I think they should have left the ‘The” off of the title, then it could be applied both to the stiff itself, which is found in the back yard of Jeff and Haila Troy’s new apartment, as well as all the people in the building disturbed that murder has been committed in their midst. In a strange coincidence, Haila overhears the soon-to-be-murdered man going to meet someone in their apartment in the opening chapter as they eat in a nearby restaurant. This is kind of a preposterous opening, followed by Jeff’s hamhanded attempt to head the guy off. The whole thing is a bit preposterous, but in a light-hearted way. The Troys are a lot like the Norths, and speaking of coincidences, the Norths’ first mystery was published the same year as the Troys’ – 1940. This is the third and was published in 1942. Both series were written by a husband and wife team and follow a husband and wife team. The Norths are better mysteries in my view, but the Troys are entertaining enough that I’ll probably read more of them. This was suggested by someone in The Invisible Event’s fairly-clued survey. It didn’t make the final cut, but I bought a few that were suggested, but did not. Why limit myself to just ten? So, I enjoyed the story, though I found the whole thing pretty ridiculous and thinking back, I can’t figure out if it was fairly clued and I just missed it, or it wasn’t. I would have to reread it and as I’m already 3 or 4 books behind on my 20 books of summer, I don’t think I’ll do that. Until then, just know that at least one person thinks it’s not just fairly-clued, but ‘a beautiful example’ of such.
The artist here uses artistic license. The corpse is found in the garden and it’s not a skeleton. But it does give some idea of the mood of the book. There is, it seems, a movie called A Night to Remember which is currently available on YouTube. Curious about that.
Okay, an hour and a half later – curiosity satisfied. It’s called A Night to Remember, not to be confused with the 1958 A Night to Remember about the Titanic. This is, like the book, a light-hearted mystery in which a young couple, Loretta Young and Brian Aherne, get mixed up in a murder in their new apartment. Much is changed in the movie and actually, most of it is for the better. I thought it was funnier and makes more sense. They changed a few things around plot-wise. The sisters are gone, there’s a turtle added, a housekeeper instead of the maintenance guy and almost everyone’s first name is changed. Probably if you want to both read and see this, you should read it first. One of the plot twists in the book is revealed early in the movie. I don’t think the movie is fairly clued. More like barely clued, but it’s a fun show.
This book is second in my #20Booksofsummer. I don’t think it qualifies for any other challenges. I better get the lead out. 18 to go.
As usual, I have to hand it to Alice. She always chooses entertaining books for us to read together. Having read The Moonstone with her and her friends, i was pleasantly surprised to see her latest choice is a biography of Wilkie Collins subtitled A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett. I even paid more to get the good cover.
Wilkie was about a dozen years younger than his even more famous soon-to-be BFF, Charles Dickens. We have covered the first ‘epoch’ as Lycett divides Collins’ life with a glimpse of the future in the preface. That glimpse reveals gout in his eyes — ow, ow, owww. That sounds horrible. I didn’t even know that could happen. So far we’ve gotten his youth – rough times with his painter father who wanted his son to have a practical job and be far less irreligious. Doesn’t it seem odd that his father, the artist, disapproved of writing as a career? I find this really weird. Wilkie wanted to travel and write and partly go to sea. He didn’t and I suspect that’s because he quite liked a comfortable life. Writing home for money when he’d spent all they’d given him, he seems fairly spoiled. But then, what good would it have been for him to be an excellent tea dealer and we have no Woman in White? No good at all.
I believe we are in for an entertaining life now he’s grown, started writing and is just about to meet Dickens. They both love theater and writing. It’s gonna be true love, for sure. I don’t have much to say about this first part. I’ll try to be more entertaining next epoch.
