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text 2018-04-25 21:08
Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 380 pages.
A Talent for Murder: A Novel - Andrew Wilson

Ok, this is probably the one book that I am starting with the most anticipation and the most hesitation I have felt towards any book in a while. 

 

I don't like fan-fiction and I'm particular about historical fiction, even more so when it is about a person or event that I am familiar with. 

 

A Talent for Murder is both. It is a fictionalised biography of Agatha Christie that is also a mystery about what happened during the eleven days she was missing in 1926. 

 

I'm also excited. Andrew Wilson is a skilled biographer of Patricia Highsmith, another favourite of mine. He is also a fan of her thrillers. 

 

So far, I'm excited to say that all that reading Highsmith seems to have rubbed off a little, and that is probably the best scenario I could have wished for. The beginning of the book was a littered with scenes that resembled elements of both The Man in the Brown Suit and Strangers on a Train

 

I hope Wilson manages to keep this up.

 

Incidentally, I'm not impressed by the title, A Talent for Murder. It seems to be a copy of Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder, which essentially following the same story idea but is a fictionalised murder mystery based on Christie's fellow crime writer Josephine Tey.

 

Yeah, not keen on the copy-cat idea here, and I'm sure I'll be even less impressed if Wilson follows the same formula.

So, we'll see.

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review 2018-04-24 22:44
Book Review of Tormented by Susan Clayton-Goldner
Tormented - Susan Clayton-Goldner

Father's Anthony's devotion to God and His Church begins to unravel the moment Rita Wittier steps inside St. Catherine’s Cathedral in San Francisco. He struggles to control his feelings, but two years later, he is a man obsessed.

 

In an attempt to rediscover the priest he intended to become, Anthony flies back to Delaware to visit Father Timothy. If redemption can be found anywhere, surely it can be found in the church of his childhood and in the soothing Irish brogue of his former mentor.

 

The months pass, 60 Minutes does a special on Father Anthony and the Shepherd Academy—a school he started for disadvantaged children. He’s become a national hero— nicknamed the Good Shepherd. But he can’t get Rita out of his mind. He wants her more than anything—even God—and can no longer deny it. Six hours after he tells her how he feels, Rita is found dead in her car from an apparent suicide. Or is it murder?

 

Review 4*

 

This is an interesting psychological thriller/murder mystery. I really enjoyed it!

 

Father Anthony is an interesting character. I liked him and felt for him as he finds himself questioning his life as a priest when he begins to have feelings for one of his parishioners, Rita Wittier. When she is found dead in an apparent suicide not long after he confesses to her about his feelings, he finds himself torn between grief and determination to find her killer.

 

I started to read this book and was quickly hooked. Set in 1971, the story takes the reader on an emotional journey of a priest who suffers from a crisis of faith. This story is told through various characters' view points, which made it more interesting so that a reader gets to see what's happening at different points throughout the tale. Tormented is an apt title, as each character is beset by doubts and emotional angst. Besides Father Anthony, the reader is also introduced to Rita's husband, Konrad, who's a criminal lawyer, her nine year-old daughter, Connie, and her brother, Gordon (or Gordy as he's known by) who is a fashion designer/artist. We also are introduced to the investigating policeman, Detective Paul Harley Stanwick.

 

There are several twists and turns in this story that had me doubting myself, as well as a few well placed red herrings that kept me from guessing who the main suspect was initially. I should have listened to my gut. Even though I had an inkling as to who it was who killed Rita, at least by the half-way point, I was still surprised by how the author gave the reveal a twist. The character I felt for the most was Connie. Being only nine, she has to deal with a lot of emotional baggage, which strips her of her childhood innocence. The tale is a riveting read of danger and suspense. I reached the end of the book with mixed feelings - sorry for the characters but glad that the culprit was caught. I really enjoyed the story though.

 

Susan Clayton-Goldner is a new author to me, as I've never read any of her other books before. I love her writing style, which is not particularly fast-paced even though it kept me turning the pages. The story flowed wonderfully from scene to scene, which made it easy to picture in my minds eye. I would consider reading more of her books in the future,

 

Due to some moderate violence (implied not shown), I do not recommend this book to younger readers. However, I recommend this book to those who love psychological thrillers or murder mysteries. - Lynn Worton

 

*****

 

Please note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author before the publication in May 2018 with no expectation of a positive review.

