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review 2018-01-18 04:36
Rebekka Franck Book 4
Seven, Eight ... Gonna stay up late: Rebekka Franck #4 (Volume 4) - Willow Rose

Rebekka Franck finds herself in the thick of things, once again, and this one is as disturbing as it gets. The author seemed to be going for shock value this time, but I think she may have gone a little over the top with that. I have to add that I've noticed a tendency to use both first and last names repeatedly. It jumped out at me in the second book in the series, but considering the villain we were dealing with, it kind of made sense. But, that same tendency has jumped out in subsequent books, including this one, and it becomes a bit tedious, especially when it's done over and over within a few paragraphs. I have to say that I've liked our heroine thus far in the series, but a couple of things in this installment were bothersome to me. I won't give spoilers, but toward the end of the story, Rebekka came off as self-centered and having little regard for the feelings of others, including how some of her actions would impact those around her. The conclusion here is a bit open-ended with some unanswered questions, and that story sounds intriguing enough to check out the next book.

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review 2018-01-16 19:46
Two Women, One Man Who Didn't Know How to Let Go
Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal - Ann Rule

The cases depicted in this book also showed up on Forensic File and Murderous Affairs. Apparently those shows just look for true crime thrillers to show.

 

This one didn't quite work for me just because I think that Rule had a huge reach about some things (she claimed one woman had to be brainwashed) and her back and forth to two different time periods didn't work all that well. The ending just kind of happens and I felt like there was more missing. 

 

"Too Late to Say Goodbye" is a true crime book about Jenn Corbin and Dolly Hearn. Jenn Corbin is found dead one morning with a gunshot wound. Initially thought as probable suicide, things about Jenn's marriage come to light which leads to questions about what could her husband, Doctor Bart Corbin (a dentist) have to possibly do with her death. When the manner of Jenn's death is investigated, it comes up that a woman that Bart dated during dentistry school also committed suicide found with a gunshot to her head. When the police start digging, it starts to look like Bart Corbin may have played a role in both women's death.

 

I thought Rule did a good job showing us Jenn and Dolly in her book. Rule better than anyone I think in true crime books is able to make the person(s) that are lost feel like living/breathing people that you mourn when they are gone.

 

I just think she missed the mark a bit with Jenn and Dolly. I don't think she meant to, but I thought she pretty much lays things at Dolly's feet with her not being forceful enough to not see Bart anymore after the number of accidents/minor crimes occurred. I just don't get how the police didn't do more when the guy was breaking into her apartment and poured hairspray into her contact lens solution. That right there was assault to me. 

 

Same problem with Jenn who goes looking for some comfort outside of her marriage via an online game. She at times seems to blame Jenn for getting catfished (that's a term now, not anymore) and says she thinks that the person in question brainwashed her. I wish that Rule had stuck with the story in this one and not had tried to psychoanalyze these women.

 

The writing was okay, but honestly, parts of the book read as filler. I think Rule wanted to stretch it out because the eventual trials end up being non-starters. 


The ending didn't work for me either since it felt like a lot of things were left unsaid. 

 

 

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review 2018-01-10 21:00
Mr. Campion of 17A Bottle Street, Piccadilly, London
The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham,David Thorpe
The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham,Francis Matthews
Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham
Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
Dancers in Mourning (Albert Campion Mystery #8) - Margery Allingham
Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham
Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham
The Case of the Late Pig - Margery Allingham
Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham

I started the new year with a minor Allingham binge and, having now read a fair number of her Campion mysteries (12, i.e. 2/3 of the 18 novels that she herself completed), I think I can safely say that while I won't ever like this series as much as I do those of Christie, Sayers, and Marsh, when Allingham is good, she is really good and can easily measure up to the other Golden Age "Queens of Crime."

 

Campion starts out as a fairly thinly-drawn cipher in The Crime at Black Dudley, but that is due to the fact that Allingham wasn't initially intending to make him her main detective: he was her publisher's preference over the character that Allingham herself had had in mind as the lead.  So, in the following novels, she willy-nilly had to put some more flesh onto his hitherto meager bones, and pronto.  Unfortunately, she didn't do likewise for the plots (nor for her books' other characters), which in books 2 and 3 (Mystery Mile and Look to the Lady) remain variations on the same theme -- a treasure hunt with murder interlude, complete with an international crime syndicate led by a master criminal, various abduction schemes, and supporting characters so unrealistic and twodimensionally cardboard they'd go up in flames if you only held a lighter vaguely in their direction. 

 

That said, in book 2 (Mystery Mile) already Allingham did come up with one of the greatest sidekicks ever in the history of mystery writing -- Campion's "gentleman's gentleman" Maggersfontein Lugg, who (being an ex-burglar) is anything but gentlemanlike -- and even by the time she wrote this book, she had already made great strides towards finding her style, and she'd definitely also learned a thing or two about tightening up a meandering plot.

