Heads You Lose – RIP #1

I did not expect to read a Readers Imbibing Peril book right away, but I did, and here it is:  Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand, the first Inspector Cockerill story.    Harumph.   I might give up right here.   It starts off all right.  The extended family – not exactly all related, but having holidayed together for years, just like a family – of Pendock, lord of the manor in tiny village of Pigeonsford are together in March, I think.   Can’t remember.   Still winter, as there is snow which melts during the day.   An annoying neighbor has dropped by to paint her umpty-umth view of the church from Pendock’s porch, though really what she wants is Pendock.   There’s Lady Hunt and her two 20-something grand-daughters, Venetia and Fran.   Venetia is married to Henry.   Fran is admired by James Nicholl and Pendock himself, though he’s been more like an uncle all these years.  Then there’s the reliable butler and the annoying neighbor’s annoying cousin, Pippi le May, who’s an actress.   The previous summer a lady’s maid was beheaded in the woods behind the house.   It seems to have greatly disturbed Pendock, but Fran doesn’t care about that and keeps mentioning it.   Well, we don’t have long to wait.   Just around midnight Bunsen the butler, returning from his sick sister’s house discovers a body in a ditch near the house.  He tries to wake Pendock by throwing stones at his window instead of entering the house and running upstairs.   Daft, I think, but then everyone behaves this way.   He succeeds in wakening Lady Hunt who then wakens Pendock.  Lady Hunt is frantic because Fran is not in her bed.   Is the body hers?   Nope.   It’s the annoying neighbor much to everyone’s relief.   But Fran’s hat has been perched on her decapitated and then replaced head.   Not so cozy.

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Kind of gross, but with a sick sense of humor no one in the book displays.  Inspector Cockerill, once again friends with a family with a murderer in its midst, displays a lot of smart looks and wiggling eyebrows, but not much erudition and he carefully keeps most of the clues to himself.   Not that there are many.   And when you get to the end and learn what various characters did at various points you want to bang your head against a wall.    No one, you would say (if you’re anything like me), would do that!   That was a damn stupid thing to do.   And when you discover your solution is one of the false solutions, but could have been much better than the actual solution, well, you just want to lie down with  cold compress.   Does she get better?   Trying to remember if there are any clues that truly reveal the murderer, but no.   Once again I could probably rewrite it so that at least a couple of them could have been the murderer without much difficulty.   And maybe given them a motive along the way.

One of the problems I had, and I don’t think this is too spoilery, the second victim appears in a summer house surrounded by snow with no footprints other than the constable’s who found the body.   Apparently an impossible crime!   But no, don’t get excited, the answer is the footprints were snowed over in about an hour of further snowfall after the murder.   However, elsewhere the snow appears to be a good 10-12 inches deep.    Even if it’s only 4 or 5 inches, an hour’s worth of snow is not going to cover up those prints.    Annoying.    Bad writing.   Bad!   I’ll give her maybe one more chance, though why I’m not sure.  And how she got so full of herself, with two such lame solutions, I’ll never understand.

 

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19.5 Books of Summer

So close.   Of course, there aren’t really any rules, but it was sort of braking the spirit of the thing to switch at the end to purposely short books just to say I’d read 20.   But then I could’ve said I’d read 20 books this summer.   At any rate, I have finished the 20th — The Man with Two Left Feet.   I chose this Wodehouse because I was mislead into believing it was the first Jeeves and Wooster book.   It was, in fact, the first Wooster story with Jeeves having a couple lines.   He is not yet the gentleman’s gentleman who solves all Bertie’s problems.   Bertie has to cable to Aunt Julia for that.  It’s a cute story with a cousin of Bertie’s needing rescuing from vaudeville, at least according to Aunt Agatha, who is there very much as she will be later.   The rest of the book is a bunch of non-Wooster stories, and while some of them are amusing, mostly they are so-so.   Some are even sad.    If you long to read Wodehouse trying something more serious then this might be the book for you, but otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.   Wodehouse wrote plenty more to choose from.   I’d try those first.

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Henrietta Who? – 19!