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review 2018-04-24 22:24
This book has humour, mystery, romance, and fun
Murder Takes the High Road - Josh Lanyon
Josh Lanyon does it again with another 5 star read for me. Cosy mystery meets fish out of water/stranger in a strange land.
A librarian, on a book tour to meet a murder writer, gets embroiled in murders. And solves the mystery with...books!
Well written and plotted, this book reminds me of a modern Christie, a la Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, albeit with a much less glamorous mode of transport. The romance is slow burn and the two leads are really endearing. I love Lanyon's laid back approach to the romance. 
Overall this book has humour, mystery, romance, and fun. 
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review 2018-04-23 13:00
Murder Off Miami: Updated -- Case Notes and Final Comments
Murder Off Miami - Dennis Wheatley

Sooo ... turns out I correctly guessed the solution.  Though as MbD said in her review, it pretty much turns on one particular item of conjecture presented fairly early on, so I toyed with some more elaborate options for a while because initially I couldn't believe it really should be that easy. -- That said, like MbD I missed a few of the minor clues (and didn't entirely think through, or put a slightly different construction on some of those that I had seen); but ultimately none of that really mattered.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Case Notes, as posted on April 22, 2018, 00:05 AM CEST:

 

OK, I've finished it and formed my theory, but since MbD had pity on me last night (her time) and didn't exploit her world clock-generated advantage, I'll put all of my case notes (except for the corresponding headlines) in spoiler tags just to be on the safe side.  Though I do have a feeling we're on the same track as far as the solution is concerned.  But anyway!

 

Bolitho Blane and Nicholas Stodart

 

Who are they really, anyway??? 

 

* No verifiable third-hand information from any indisputable source (Scotland Yard, British armed forces, British colonial administration, etc.) on either. 

 

* Stodart's personal background especially re: the war years (WWI) is sourced only through S. himself. The British authorities don't even know him (i.e., he doesn't even have a birth certificate at Somerset House??)

 

* Ditto essentially Blane, who styles himself as a recluse and conducts even his business affairs chiefly "at the remote" -- by telephone and cable / correspondence.

 

* Both Blane and Stodart surfaced in Britain suddenly, at some point after the end of WWI, with a vague background of having come from "the colonies" (Australia / India / South Africa).

 

* Nobody, not even Rocksavage and the yacht's captain saw Blane / Stodart come on board (as per Rocksavage's testimony, you can't see the gangway from the bridge).

 

* Nobody saw Blane immediately after boarding; even the steward was kept out of his suite.

 

* Only one person on board knows what Blane looks like -- the Bishop, who wasn't in the lounge with the other passengers (minus Blane) before dinner on the fateful night and promptly has a fainting fit when Stodart enters the room where he is being interrogated.

 

* Similarly, nobody knows what Blane's handwriting looks like (or Stodart's for that matter).  The alleged suicide note is produced by Stodart.

 

* In fact, the entire suicide theory originates with Stodart.  (BUT: If you're staging a suicide, then why also stage a murder (tracks on the carpet, blood stains)?)

 

* Blane not only owns Argus Suds but (as per Jocelyn, who ought to know) also Redmeyer Synd shares, which at least before Blane's "exit" seem to have been faring considerably better than Argus Suds -- and better than Rocksavage Con, even if not as well as the other stocks associated with Rocksavage (Denton Bros, Grandol Soaps, and Sen Toilet Preps).

 

* Why the sudden need for a secretary / assistant on Blane's part, shortly before this trip?!  Explanation given isn't convincing.

 

* What is the meaning of Stodart's toothache / ill-fitting dentures?  Something to do with blood?

(spoiler show)

 

New York (Blane & Stodart's Travel to and Stay There)

 

* Blane's luggage has tags for the Ritz, Stodart's doesn't (at least not visibly).

 

* Stodart's luggage has "Cunard Line" tag, Blane's doesn't (at least not visibly).  (NB: As per internet research, the R.M.S. Berengaria really was a Cunard ship in the 1930s.)

 

* Letter to the Bishop written on Adlon Claridge paper.  That seems to have been the Bishop's hotel in N.Y.:  The Adlon Claridge match found later suggests that the letter wasn't sent to the Bishop as part of the mail delivered on board, but already conveyed to him in N.Y. in some fashion.

 

* Interpretation that letter to Bishop contains a veiled threat and is intended to hush him up is probably correct.

 

* Blane's luggage contains dirty / used clothing for 2 days.  So was there a laundry on the R.M.S. Berengaria?  (N.B.: Blue riband winners in the mid-1930s clocked in at roughly 4 days' travel time.  So the voyage from England would easily have taken that long, if not a day or two longer.)  But wouldn't the Ritz have offered laundry services, too?

 

* Stodart's luggage not inventoried.  (Presumably because police consider him a witness?)

 

* By letter to Bishop, we know that Blane / Stoddart were (was?!) in New York on March 5.

 

* Then [t]he[y] found an excuse not to travel to Florida with the rest of the passengers, and only board the yacht there at the very last minute on March 8.

(spoiler show)

 

Crime Scene

 

* If Blane was shot, where is the bullet?  Why wasn't it recovered (near one of the blood stains or anywhere else)?

 

* Crime scene photos at the very least don't suggest bullet has entered the wall.

 

* No odd number of bullets found in Blane's possession (25 bullets sounds like a number that B. could have counted off and brought with him from home).

 

* What caused that blood stain's black rim -- possibly black ink?

 

* "Suicide note" written in blue ink.  Comment on the back of the stock price listing written in black ink, like the stock price listing itself.