It’s the 11th. I have finished one book. Right on schedule for the #8booksofsummer! What do you mean I signed up for 20? Why would I do that? I know I don’t read 20 books in three months. I’m not a complete idiot. Okay, well, back to the book. The Bath Mysteries by E.R. Punshon was chosen as one of the eight, er, twenty books and because it has the word Mysteries in the title so that like Master of Mysteries, it continues this chain of reading through the year. E.R. Punshon, a man I’d never heard of, published quite a few books in the first half of the 20th century, many of them starring Bobby Owen, at this point in his career a junior at Scotland Yard. He’s called upon to set aside his regular work to investigate the death of his cousin who died in a grim accident in his bath while living incognito after a scandal. Highly irregular, all this. Generally I thought they didn’t want family members investigating cases, although I suppose it gives you a leg up if you can maintain your professional integrity. Bobby does, of course. He and his family have only just found out this accident, which as you’ll guess is no accident, has taken place after a year. Bobby points out cold cases are notoriously difficult to solve. He then continues to point it out twice a chapter until almost the end. Generally, it is true, once time has past it is difficult to get the facts, people have forgotten, moved away, the scene no longer provides evidence, etc. However, two days of investigation causes Bobby to realize this is just one in a series of murders by bath. So, it’s not exactly a cold case any more. There could be a new victim any day now and still Bobby goes on about how difficult it is to solve cold cases.
So, aside from all the cold case fake worry it’s not a bad story. A complex crime, very little evidence, a somewhat ludicrous climax. I did guess halfway through whodunnit. It’s not like there are a lot of options. It’s barely clued. And yet, I was entertained enough. I’ll probably try another Punshon at some point. Now, for a change of pace, The Confidence Man and/or Wilkie Collins bio which has not arrived yet.
So, as I mentioned this is the next in the chain of books for Bev. And the first of the 8-#20booksofsummer
So, I just got all settled in, falling behind on my first book, when what happens? You guessed it. Alice is having a readalong and I haven’t been able to resist joining since I found them. They are fun. Fun books, fun peeps. What will we be reading, you ask? A biography of Mr. Wilkie Collins called A Life of Sensation. I am not surprised he lived a life of sensation. I am hoping to get the one with the cool cover with Wilkie surrounded by stars, but I guess there’s no guarantee of that. Sad thing is, it seems to be over 500 pages long. This ups my page count considerably for the #20booksofsummer which I did not need, but I will just have to try a little harder, because I can’t not do this.
I worked out a list which was probably a waste of time as I rarely follow a list, but here they are (and for those of you who don’t know about the 20 Books of Summer you can click there and find out.) The only problem with these challenges is they make this line of demarcation between now and the past so that I probably won’t be able to finish The Greek Coffin Mystery until September and it was getting pretty good. I might do it anyway, but 20 books in 3 months is something I haven’t done in so long, I think it will take every day. Half the books are on my Kindle, so I have no pretty pictures of a stack of books, which we all love. I did start reading The Bath Mysteries yesterday, so I’m on my way. I made a lot of them mysteries which tend to be quick reads and of a reasonable length. Guessing at the page count for the Emperor’s Snuffbox gives me a total of 5571. Which is probably close to right. I used page counts for paperbacks where the Kindle doesn’t have them, but sometimes they have different numbers of pages.
Anyway, here are the Kindle books I have currently.
The entire list is:
A Buyer’s Market
The Sign of Four
The Bath Mysteries
Whistle Up the Devil
Death of Jezebel
Valley of Fear
The Confidence Man
His Bloody Project
I Am the Messenger
The Bishop Murder Case
The Frightened Stiff
Gentleman of Moscow
Diary of Hendrik Groen
Murder in the Bath
This will be quite a feat if I manage it. I’m a slow reader and easily distracted sometimes by very silly stuff. Last night I watched a Father Brown which stole part of the plot of All My Sons and coupled it with a perfectly ridiculous hypnosis plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were stolen, too, but I’m not going to watch a bunch of terrible hypnosis movies to find out. I realize it’s hard to come up with plots for TV and I suppose stealing them is the only option. I certainly couldn’t write 12 original mysteries a year, or whatever it is.
