutout (new / audio, narrated by Trini Alvarado) **1/2

John le Carré: The Tailor of Panama (revisited on audio, narrated by the author) ****1/2

 

John Le Carré: George Smiley Cycle

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (revisited on audio, narrated by the author) *****

The Looking Glass War (new / audio, narrated by Michael Jayston) ***1/2

Smiley's People (revisited on audio, narrated by Michael Jayston) *****


 

Currently Reading:

Stella Rimington: Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 (new / print edition)

Jane Thynne: Black Roses (new / audio, narrated by Julie Teal)


 

 

 

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review 2018-06-01 17:54
Do-It-Yourself Crime Solving from the Golden Age of Mysteries
File on Fenton & Farr - Q. Patrick
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley
Who Killed Robert Prentice? - Dennis Wheatley
The Malinsay Massacre - Dennis Wheatley
Herewith the Clues - Dennis Wheatley

You'd think that I get to read more than enough files (though not typically crime files) in my day job -- but gluttons for punishment that some of us mystery lovers are, there's nothing we like better than tracking down the murderer ourselves, instead of just reading about some super sleuth doing it for us ... or so the makers of the 1930s' Crime Dossiers / Crime Files series figured, and of course they were dead on target.

 

The idea was first conceived by English authors Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links, whose Murder off Miami (aka File on Bolitho Blane) was such a raging success on both sides of the Atlantic that it inspired follow-ups in both the U.S. and in the UK: in the latter case, three more "Crime Dossiers" by Messrs. Wheatley and Links; in the U.S., Helen Reilly's File on Rufus Ray (Crime File No. 2), as well as File on Fenton and Far, and File on Claudia Cragge by Q. Patrick (aka Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler) (Crime Files Nos. 3 and 4).

 

While the American "Crime Files" Nos. 2 and 4 (Rufus Ray and Claudia Cragge) are true collectors' items that continue to elude me for the moment, I've now read all four "Crime Dossiers" created by Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links, as well as Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr, and I'm in awe at the amount of ingenuity that has gone into creating these books.  They really are extremely close to the real thing -- you get correspondence (including cablegrams) and file entries by the investigators as well as witness statements, handwritten documents, crime scene and witness photographs, entire newspapers containing reports on the crime (not merely individual reports but actually entire broadsheets!), and even honest-to-God tactile evidence such as blood-stained pieces of cloth, strands of hair, tubes of lipstick, and other items found at the crime scene or in a witness's possession.  One can only guess at the amount of time and effort that must have gone into the creation of each and everyone of these books -- and they must have been tremendously expensive to produce, too; so no wonder that many of them (and all the originals from the 1930s) are rare collectors' items these days.  Crimes scenes range from a yacht off the Florida coast to an English village not far from London, a castle on a remote Scottish island, small-town New Jersey, and a London night club; and the cast of characters -- in each book as well as in all of them taken together -- is as diverse as any that you might expect to find in the best of crime fiction.

 

This all being said, obviously you can't like all books equally well, however lovingly they are put together; and so far my favorites are Wheatley / J.G. Links's sophomore effort, Who Killed Robert Prentice? (which has downright fiendish elements; it is, however, solvable on the basis of the evidence provided) and Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr ... the latter, if only for the fact that the authors even managed to work a funny-sweet romance between one of the detectives and the police chief's precocious secretary into the file.  (Obviously it also helped that I managed to solve both of these cases substantially (Robert Prentice) / partly (Fenton & Farr) correctly, even if I reserve the right to quibble with some of the evidence in Fenton & Farr.

 

The weakest of the lot is, IMHO, The Malinsay Massacre; not so much because it consists very largely of correspondence but because the solution just plain doesn't make sense to me and some of the conclusions allegedly "forcing" themselves on the reader from individual pieces of evidence are implausible beyond belief.  (OK, sour grapes, I admit.  Still ...) -- Herewith the Clues, the final Wheatley / Links outing, is generally decried as weak as well; however, I actually prefer it to Malinsay -- it does present a genuine puzzle, and even if some of the clues / proposed deductions are maybe a bit far-fetched, a fair amount of them actually do serve a logical purpose in eliminating innocent suspects on the one hand and nailing down the murderer on the other hand.  (Besides, the sheer number of fellow writers and society celebrities of their era that the authors managed to rope in for purposes of posing for "suspect" photos for Herewith the Clues is mind-boggling in and of itself -- in fact, this is the only volume where the true identities of the persons portrayed in the photographs are unveiled -- not least as this is a story dealing with IRA terrorism and some of the suspect biographies also point to Nazi Germany ... surely, in 1937, not exactly connections that many well-known Brits would have welcomed to see associated with their names; however much in a fictional context and with a disclaimer reading "the particulars regarding [name of fictional suspect] which are given in the script have, of course, no reference whatever to [real name of person portrayed], who very kindly posed for this photograph.")

 

Now, if only I could get my hands on at least halfway affordable copies of the File on Rufus Ray and the File on Claudia Cragge ...

