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review 2019-03-18 12:39
This is more like it.
The Gazebo - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

(More than The Alington Inheritance, that is.) -- Still a bit too much of a whiny heroine, but at least we're firmly back in true and trusted Maudie territory.  And it has to be said, while the victim is no Mrs. Boynton (cf. Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death), by the time she finally meets her end few would argue that the world is not a better place without her in it.

 

There are some shades of Grey Mask here (broken off engagement sends the hero to "forn parts", where he roams the wilderness for a few years until he starts missing the old country and returns, only to be plunged straight into his former / still beloved's latest messy circumstances: if there's one trope Wentworth can be said to be overusing, it's probably this one; e.g., it's also the premise of Miss Silver Comes to Stay, and with a twist, of The Traveller Returns / aka She Came Back, and a key character's surprise return also features importantly in The Watersplash, albeit minus broken off engagement) -- and although this is emphatically not an inverted mystery, both the whodunnit and the core "why" is pretty obvious from the get-go.  (Or I've just read too many stories of that type.  But Wentworth really isn't exactly subtle about this particular bit.)  Despite a valiant attempt on Wentworth's part at creating a plausible back story for the "who" and "why", the motive still feels a bit contrived ... or let's say, it's the kind of thing that pretty much only Arthur Conan Doyle could get away with (or the creators of mysteries for young readers, where it's a particular favorite).  But at least Wentworth's attempt here is not any worse than those of other authors using this particular trope.

 

Most of all, though, Wentworth's fine eye for character(s) and human interactions shines once again -- in the portrayal of abusive relationships (there are several here) as well as the creation of the comic relief, in this instance, three gossipping old-maidish sisters -- who in another book might easily have had a different role (and indeed the local gossip is portrayed extremely negatively in The Alington Inheritance) but here it's clear that they are essentially harmless and, indeed, ultimately even helpful to the investigation.  And of course, watching Maudie and her most devoted fan (Frank Abbott) is always a joy.

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text 2019-03-17 00:15
Reading progress update: I've read 99 out of 186 pages.
Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym

Is this the fate that would have awaited Pym's heroine from Excellent Women, Mildred Lathbury, if she had decided upon permanent "spinsterhood"?

 

So quintessentially late 1970s -- cheap drabness (the cityscape and office life mirroring the four protagonists's personal lives), occasionally contrasted with and punctuated by the visceral shocks of the psychedelic age.  Pym (1913-1980) quite obviously more than empathized with her protagonists -- but unlike other writers born before WWI and still publishing books in the 1970s (looking at you, Dame Agatha and Ms Marsh), she seems to also have looked upon the concerns and attitudes of the representatives of younger generations with quite a fair amount of sympathy.

 

Now that the two female protagonists have retired (and I'm about halfway through the book), it seems a good moment to take a break.  I wonder how Pym is going to keep the "quartet" together, though -- the office so far having provided their only, albeit persistent, point of contact.  I guess I'll be finding out tomorrow!

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review 2019-03-16 14:00
If you thought Wentworth couldn't go any lower than "Grey Mask" ...
The Alington Inheritance (A Miss Silver Mystery) - Patricia Wentworth
The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

... don't go anywhere near this one.

 

Whiny, immature, TSTL special snowflake heroine.  Insta-love.  Completely implausible, "fortuitous" (*major headdesk moment*) first encounter between hero and heroine.  Weak plotline that is further weakened by an "inverse mystery" structure -- it certainly does NOT help that we know whodunnit from the get-go.

 

One star for Maudie being Maudie.  Half a star for de-facto street urchin Dicke's occasional comic relief.

 

So much for the much-needed comfort reading I was hoping for ...

 

Next!!

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text 2019-03-12 13:19
Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 304 pages.
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Liz Kalaugher,Matin Durrani

 

Almost done with chapter 3 and so far, so fluffy and easily digestible.  It reminds me a lot of some of the animal-related science programs on TV that I used to be glued to as a kid (and that I sometimes still enjoy watching) -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing; they did / do get quite a bit of interesting information across, even if somewhat superficial in actual science terms.  As a result, there are a number of things I already knew going in (e.g., the Komodo dragon's bite and the garter snakes' fake-female pheromenes featured in a program I watched just recently), but there's enough that I hadn't heard about before to keep me interested.