 

* Writing set on the desk seems to be missing one (the middle) pen.

 

* What color is the ink found in Blane's personal possessions -- black or blue?  The inventory doesn't say.

 

* Where did whoever wrote the suicide note (if it was written on board) sit while doing so?  There is no chair anywhere near the desk.

 

* Additional notes on ink / paper:

(a) Both of Hayashi's notes are written in blue ink as well.  As per his and the steward's testimony, immediately after boarding no foolscap / writing paper and no ink available in his cabin (only after the main on-board store had been reopened and cabins could be reprovisioned from there).  Lacking writing materials in his own cabin, Hayashi had to resort to materials provided in the ship's writing room.

(b) No odd number of sheets of yellow writing paper on the block contained in Blane's possessions.  25 sheets sounds like this could be the complete block brought by Blane from home.

(c) 68 pages of foolscap suggests use of some of the foolscap paper, though.  But for what purpose?

 

* In Blane's room, no change of daytime or evening clothes seems to have been unpacked / laid ready for dinner (only his pyjama and dressing gown). -- Stodart, OTOH, has had a change of shoes and socks at the very least.

 

* What is the black spot at the far end of the bathtub in Blane's suite?

 

* If the steward was in the adjacent room to Blane's suite, why didn't he hear anything?  (The shot may have been silenced, but literally nothing -- no commotion, not Blane's / Stodart's voice(s), no sounds of something falling (the body?!)?  May be the fault of the nearby carpenter's work, though.

(spoiler show)

 

Time of the Murder

 

* See above: Why can't the murder (if such a thing occurred at all) have been committed right after boarding?  We only have Stodart's word for the assertion that Blane was alive then in the first place -- and Stodart, by his own testimony, was alone in the room with him until 7:30 pm.

 

* At and after 7:00 pm (even more so, between 7:30 and 8:30 / 8:45 pm) it would have been dark outside, so presumably nobody would have seen what, if anything, was tossed out of the porthole of Blane's suite at that time.

 

* But: According to the page torn from Stodart's calendar, full moon at 4:15 am.  (Where exactly does that get us?  What, if anything, was planned for that time?)

 

* Stodart is the only person who was always in somebody's view and therefore has a perfect alibi during the entire time when Detective Kettering believes the murder was committed (i.e., after 7:30 or even after 7:45 pm). -- As Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey have all said on many a similar occasion: "There is nothing I distrust so much as a seemingly unbreakable alibi."

(spoiler show)

 

Relationship Blane / Hayashi

 

* Is Hayashi's note really about Blane's supposed intent to come to an agreement with Rocksavage?  I don't think so -- rather, the wording suggests a specific action being contemplated by Blane, and of which he has given Hayashi advance notice; maybe in order to sway H. in his (Blane's) own favor.

 

* We know from Slick, aka the Count, that Blane had exposed Slick's card-sharping on a previous occasion, much to Slick's detriment.  Could Blane not have told Hayashi that if H. didn't grant the Japanese monopoly to him (Blane), he'd expose the bribery scheme to which Rocksavage had more or less already agreed?

 

(spoiler show)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

This particular volume qualifies for square / chapter 4 of the Detection Club bingo, for which I've already read Freeman Wills Crofts's Hog's Back Mystery, but I'm happy to say that I have since found affordable copies of two more books by Dennis Wheatley, as well as Q. Patrick's File on Fenton and Farr online, which I take both from MbD's reviews of Murder Off Miami and File on Fenton and Farr is more intricately  plotted, and which will qualify for the "Across the Atlantic" square.  Anyway, this was great fun -- and I'm very much looking forward to my next "crime files" adventure!

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-23 09:37
Murder Off Miami
Murder Off Miami - J.G. Links,Dennis Wheatley

Well, after a day preparing for having friends around for dinner yesterday, I wasn't able to get back to this until today.  

 

(Full disclosure: I'm not all that concerned about spoilers here, given the unique nature of the tome and the knowledge that the only other person I know to have a copy of it has already read it - and taken way better notes.)

 

The good news is I was right - I guessed the killer.  The not as good news is that I did it almost immediately.  The entire thing hinged on a false assumption made at the start, around page 15 or so.  If the reader picks up on that false assumption, the rest of the file is really rather extraneous.  In fact, I was more than a little nervous about looking at the solution because I felt like I had to be missing something.  It turns out I was, but only a handful of smaller clues that supported the answer.  I'd have really liked having to rely on those clues; solving the mystery would have been a lot more fun if I'd had to search them out.  As it was, I was so certain about the twist, I didn't look very hard at the evidence.

 

There's one caveat to my gripes though; if I'm being objective (and I try to be), I have to say that this mystery file probably suffers to a greater degree because I've read another - one written later and by another author - first.  That one, File on Fenton and Farr, was far more intricately plotted, and strung the actual clues out far longer, than Murder Off Miami, leaving me tossing theories around until almost the very end.  I got that one right too, but I had to really work for it, and if anything, that's what disappointed me about this one.

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