 

The first one of her books that I really enjoyed (or had, on an earlier occasion, even though I didn't revisit it for this particular exercise) is book 4, Police at the Funeral: There still is a bit too much of a "woman in distress" element for my liking at the very beginning of this book, but essentially it's a classic country house mystery with a clever plot and a cast of unusual characters that are definitely showing signs of being more rounded than their confrères of the earlier novels -- the whole thing could easily give Agatha Christie a run for her money (even though the solution won't surprise anyone who knows their Conan Doyle and Christie tolerably well).

 

With book 5, Sweet Danger, we're back, alas, to the "treasure hunt with murder interlude and crime syndicate led by a master criminal" plot phenomenon, this time even with one of the Golden Age's most overused tropes thrown in (a tiny fictitious principality in the Balkans as the origin of the unsavory doings on British soil), all of which by this point had me thorougly gritting my teeth.  What elevates this book (somewhat) above its earlier predecessors, however, are its characters; first and foremost, then-17-year-old Lady Amanda Fitton, who even at that age is completely Campion's equal and manages to bowl him over completely in no time at all.  (She'd return in several subsequent novels and eventually end up as his wife; not without first having taken up a careers as a mechanic engineer.)

 

Book 6, Death of a Ghost, is based on an ingenious idea, set in the arts world, featuring a range of fairly over the top (although not necessarily always likeable) characters and, though Campion tumbles to "whodunnit" fairly early on, the "howdunit" and "whydunit" are far less clear.  One of my favorite installments from the bunch that I've read so far (albeit speaking from memory -- I haven't revisited this one recently, either ... I probably should).

 

Book 7, Flowers for the Judge, begins like a classic Golden Age locked room mystery set in the world of publishing: halfway into the story it becomes clear we're on a sort of treasure hunt yet again (or rather, on the hunt for a manuscript that may or may not exist and provide a vital clue to the murder), but it's clear here that the manuscript is merely a tool and Allingham's chief interest is in the characters -- one in particular --, so I'm willing to forgive Allingham for (semi-)falling back on her favorite ploy here.  (Also, I really like the ending, which provides a twist that rather made me smile, and which for a Golden Age mystery is anything but P.C.)

 

Book 8, The Case of the Late Pig, is an oddity in that it's told from Campion's point of view -- what with its distinctly outlandish plotline and the exchanges between Campion and Lugg it reads like Allingham's take on Jeeves and Wooster (though it's less clear who is supposed to be who), with another locked room puzzle thrown in for good measure and, like in Death of a Ghost, some monkey business associated with a (not-so) dear departed.  I rather liked its twists when I first read it; I've only ever revisited it on screen since, though, where the different narrative point of view isn't as apparent as in print.  Probably I should reread it at some point to see whether the first person narrative voice bothers me more now that I've read more books of the series overall.

 

Book 9, Dancers in Mourning, is Allingham's visit to classic Ngaio Marsh territory -- the world of the London stage --, combined once more with a country house setting.  At this point Allingham is very assured in creating interesting characters and a plot that holds together (also, this book is firmly within established Golden Age traditions), all of which makes for a rather enjoyable read. -- Side note: This is also the last book in which Campion is shown as unlucky in love with one of the story's female characters; in this particular instance, a married woman, which makes for quite a bit more depth than his previous forays into the territory of romance, mostly with the sisters and daughters of his friends and / or clients.

 

Book 10, The Fashion in Shrouds, sees Campion reunited -- of sorts -- with Amanda Fitton, who is now working as an engineer: what starts as a (purported) ploy of Amanda's designed to disentagnle her employer from the married star actress he has fallen in love with ends up with Campion and Amanda taking the first steps towards a bona fide union.  Topically, this is Allingham's take on career women; besides Amanda and the aforementioned vampish actress, the third woman on whom the story focuses is is Campion's sister Valerie, co-owner and chief designer of a fashion house.  In approach and execution, this novel is nowhere near as accomplished as Dorothy L. Sayers's Harriet Vane novels (particularly Gaudy Night, which was published three years before The Fashion in Shrouds) -- and the only truly independent and self-assured female character is Amanda, as well as Campion and Valerie's "Tante Marthe", the co-owner of the fashion house -- but I suppose given its publication date, it's worth mentioning that Allingham is placing career women center stage in a (mostly) favorable light at all.

 

Book 11, Traitor's Purse, to me is a hot mess; a fallback of the worst kind into Allingham's early "treasure hunt with assorted villainy" plotlines, replete with incomprehensible decisions on Campion's part that not even a head injury can satisfactorily explain away (in fact, in light of that head injury they're even more inexplicable), cipher characters, and a thoroughly implausible plot.  Seems Allingham, like Christie, got caught up in the "5th column" / "enemy at home" noise echoing through Britain (like through most, if not all European countries) in WWII, when this book was published; and again like Christie, she just simply didn't know enough about the world of espionage to pull it off convincingly.

