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review 2017-08-17 15:43
Knitting Needles, Brains, and Burglary (by Proxy)
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth

This book marks Miss Silver's entrance into the annals of Golden Age crime fiction, and it's certainly an enjoyable one.

 

I'd read other Miss Silver mysteries before: This doesn't strike me as a series one absolutely has to read strictly in order; even though it is worthwhile noting that Wentworth also created several other fictional detectives, who even when appearing without Miss Silver clearly operate in the same fictional universe, and they do repeatedly show up in her cases as well.  Most, if not all of these other detectives are former pupils of Miss Silver, who once upon a time used to be a governess, and wherever they do appear alongside her, the ultimate honors of solving the case invariably go to her in the end.  So I guess the one aspect to be aware of is which one (if any) of her fellow sleuths is featured in a given book, and where in the sequence of their collaboration with Miss Silver the book in question is placed. -- For those interested, I've found a very neat overview on this on a blog called The Passing Tramp.

 

Anyway, having read other books featuring Miss Silver, I was interested to see how she had initially been introduced, so when there was talk of a Grey Mask buddy read, I jumped at the idea.  And I'm glad I did! 

 

We get to see more of Miss Silver's (on occasion quite formidable) ex-governess side in the later books, but even in this first venture -- where none of the aforementioned other detectives appears -- we see her treating a recalcitrant client essentially like the ten-year-olds she used to tutor, and most of her trademark features are already in place: the "gentle cough" that invariably precedes any statement of import; her knitting needles (not the only feature she shares with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple -- both ladies also have a certain penchant for primness, even if both of them are equally capable of taking it with a certain pinch of salt), her neat and capacious handbag, and most importantly, her razor-sharp brain, which easily puts her on a level with Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot ... and, again, Miss Marple, about whom none less than (ex-)CID Chief Sir Henry Clithering says in The Body in the Library, and not without reason, that she is "better at [solving crimes] than I am at it":

 

"Downstairs in the lounge ... there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid spinsterish face, and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day's work." 

 

The same thing might just as well be said about Miss Silver -- who however, like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, leaves the reader (and the other party to the conversation) in no doubt as to the size of her brains and her capacity of logical thought, whereas Miss Marple outwardly is all flutter and modesty, while nevertheless surreptitiously manipulating others into doing just what she needs them to do ... while Miss Silver can be downright facetiously open about it:

 

"Miss Silver tapped with her pencil.

'Are you suggesting that we should apply for a search warrant?'

'No, I'm not.  I'm suggestin' doin' a little job of breakin' and enterin'.  Look here, Miss Silver, are you game? [...]'

'I've my reputation to consider,' said Miss Silver. She coughed. 'If I were walking along [that particular] Street and were to ring [that house's] bell --' she paused and gazed at him mildly.  'If you opened the door to me, it really would not be any business of mine how you got in.'"

 

And a while later:

 

"Miss Silver turned her torch down, picked up a metal bar, and put it into [his] hand.

'What is it?'

'Well,' said Miss Silver -- she gave a slight cough -- 'I believe it is called a jemmy -- an instrument in use amongst burglars.  I, of course, have my reputation to consider. But if you --' She coughed again. 'It really seems quite providential -- doesn't it?'

'Heaven helps those who help themselves, in fact,' [he] responded.

Miss Silver proceeded to give him expert advice as to lock-breaking."

 

I'm not sure that we'd ever see quite that sort of scene with Miss Marple (Holmes and Poirot are, of course, a different matter; they've both been known to burgle the odd building in the interests of higher justice), though Miss Marple would almost certainly have, amid a great deal of flutter, pinpointed the exact location to look for inside the house in question in advance, to within a few inches at most; probably after having gotten the vicar's wife to unearth for her precisely the same (published) source that had inspired the present owner of the house to make use of that very location in the first place.

 

Unlike Holmes and Poirot (and, for that matter, Miss Marple), who at least in the Final Reveal typically give a full account of their methods and thought processes, we are not given that sort of access here, and if anything, it is this that makes Miss Silver seem decidedly more ethereal than in the later books -- which, at least the ones I've read, do feature a traditional Final Reveal; warts and all: Not only does Miss Silver seem in this, her first venture, however, to appear out of nothing in her client's and the other protagonists' vista and vicinity on more than one occasion; she also has to do all her own research, since she does not have an assistant, which would have had to involve quite a substantial amount of interviews, visits to libraries, and other "legwork", all of which at times left me wondering how she could possibly have fitted all that activity into the time frame available ... while at the same time keeping exact tabs on her client's and his protegée's, as well as pretty much all the other major characters' whereabouts.

 

Patricia Wentworth had published several romance novels before turning to crime fiction, and this is not the only one of her books on which that writerly history has left an undelible mark.  (It's also not the only one of her books where the various emotional conflicts are "resolved" in rather a rushed way at the end.)  As for the book's major characters (besides Miss Silver), they fall nicely into the categories and types that had already been coined by other mystery authors at the time, and to a large extent made up the stock whose representatives would continue to populate the better part of Golden Age mysteries up to the eve of World War II and beyond.  Still, like the other Miss Silver mysteries I've read, this proved to be a quick, entertaining and deceptively lightly-written read, and I'll happily continue to sprinkle books from this series in among my reading pleasure.