 

In the interim, File on Fenton and Farr gets me another square in the Detection Club bingo -- "Across the Atlantic" (chapter 22), which at the same time completes bingo no. 4 ( all 4 corners + center square).

 

Individual ratings:

File on Fenton & Farr - 4 stars

Murder off Miami - 4 stars

Who Killed Robert Prentice? - 4.5 stars

The Malinsay Massacre - 3 stars

Herewith the Clues - 3,5 stars

 

 

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text 2018-05-31 19:15
Detection Club Bingo: My Progress So Far
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards
The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts
The Red House Mystery - A.A. Milne
The Lake District Murder - John Bude
The Moving Toyshop - Edmund Crispin
Quick Curtain - Alan Melville
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr
Poison In The Pen - Patricia Wentworth

 

First four bingos (bottom row, second column from right, diagonal top left to bottom right, and 4 corners + central square) -- plus three more in the making (top row, center column, and diagonal top right to bottom left).  Not that it greatly matters, but still. :D  Progress!

 

The Squares / Chapters:

1. A New Era Dawns: Ernest Bramah - The Tales of Max Carrados;

Emmuska Orczy - The Old Man in the Corner

2. The Birth of the Golden Age: A.A. Milne - The Red House Mystery
3. The Great Detectives:
Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke;

Anthony Berkeley - The Poisoned Chocolates Case

4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!': Freeman Wills Crofts - The Hog's Back Mystery;

Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links - Murder off Miami

5. Miraculous Murders: Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady;

John Dickson Carr - The Hollow Man

6. Serpents in Eden: Agatha Christie - The Moving Finger (reread);

John Bude - The Lake District Murder;

Patricia Wentworth - Poison in the Pen

7. Murder at the Manor: Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch)
8. Capital Crimes
9. Resorting to Murder
10. Making Fun of Murder:
Edmund Crispin - The Moving Toyshop;

Alan Melville - Quick Curtain

11. Education, Education, Education: Mavis Doriel Hay - Death on the Cherwell
12. Playing Politics
13. Scientific Enquiries:
Christopher St. John Sprigg - Death of an Airman;

Freeman Wills Crofts - Mystery in the Channel

14. The Long Arm of the Law: Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game
16. Multiplying Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime
18. Inverted Mysteries:
Anne Meredith - Portrait of a Murderer
19. The Ironists: Anthony Rolls - Family Matters
20. Fiction from Fact: Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair

21. Singletons
22. Across the Atlantic: Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr. Ripley (reread);

Q. Patrick (Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler) - File on Fenton and Farr

23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead

 

Free Square / Eric the Skull: Martin Edwards - The Golden Age of Murder

 

The book that started it all:

Martin Edwards - The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

The Detection Club Reading Lists:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: The "100 Books" Presented
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 1-5

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 6 & 7
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 8-10
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 11-15
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 16-20
The story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 21-24

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review 2018-05-30 11:32
Reading a Book Over and Over: “Devices and Desires” by P. D. James
Devices and Desires - P.D. James

“’The victim's hair was damp, which suggests she died after her swim and not before it’"

 

In “Devices and Desires” by P. D. James

 

 

I’m no detective but that is some incredible deduction Dalgliesh…

 

 

I'm only going to be on this earth for a limited amount of time, and in all likelihood I won't manage in that time to get through all the great books that have ever been written. But I should at least try my best to. I only re-read books if it's so long since I read them that I barely remember them at all, (and even then it's rare). My bookshelves are heaving with books, and I buy them quicker than I read them, so I've got to try my hardest to keep up. And I certainly can't help thinking that if one is re-reading the same book every year, one could do with broadening our horizons a bit. Nevertheless, re-reading should be adopted by all serious readers. Last year I went through some of my favourite SF books of all-time, and what a joyous ride it’s been. Unfortunately that particular objective kept me away from reading some new stuff coming out. Moreover, to re-read a good book lifts the soul, but to re-read one twice or more puts authors on the dole….lol.

 

 

Read on, if you're so inclined.

 

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review 2018-05-25 16:24
Joys of Re-Reading: "A Certain Justice" by P. D. James
A Certain Justice - P.D. James

I too read Asterix comic books that I've read before. The memories of reading them as a child, the familiarity of the characters and the incidents, the dialogue even. Of course, there are lots of reasons why we might want to return to a book. Reading a book again is not just reading it for a second time, it involves a reflexivity: reading your earlier reading of the book (assuming you remember reading it before or if you’ve got a review of that previous reading).

 

It’s by re-reading certain authors with greater clarity than I have apparently mustered, the very self-conscious act that lies behind the public use of the verb 'to re-read'. Is it related to the fact that to describe someone as well read is a bigger compliment than remarking on how someone has been to a lot of opera or surfed a lot of the internet? Do we measure intellectual merit by number of books read? Is that a good thing? (I imagine for the readers of a books blog, the answer is “Yes”).

 

 

If you're into Crime Fiction, read on.

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