Hello. It’s 8:38. Still hour one. Have read for a few minutes. Usually I start a new book, but so far I’ve been reading what I was reading before: Silent Pool by Patricia Wentworth, I could probably finish it and start a new one later. Still can’t decide! More coffee required. We’ll see how long I last! Starting with chapter 28.
11 AM – Starting 4th hour
Remarkably little progress I’m ashamed to say. Have eaten a breakfast sandwich and helped the cat with his mid-morning nap. I will try to limit distractions and go in the other room.
2:18 PM – Middle of 7th hour
Finished Silent Pool. Eh. It was okay. I’ll write a full review soon, or as full as I ever do. Miss Silver didn’t have much work to do and it takes a good half of the book to get to the murder. I have moved on to Tour-de-Force by Christianna Brand. Despite unenthusiastic reviews on Amazon, I seem to remember other bloggers liking this one. I like the beginning. Inspector Cockerill is on a plane to Italy for a package holiday he is already regretting he signed up for. Brand is at her most amusing describing his fellow tourists. I’ve wasted more time than I care to admit reading tweets and grams. Plus this group gets to see even less of Milan than I did, so I identify with them.
6 PM -Ending the 10th hour, beginning the 11th
Hard to believe it’s been 10 hours. I’m still awake. which is something of a feat and surprise. I am only 21% through the darned book though. It’s not that long, but I seem to be reading slower than usual. I have been having a few snacks: a piece of angel food cake, hummus, salmon salad and chips, a Magnum caramel ice cream bar. Plenty of snackage. I have not wasted too much time on teh interwebs. Okay, a bit. But I shall once again adjourn to another room and maybe focus better. Maybe.
And just in the nick of time. I’d got it in my head it was next week, but it’s tomorrow! Crikey! Almost missed it! So, for anyone new to this out there – we read – or try to – for 24 hours – all the same 24 hours, so whatever the equivalent of 8:00 AM eastern U.S. time is for you 24 hours from that. You can find out all about it here
Most of us do not manage 24 hours of reading, but we read a lot more than usual, cheer each other on and eat many snacks. It’s practically an international holiday. So, what are you waiting for? Check your shelves, both book and food. Head to the store. piles of books and snacks! That’s what we need! When do we need it? 19 hours 17 minutes from now! Go!
As I mentioned a while ago, I am reading all the books I care about spoiling off of Noah’s list which he discusses in his post The Birlstone and Other Gambits. Eight books is rather a lot to read in order to read one blog post, but I wanted to read these anyway. Might as well be sooner as later. The 9th – Still Waters by E.C.R. Lorac doesn’t seem to be available for under $3,000 and that’s taking things a bit far. It’s hard to imagine a book worth $3,000, though I expect that if books were really scarce I might just succumb. No, probably I’d just write some.
Plague Court is a crumbling old mansion in Carter Dickson’s first Sir Henry Merrivale mystery. Said to be haunted by a disagreeable old party from back in times of plague, the confusingly named Louis Playge. He’s the brother (I think) of the man who manages the house, runs errands and things. The owner decides to shut the place up with a store of food and wait out the plague, which wouldn’t be a bad idea except his manager or butler or whatever he is seems to keep running errands in town. I think they’re unclear on the concept of shutting up the house. At any rate all of this adds lots of atmosphere, but isn’t terribly pertinent except it’s the excuse for having a seance/exorcism. Louis Playge’s peculiar round rat-stabbing knife has been stolen from the museum recently and now a psychic researcher Roger Darworth is preparing to hold some sort of ceremony in the little stone house in the courtyard. It seems a bit odd that this researcher and not his medium Joseph is preparing so long for this ceremony, but there it is. The house has only one way in or out – a door that is locked both inside and out. There are grated windows and a grate in the chimney. Small flying bugs might get in and out, but nothing larger. This being a Carr/Dickson book you know someone’s going to die in there, impossibly. And sure enough he does. So while everyone was sitting in a dark room inside the decaying manse, Darworth has been stabbed repeatedly apparently with the odd round knife of Louis Playge.
This is the cover I have. Striking, but inaccurate. The only cat is found dead. This is a great read for atmosphere. The crumbling mansion, the mysterious psychic researcher, the history of plague and violence, the seances. Chock full of entertaining creepiness. And really, I’d be amazed if you figure this one out, because in my opinion Dickson totally cheats. I expect the cheat will turn out to be the ‘gambit,’ but maybe not. I did figure out part of it, but I had significant things wrong. I was trying to find out if one of the things he talks about is even possible, but the internet has let me down. I had all kinds of little problems with this, too. The behavior of one of the people just seemed too far-fetched to me. But go ahead and read it because it’s creepy fun, not because it’s a good mystery.
Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die is the second book in the gambit reading plan (see previous review) and my second Blake novel, having previously read The Widow’s Cruise. I enjoy Strangeways’ character and I liked his wife Georgia, an explorer. Here we start with a murderer’s diary, or really I should say, a would-be murderer’s diary. Frank Cairnes is a famous mystery novelist under the name Felix Lane whose only son was killed in a hit and run. Frank has vowed to find the person who did it and kill them. He keeps a detailed diary of his progress and plans. Not terribly bright in my view. Mae West said, “I always say, keep a diary and someday it’ll keep you.” Now the way she said it, I always thought she meant, it would get you in trouble, whereas when I looked it up, the interpretation seems to be that one day you’ll be able to make money off it. This doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me unless you’re already famous not so many people want to read your diary. And most of them appear after the writer is dead, so, not helpful for earning money. I prefer my interpretation.
Anyway, back to the book. After a big chunk of diary, we switch to live action, so to speak. Cairnes/Lane declares himself innocent of the murder, somebody else dunnit, but the diary makes it look very bad for him and he calls in Strangeways. Strangeways is friends with the Inspector who is also called in, so they amicably share info. The house is chock full of disagreeable people. Although there’s one less by the time Strangeways gets there. Actually, that’s an exaggeration, the only other really disagreeable one is the victim’s domineering mother. The victim’s subservient wife starts showing some backbone, protecting her son, Phil. There’s also some neighbors, the wife of whom may or may not have been having an affair with George (the victim.) So you have half a dozen possible suspects and plenty of motive as George really has no redeeming features. I don’t know who was the first to write a book about a sympathetic murderer, but this one has all the usual mitigating circumstances: a parent whose lost their child in a cruel way and a victim who is a cruel bully ruining other peoples’ lives, Cairnes/Lane also seems to have been a decent guy until his son was killed and is still mostly a nice guy.
I fell for one of the false trails. I could tell a couple clues didn’t fit, but couldn’t interpret them and therefore did not solve the crime. I knew they were there though. Blake does say some things though that I’m just scratching my head over. Both Strangeways and Blount seem to agree at one point that wives who’ve been abused for 15 years don’t suddenly turn and kill their spouses. Well, yes, sometimes they do. So, the psychology seems dated and so do some of the other clues. I think I had the same problem with the earlier one, but I’ve forgotten already. The fact that it was written in 1938 meant I just didn’t understand what the clue meant because we don’t do that any more. I will read more of him and try to note down if it happens again. I’m also not clear on why this book is considered such a classic as it seems it is. Because of the sympathetic portrait of the would-be murderer Cairnes? Maybe I will find out when I am able to read Noah’s blog piece. Seven more books to go!
At some point in the past, I followed a link from The Invisible Event to a blog entry I decided not to read given that it spoils some twenty works of detection in the author’s discussion of what he refers to as gambits. I want to read this entry, but don’t want to spoil 9 of the 11 works I haven’t read. The two girl books I don’t give a fig about and the rest I’ve read. So, I looked into the nine and before I knew where I was I’d ordered several of them. I already had The Chinese Shawl by Patricia Wentworth. In fact, I was surprised to see Wentworth on the list three times. I stopped reading her long ago finding her moderately diverting, but overly romantic and plot-wise, utterly forgettable. Anyway, since I owned it already, I started with it. In time honored fashion, there is a pretty young woman and a handsome young man who fall in love. The young woman has a cousin with somewhat similar looks, but a vastly different personality. Owing to a family feud, she’s never met this cousin before. Nor the aunts who live in what is technically her house as she’s just turned 21. But she’s about to. Years of not knowing these people was no loss. One aunt is a bossy domineering harridan and the other is a not very bright sycophant. Both spoil their young niece something rotten and our young heroine would be terribly unhappy to be at the old manse if it weren’t for her new boyfriend. Also at the house is Miss Maud Silver, former governess, current detective, she’ll solve the crime when it eventually happens.
The book is pleasantly diverting. A fine enough way to while away a few hours. Miss Silver is quite a bit like Miss Marple although I don’t think she ever dithers to get information. I didn’t figure it out though I’m not sure it’s fairly clued. It’s only a week or so since I finished it and already I can’t remember.
Only 7 more to go. There doesn’t seem to be a copy of Still Waters for less than $3,000, so I think I’ll be giving that one a miss.
I suppose this was RIP book 4, but I still want to read something creepy , so I’m not done with that yet.