Which reminds me,
I have to try to tell Roof Beam Reader that I plan to join him in reading Melville’s The Confidence Man. I’ve liked what Melville I’ve read and this one is pretty short, so hopefully won’t hold me up too much in my 20 book quest.
I’ve been keeping an eye on The Invisible Event’s list of fairly-clued mysteries and since I’ve only read the Christie and one of Carr’s (hated it), I thought I’d give some others a try. Having pretty much finished with Dame Agatha, for now anyway, I need something else to fill the time and so the first of these I’ve read is Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case in a great old acidified, flaking, genuine Pocket book.
It’s highly contrived even for Golden Age Detective novel — 6 people have formed a crime club. They meet regularly and, I assume, discuss crime. We have no idea what they do in their regular meetings because this is a special meeting from the start. Scotland Yard have admitted they are stuck and are willing to get some amateur assistance. The case of Mrs. Bendix poisoned by chocolates that actually burn when you bite them and numb your lips — she should’ve known better, but she didn’t. Her husband got the chocolates from a member of his club. So, we not only don’t know who the murderer is, we don’t know who the intended victim is either. But these six highly confident amateur detectives are ready to show Scotland Yard up. They will meet every night for the rest of the week and offer their solutions. So right off you know that the first five are going to be wrong.
If you like a lot of action, or any action, this is not a book for you. It is mostly made up of meetings. It is not without humor and I guess it’s fair-play. I’m not sure how early one can guess. I guessed after the fifth person did their bit. It really became, I thought, completely obvious at that point, though whether it was obvious earlier to others, I don’t know. Moderately entertaining, though naturally somewhat dated, I might try other Berkeleys. Not sure it would make my top 100 of mysteries, but then no one seems to please me all that much except Christie and Sayers, so perhaps I’m just too picky to even have a top 100.
Summer is approaching and 746books is hosting the #20booksofsummer challenge (or winter if you’re on the southern side of the world.) I think I tried 10 or 15 last year. I think I failed. Onward and upward. I’m going for 20, though which 20, I’m not sure. It runs from 1 June to 3 Sept. Not sure why third of September. Perhaps it’s a holiday over there. Or maybe school starts the next day. I don’t know. But who am I to argue over an extra 3 days? But then if she were American it would probably run from Memorial day weekend which for most of us starts tomorrow which would mean even more days… oh, well, maybe I can finish something before the 20.
Wish me luck as I wish anyone joining us! (Join us)
So, yesterday, Day 5 of Bout of Books 19, I finished Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s final case, though nowhere close to Christie’s last book. She wrote it during the War in case she didn’t survive so she was not even halfway through her book-writing years. Considering it was written 36 years before it was published, there’s not much wrong with it. I tried to read it with an eye to fair-clueing which perhaps I’m just not that good at. Even though I read it many years ago, I only remembered part of the solution and didn’t guess the rest even though I would say she showed her whole hand. Or at least enough to guess. Like Hastings, I see, but do not observe. Or is it the other way around?
At any rate, it was, as usual, an enjoyable read. Coming full circle with Poirot and Hastings back at Styles, the house they had their first case in together. A selection of people and actually, I would put this as one of Dame Agatha’s most clever plots – a fundamental twist on our ideas of murder. So many of the old, timeworn elements are there, but a new kind of criminal is what they’re after.
I have a few from earlier years that I skipped for reasons I can’t remember now, but the only one later is Sleeping Murder – Marple’s last case and written around the same time as Curtain. But what I picked up yesterday is the classic Poisoned Chocolates Case – again because of the clueing. Some say fair, and some otherwise, but it seems a unique type of story. A crime club has gotten together and invited a Scotland Yard inspector to fill them in on a case they’ve given up on. How Mrs. Bendix was killed with a box of poisoned chocolates. Each of the six members of the club is to present their theory after a suitable interval for theorizing and investigation.
I may not impress anyone with my rate of reading, but having finished a book in 5 days this year is remarkable, so go me, I say.
Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.