 

Books 12 and 13 (Coroner's Pidgin and More Work for the Undertaker) are, as yet, on my TBR -- I don't know when I'll get around to them, but after this recent little binge, I doubt it will be anytime soon.

 

Which finally brings us to Book 14, The Tiger in the Smoke; in terms of characterization and atmosphere undoubtedly one of Allingham's strongest -- at least of the first 14 Campion novels.  Yet again we find about halfway through the book that we are on a treasure hunt, but for once even the villains -- and we know who they are almost from the get-go -- are fully rounded characters with an inner life and both a past and a present (albeit not much of a future if it's down to Campion and the police).  Campion's Scotland Yard sidekick of the earlier books, Stanislaus Oates, has climbed the career ladder all the way to the top, so the day to day police work is now being done by a very sympathetically drawn and, again, fully rounded new character, D.C.I. Charles Luke (side note: like Amanda's path from teenager to career woman to (now) Campion's wife and equal opportunity "lieutenant", another instance showing that unlike Christie, Allingham allowed her characters to age in real time).  And towards the end of the book, just before the final resolution, we even get a finely-drawn downright Dostoevskyan exchange between a priest and the worst of the bad guys that a younger Allingham might have given her eye teeth to write, but would not have been able to pull off anywhere near as accomplished. What's not to like?!

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review 2017-12-28 14:37
The Late Show
The Late Show - Michael Connelly

So I really enjoyed this new character created by Michael Connelly. Renee Ballard is a LAPD detective who has been bounced to "The Late Show" i.e. the night shift that means she no longer gets to work hot cases. We find out that when Renee filed a sexual harassment case against her supervisor, her ex partner failed to back her up, which caused her to get booted to the late show. When Renee starts working two cases that brings her back into the periphery of her ex-supervisor and ex-partner, Renee finds out that she doesn't want to just be pushed out and ignored anymore. In the current climate that is going on (women coming forward with sexual harassment complaints) Connelly could not have written a more topical novel. I really loved the character of Renee. She obviously has a lot of issues, but she is smart and refuses to back down. I can see her going down as a fan favorite just like Harry Bosch.

 

When Renee catches the first of the two cases we follow in this book, we get to see her not just going by the numbers like her current partner Jenkins is doing. Getting to investigate who left a prostitute near death, has Renee wanting to catch "the big evil" that she thinks the perpetrator has to be. When Renee and Jenkins are called to another crime scene at a nightclub that left several people dead, she runs into her ex-partner Chastain and her former supervisor Olivas.

 

The characters in this one really do come alive. I liked Renee a lot. You definitely get that she's smart. And I liked that something in her would not just allow her to write off an attack on a prostitute. With her going back to figure out what happened to the victim and doing the groundwork needed to figure out who the perpetrator was interesting. And I am glad that Renee got to redeem herself in this book though she really didn't need to be redeemed. It sucks her career got derailed because she refused to have sex with her supervisor. I can see that Olivas is going to be set up to be a thorn in her side (unless Connelly kills his terrible ass) for at least one more book.

 

Renee's partner Jenkins is just sticking around til retirement trying to take care of his sick wife. Unlike with Bosch though, Renee truly seems to value his partnership and even though Chastain betrayed her, she still knows the ins and outs of him long after their partnership is over. I always felt like Bosch was just a lone wolf who didn't need anyway. I liked Ballard having to bring in people with what she was doing through both cases.

Renee's grandmother was barely in this book, hope we see more of her in the future.

 

The writing was really good. It took a bit though for me to get a handle on Ballard. I honestly didn't know if I even liked her at first. She seemed to be pretty hard and when you read about what all happened to her (losing her father, not having her mother around, dealing with her partner betraying her) I can see why she was so prickly. I don't know if I would be done with just sleeping on a beach most nights though.

 

I really did love how this book calls back to a few things from the Bosch series. Many long time readers should realize who Chastain is, his father appeared in several of the Bosch books, "The Black Ice", "Trunk Music" and "Angels Flight." We also have references to Bosch himself and a series based on his life. That part cracked me up though. Can you imagine Bosch wanting to be part of a tv series?

 

The ending left things with Ballard at a crossroads of sorts. I am curious what she is going to do, stick with "The Late Show" or finally be called back up to Homicide. I do hope that she runs into other characters from the Bosch universe.

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review 2017-12-21 00:12
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014
Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014 - Ursula K. Le Guin

Constellating

 

Mind draws the lines between the stars

that let the Eagle and the Swan

fly vast and bright and far

above the dark before the dawn.

 

Between two solitary minds

as far as Deneb from Altair,

love flings the unimaginable line

that marries fire to fire.

 

This short collection was my first encounter of Le Guin's poetry. I enjoyed it. I liked how she tried different themes and different styles and structures. 

 

Not all of the poems spoke to me, but some did, and that is all I look for.

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