I think someone recommended this and so when it was on sale I bought it and on impulse started reading it. I found it very compelling and kept reading later than I should, so that says something for it. It begins with 3 case histories, crimes that took place 10 and more years before the book is set which is when it was published, 2004. A small child disappears in the night when allowed to sleep in a tent in the backyard. (Who lets a 3 year old sleep in the back yard? But nevermind.) A young woman is stabbed in an office. Another woman murders her husband with an ax. The stories follow the victims’ families until we reach the present day when coincidentally a member of each family consults Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-husband, father, private detective. All of these people are oddballs, misfits, eccentrics. Most of them are sympathetic while being a bit annoying. Her writing is a slick, easy to read, somewhat repetitive, sometimes funny.
She was a catwoman, the mad old-bat variety that kept an open door for every feline slacker in Cambridge.
Brodie’s first client the cat lady is a neighbor of the family where the little girl disappears. This has nothing to do with how he gets the job. We don’t know how the surviving sisters, Janet and Amelia, decide on him. Janet at the funeral is described
Her mad hair looked as if it had been groomed by a troupe of circus dogs.
The book is entertaining and the crimes are quite realistic, unlike the ending of the book which I think might be why I have massive reservations about recommending this. It is shallow. Most mysteries are. Just a puzzle designed to keep you entertained for a few hours and yet maybe it’s because it seemed to be trying to be deeper and say something about violence against women, but somehow doesn’t except pointing out there’s a lot of it. I am somehow unsatisfied, but I’m probably alone in this. I also think the cover is lame. Best mystery of the decade — rubbish, I’m pretty sure, but I guess I’ll need to consider all the mysteries from the oughts that I’ve read, or should it be 1994-2004? Delight and amazement? Challenge accepted. Amusement. Interest. Some charm and some sadness. But delight? No. Amazement? No.
I guess this is RIP 3. There are mysteries, which are solved by a detective. So, yeah. RIP 3
Margery Allingham’s fourth Campion novel Police at the Funeral turns out to be my second RIP read. Much better overall than my first read, for the most part, with one caveat which I’ll add at the end. Campion that mysterious upper crust younger son turned detective runs into his old Scotland Yard pal Stanislaus Oates in an obscure alley in London. Oates is being followed by a mystery man; Campion is meeting a young woman whose uncle has disappeared. These two people see each other and quite obviously recognize each other and the man vanishes. This should bug the heck out of me, but doesn’t. It’s ridiculous that they should run into each other each with someone in tow who is involved in the same case and really there’s no reason to do it that way, So, they all go off to the mansion called Socrates Close and look for Joyce’s (the young woman) uncle Andrew, a repellent human being who disappeared after church the Sunday before. He had last been seen in company with his cousin William with whom he argued. Things don’t look good for William, but while Oates plods on policemanlike (a fact which is mentioned rather more than it need be), Campion is hired by the old lady to investigate from inside. Fortunately she isn’t out to hide anything from the police, so they can work together and do.
Andrew’s body is recovered from the local river some ten days after he disappeared tied up with string and shot in the head. Strange things continue to happen and soon there is a second mysterious death. All the things that happen point more and more to someone in the house except a tramp with incredibly large feet who arrives on the scene. The story is entertaining and I enjoyed the solution. I have a problem with how much love the old lady receives from Campion and Joyce as she is, as far as I can see, as petty a tyrant as possible. She’s intelligent and not hysterical, but she won’t allow then to drink tea in the morning or any of a hundred other things she views as weak, controlling their lives completely. I suppose if you live off relatives, that’s pretty much what you can expect, but that doesn’t make her somehow greater of soul than her relatives who are all petty as heck. As I said, I have a caveat and I’ll talk about that after the pic. It’s not a plot spoiler, but I guess it is a sort of spoiler in that it’s something you learn at the end of the book.
So there’s a member of the family who is persona non grata at Socrates Close, Cousin George. Another repellent person in a family mostly made up of them. What has George done though that makes him ineligible to live under the family roof? Andrew was able to live with them even though he spent his time trying to annoy them. I don’t think he ever went to jail though perhaps Cousin George wouldn’t have either if allowed to dwell in the family manse. It turns out that George’s unforgiveable flaw is that he is mixed race. This is, for the old lady, apparently, a worse crime than any other. I realize it was 87 years ago and she’s a holdover from the Victorian era, but it doesn’t seem to me this trait is painted in a negative light or that Campion loses one iota of respect for her upon learning how tremendously racist she is. So, that lessens an otherwise really well done mystery.
Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.