 

The humor was funny for about 5 pages, then it got a bit much and I started getting a sort of "one-upmanship" vibe between the two authors as to who could come up with the funnier turn of phrase, and it began to intrude into the text.  I'm glad that by the beginning of chapter 3 they seem to have been over it and are now keeping it to more bearable levels.

 

Props for mentioning a scientist from my (German) alma mater, Bonn University!  (Prof. Helmut Schmitz, he of the scorched-wood-detecting fire beetles -- whose actual research paper can incidentally be read HERE, in case anybody is interested.)

 


The building where Bonn University's Institute of Zoology is located (an erstwhile palace of the Archbishop / Electoral Prince of Cologne)

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text 2019-03-11 22:55
Around the World in 80 Books Mostly by Female Authors: Master Update Post

[World map created with Mapchart.net]

 

The aim: To diversify my reading and read as many books as possible (not necessarily 80) set in, and by authors from, countries all over the world.  Female authors preferred.  If a book is set in a location other than that of the author's nationality, it can apply to either (but not both).

 

On the map I'm only tracking new reads, not also rereads.

 

The Books:

Africa

Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus (new)

 

Egypt

Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank (new)

 

 

 

 

Americas

USA

Michelle Obama: Becoming (new)

Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Red Lamp (new)

* Puerto Rico

Rosario Ferré: The House on the Lagoon (new)

 

Canada

Stef Penney: The Tenderness of Wolves (new)

 

Brazil

Clarice Lispector: The Hour of the Star (new)

 

 

 

 

 

Asia

China

Xinran: The Good Women of China (new)

 

Japan

Shizuko Natsuki: Murder at Mt. Fuji (new)

 

North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee: The Girl with Seven Names (new)

 

Sri Lanka

Michael Ondaatje: Anil's Ghost (new)

 

 

 

 

 

Australia / Oceania

Australia

Joan Lindsay: Picnic at Hanging Rock (new)

 

New Zealand

Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder and Died in the Wool (both revisited on audio)

 

 

 

 

 

Europe

United Kingdom

Lorna Nicholl Morgan: Another Little Murder (new)

Stephen Fry, John Woolf, Nick Baker: Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets (new)

P.D. James: A Taste for Death (revisited on audio)

Agatha Christie: The Big Four, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, The Unexpected Guest, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and The Secret Adversary (all revisited on audio; The Unexpected Guest also in print); The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Personal Call / Murder in the Mews (new)

Elizabeth Ferrars: Murder Among Friends (new)

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women (new)

Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites (revisited on audio)

Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler? (new)

Nicholas Blake: A Question of Proof (new)

Joy Ellis: The Murderer's Son (new)

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death (new)

Elizabeth Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow (new)

Various Authors / Contributors: Agatha Christie Close Up: A Radio Investigation (new)

Virginia Woolf: The String Quartet (new)

John Buchan: The 39 Steps (revisited on audio)

Oscar Wilde: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (new)

Ellis Peters: The Hermit of Eyton Forest (reread)

Patricia Wentworth: The Alington Inheritance, and The Gazebo (both new)

 

Ireland

Tana French: The Witch Elm (new)

 

Greece

Stephen Fry: Mythos (new)

Madeline Miller: Circe (new)

 

Sweden

Astrid Lindgren: Die Menschheit hat den Verstand verloren: Tagebücher 1939-1945 (A World Gone Mad: Diaries, 1939-45) (new)

 

France

Emmuska Orczy: The Elusive Pimpernel (new)

 

Croatia

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (revisited on audio)

(Note: Yugoslavia at the time of the writing -- but the action is set after the train has passed Vinkovci, aka "The Gateway to Croatia".)

 

 

 

 

 

The "Gender Wars" Stats:

Read to date, in 2019:

Books by female authors: 35

- new: 25

- rereads: 10

 

Books by male authors: 9

- new: 7

- rereads: 2

 

Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 1

- new: 1

- rereads:

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