 

*************

 

Previous status updates:

1/3 mark

2/3 mark

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review 2017-05-27 19:56
Status Update by Annabeth Albert
Status Update - Annabeth Albert

 

I surprised myself by liking this one rather a lot.  Contemporaries aren't my favorite and I am really tired of the whole "in the closet" trope, and so I probably would not have read this if it weren't a group read.  But I found both of the characters relatable - Noah was stuck in a rut, but he was working on himself and trying really hard to be a good person and contribute. And I totally get why Adrian pushes him to change. It isn't just for his own happiness or the relationship - it is to keep Noah from smothering himself out of misplaced sense of duty.

I also liked that they both had jobs they cared about and were good at. I pretty much saw how the job situation would work out

with Noah becoming a staff archeologist for the gaming company

(spoiler show)

 from nearly the beginning of the book, but I appreciated that

Noah left on his own terms rather than being outed - I was kind of braced for a huge drama and relieved it was Noah's decision and not a deus ex machina.

(spoiler show)


The author did a good job with the families and coworkers too. They seemed like real people.

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review 2017-03-11 00:00
Status Update
Status Update - Annabeth Albert Audi was wonderful. Definite distinction between the characters (major and minor), good emotion and it was just a great listen. I have no complaints.

Noah was such a good Samaritan and I love that he was willing to help someone who needed it even though he was pretty antisocial. I liked that Adrian drew Noah out of his shell.
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review 2016-08-17 03:51
Status Update (#gaymers #1) (Audiobook)
Status Update - Annabeth Albert

This was very sweet and cute, and not just because of the dogs, though they certainly don't hurt. :D

 

Noah is a closeted professor at a conservative, parochial university and grew up in a conservative family with an abusive, domineering father. As such, he's super repressed, to the point that he's never even had sex, or even a kiss. He's convinced himself he doesn't need it and all he really needs from life is to make tenure. Adrien is a gamer geek and programer. Even his tattoos are geeky. He's outgoing and loud and has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. He's great at long-distance relationships. A little too great. He uses them as a crutch for his own insecurities about relationships.

 

I really liked that these guys could learn things from each other, and not just be all lusty. I mean, there was lust, and the mandatory sex scenes, but this was really more about them getting to know each other - and themselves - because they each offered something the other was missing. 

 

I don't think I buy the whole road trip snow storm on Thanksgiving thing. Someone who lives out that way, does it actually snow that time of year? It's still autumn. Would've made more sense for there to be some sort of mechanical failure with the RV that then needed repairs to strand them, but whatever. I can be flexible sometimes if the story is worth it, and I think it is in this case. 

 

I also really appreciated the balance given to Noah's coming out. Too many authors think that conservative = hates all the gays. And yes, this is a larger problem with that demographic than it is among liberals, but there's also a spectrum. Not everyone meets the stereotype checklist, so I liked that Noah was met with both understanding and acceptance by some and misguided "help" by others.

 

I don't know if we'll have another book with these two later, but I hope so. I'd love to catch up with them at some point.

 

Narration: Sean Crisden isn't my favorite narrator. I find his regular reading voice to be on the droll side, but he voices these two well, and doesn't do that high-pitched thing for the women voices like some guys do, and he hit the emotional queues pretty well. 

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review 2016-07-08 14:00
Review: "Status Update" (#gaymers, #1) by Annabeth Albert
Status Update - Annabeth Albert

"Adrian kissed like he was in charge. Like he expected to be the one in charge. And something inside Noah opened up and said yes. Yes, in a way he'd never been able to before. Yes, with a thousand small exhales. Yes, with his lips parting, welcoming Adrian's tongue, welcoming Adrian taking over his mouth, taking over his person."

 

This book made me so, so happy!

 

 

And not just happy as in "this was such a sweet and well-written story and I had a great time reading it" happy, but as in "this book made me fall so hard for its MCs and their crazy ass chemistry and gave me all the fuzzy feels that I had a constant grin on my face" happy.

 

Noah and Adrian - though being so very different from their upbringing and their own personal dealings with being gay - just felt right together from the start. They both gave each other so much and they were both just so genuinely nice and good-hearted people that I couldn't help but root for them to fall in love and get their HEA.

 

 

This story ticked so many of my boxes:

 

  • ga(y)mers
  • men with dogs
  • a spontaneous RV road trip
  • a hipster
  • a virgin

 

And cuddling. Sweet Baby Jesus, so much cuddling.

 

 

Usually, when I read "35-year-old virgin", this is my initial reaction:

 

 

So kudos to Annabeth Albert's mad writing skills to make this part of Noah's background absolutely believable and comprehensible to me.

 

The building trust between Adrian and Noah was a delight to witness and each step of their relationship was a joy to get lost in. I loved how Noah finally came out of his shell and how Adrian was so sweet and patient with him.

 

 

Oh, and you should totally get the audiobook. Sean Crisden already is a favorite narrator of mine, but once again he brought an already great book to a higher level with his performance.

 

 

I can't wait to reread this again. Perfect romance is perfect.

 

 

Highly, highly recommended!

 

Thanks to Julie & Marte for the BR!

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