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text 2018-03-05 15:35
Reading progress update: I've read 39 out of 222 pages.
Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham

If anyone needs a book with an annoying character for the Lydia Bennett victim card, an Albert Campion mystery would be a perfect fit.

 

"Hallo!" he said. "Seeing London? I come next in importance after the Tower, I always think. Come in."

Yeah, right! Anyway, Albert, I´m going to use you for another card, even though you are weird and annoying and irritating.

 

 

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text 2018-02-04 03:51
January 2018 Wrap up
The Escape - David Baldacci
A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon
Clark the Shark - Bruce Hale
The Midnight Line - Lee Child
The Last Mile - David Baldacci
No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein
The Thirst - Jo Nesbø,Neil Smith
The Fix - David Baldacci

For January 2018, some really good books and some disappointed ones. 

 

5 stars read

 

The Thirst - Jo Nesbø,Neil Smith The Thirst - Jo Nesbø,Neil Smith  

 

Harry is now teaching in police college and has been happily married for 3 years. 

 

Now a new killer is out and it is hard to catch. The chief of police now threatened Harry to get him back to the force to solve the case. 

 

The plots is interesting when the killer is clever and do not care about who he kills but only how he kills. That's make this killer hard to catch or predict.

 

So Harry is going after all the leads. And then tried to out the killer but setting a monkey trap. 

 

Really good story. Good writing and good translation. 

 

The Escape - David Baldacci  The Escape - David Baldacci  

 

A John Puller story about his brother Robert Puller escape from prison.

 

Robert was jailed for treason. A charge that John never really believed but wasn't sure about his innocence either. 

 

John was order to go after his brother. But in the meantime, find out more evidence that his brother is framed. 

 

His love and trust of his brother and the loyalty to his job is in direct conflict. And there is a possibility that if Robert resists arrest, he would let Robert kill him to get away. 

 

Strange. But like the innocent and stubbornness of John Puller. 

 

Of course, Robert is the clever one, and tried to find out more about who wants to kill him during his escape time. 

 

And who betrayed Robert. Must be someone high up. 

 

More dead bodies and a lot of attempt to kill John later, they solved the case. 

 

Happy endings. Good story. Lot of plot driven page turning. 

 

A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon  A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon  Clark the Shark - Bruce Hale  Clark the Shark - Bruce Hale  

 

Two good children books. 

 

A bad case of stripes is being different and being who you are. 

 

Clark the Shark is being big and having behaviors that bother other children. Shark didn't mean to and he changed his behavior after he is made aware of it. 

 

4.5 stars read

 

The Escape - David Baldacci  The Escape - David Baldacci 

 

An Amos Decker story about a ex-football player Melvin Mars in dead row. 

 

He was almost executed. 

 

Another person confused to the crime he was accused of. Then he was free from jail.

 

Then the twist came. The confession was a lie. He was paid to confess to this crime. 

 

More players in the background. A bit strange of their intention. 

 

Amos Decker got help from Melvin to solve this case. With a lot of conspiracy theory thrown into it. 

 

A free man now is free. Good ending.  

 

 

 

The Fix - David Baldacci  The Fix - David Baldacci  

 

A woman is murdered in from of the FBI headquater. 

 

Amos Decker is trying to find who kill the woman and why.

 

It is a mystery. And involved in old spies and spy habit for spying.

 

The only down side is it is a bit to far out. 

 

Amos Decker is also a new apartment, from Mars who he helped saved in his last book.

 

A story about how to catch old spy and found out their identity. 

 

The clue is a bit strange, but still interesting. 

 

Solid read. 

 

4 stars read 

 

Jack Reacher story about John got dumped and reacted strangely. 

 

So Jack got dumped. He drifted. Got to a pawn shop. Saw a West Point ring, woman size and wanted to find the owner.

 

The finding of this woman led him from the pawn shop to a criminal group that sell stolen items to a local drug distribution gang.

 

In the meantime, a PI was hired and looking for the same woman.

 

A lot of twists and turns later. 

 

He found her. But she is in another kind of trouble. Jack wants to help. 

 

Of course he did. A solid read overall. 

 

3 stars read 

 

No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein  No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein  

 

This is really disappointing. 

 

She is repeating herself on what she had written in Shock Doctrine. 

 

The first two third of the book is like that with some updates.

 

The later one third of the book is about hope. But it failed to raise any hope. 

 

She has to know that the Trump supporters are not going to read her book or understand what is trying to say. With that large population of ignorant people that are known as Trump supporters in US. There is very little hope. 

 

Therefore, a 3 stars read. There is not enough good and solid information in this book to make it good. 

 

Summary 

 

Not a bad month for reading. A lot of solid read. Slightly off from the plan as the new books came up. 

 

I like plot driven story. Airport read when one is not at an airport. David Baldacci is a good writer for that. 

 

Looking forward to more read in February. 

 

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review 2018-01-16 15:16
Amos Decker freed Melvin Mars and got a best friend
The Last Mile - David Baldacci

Another good one. 

 

This is the 2nd book in the Amos Decker series, happened right after Amos got the offer to join the FBI. 

 

And it is a good one. Amos Decker found out a fellow footballer was on death row and think he is innocent. 


Turned out he is, and is free after another person on death row confused to the crime he is accused of. The interesting bits is about how a man feel being wrongly jailed for twenty years, and how he feel about not being loved by one parent at all.

 

Melvin Mars was jailed for killing his parents. He didn't. He was framed. 

 

Who framed Melvin Mars? That's the part Amos found out together with Melvin Mars.

 

But that's not complex enough to be a Amos Decker story. It has to be a twist in the plot with more bad guys and some conspiracy. 

 

That's what happened. A lot of bad guys who threatened Amos Decker's life. 

 

And of course he is not afraid for himself. But he is worried that the bad guys going to harm other persons in his FBI team.

 

So... he got help from Mars and solved the case. Sometimes friendship is form when one see the other guy willing to risk his life for the truth. 

 

Solid read. Pretty nice. The book right after this is The Fix. Another good one. 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-16 01:03
Reading progress update: I've read 484 out of 590 pages.
The Last Mile - David Baldacci

Melvin Mars is now out of jail and helping in the investigation of the murders of his parents. 

 

Amos Decker is helping, even if FBI is being called off the case.

 

So who framed Melvin for the murder? 

The play is around football. Melvin's parents were hiding from some bad guys who wanted to harm them. 

 

The clues include why Mars' parents were shot in the head and set on fire. And why Montgomery wanted to confuse to this killing right before Mars was scheduled to be executed. 

 

And why Montgomery's wife has money to spend before getting the insurance money. 

 

There are a lot of questions. Right in the middle, Amos Decker made some wild speculations. This is a plot device as the clue is running into dead end. The way Amos Decker detect is go after all the details where is no clue. Interview everyone and see what come up.

 

Kind of not so systematic.

Only one guy really threatened Amos life, and he is linked to the killing.  

Solid 4 stars 

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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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