Quarter to six on the last night of #20BooksofSummer, I finish book 19.   I have the last lined up.   Another Wodeehouse.   Early Wodehouses are short and sprightly.   So was Henrietta Who?   by Catherine Aird.   Second of the Inspector Sloan novels, this one was much more police procedural, but has the old fashioned politeness I like.   When someone gets their head bashed in or run over with extreme prejudice, only as much detail as necessary is told and that as clinically as possible.   Sloan does not have a drinking problem or a gambling problem, his life barely enters in.   He is a detective working with a not overly bright, but coming along Constable Crosby.   Henrietta is a young woman away at college.   Her mother, living alone while her daughter’s away, is killed by a hit and run driver.   The pathologist discovers some disturbing facts: first, this woman has never had a child and second, she was run over a second time, after she was dead.   Very thorough.   Not an accident.   Henrietta and Sloan discover that what she thought she knew was not true and Henrietta has no idea who her biological parents are.   This throws her for a loop and she can barely deal with the solicitor, her would be fiance or anything.   I found the story quite interesting.   It kept me turning the pages.  Though even more than the first one, it’s not really something you can figure out for yourself.

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I like this cover much better than the boring new ones.   No one really bothers with covers any more.    Anywho, it’s 6:31 and I have 5 1/2 hours to finish the last book.   It’s going to be tight.   To say the least.   Wish me luck!

The Religious Body – 18

I just need one more day!   And no work and reaaaallllly short books.   The Religious Body, Catherine Aird’s first C.D. Sloan book, would probably appeal to most Christie fans.  Set in an English town, this one takes place mostly in a convent and the next door agricultural school.  One of the nuns is found tragically dead at the bottom of the cellar stairs, the back of her head bashed in.  The doctor who is called in realizes she did not die where she was found and Sloan and Crosby are called in.  The story is interesting partly because though they live so closely together they are trained not to be observant.   Maintaining ‘custody of the eyes’ means they don’t always see what’s right in front of them and very frustrating for Inspector Sloan.   The dead nun had come from a wealthy family and stood to inherit a lot of money.  Was she killed because of this or some other reason?    I’m not sure it’s fair play.  The motive we’re definitely in the dark about until the end, but there are clues pointing to the perpetrator so it’s definitely possible to guess who, if not why.

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I enjoyed the book enough that I moved right on to the next one despite finding the solution a bit dubious.  Okay, quite dubious.   Follow the Clues — in this and in Fog of Doubt a victim is bashed on the head.

Something New (17 of 20)

Also known as Something Fresh, this is P.G. Wodehouse’s first Blandings novel and I just thought I’d see how it compared to one 40 years later (Galahad).   It is clearly both Blandings and yet not quite, Lord Emsworth is the empty-headed earl who loves the country, but his only sister is Lady Ann, who makes no appearance, and there’s no Empress!   It hardly seems Blandings without the Empress, but I hope at some point to read about her arrival.   Beach is there.   There’s a heck of a lot about the people below stairs compared to the later ones.   Partly this is because the story begins with two young people writing trashy stories and barely scraping by in London.   Joan meets Ashe when she apologizes for laughing at him while he did his morning exercises.   She gives him a lecture on getting out of his rut and by taking her advice and reading the want ads, he stumbles on an opportunity:  pretending to be a valet to Mr. Peters whose daughter is engaged to Freddie Threepwood and whose father the earl absent-mindedly walked off with Peters’ prized scarab.   Meanwhile, Joan runs into her old friend Aline Peters, daughter of aforementioned millionaire and fiancee of Freddie, and takes her own advice by signing up to play ladies’ maid to Aline and snitch back the scarab.   With a few other complications, this gets all parties to Blandings and hijinks ensue.

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Looking forward to reading more Wodehouse and seeing how and when the sisters and the Empress show up.  Wodehouse is always fun if you want something light, funny, yet well written, it’s hard to go wrong with him.   Again, this is probably not top tier, but not a bad place to start if you’ve never read him.   Although you also might want a Jeeves and Wooster one to begin with.   Really, you can’t go wrong.

R.I.P. XIII and Bloggiversary

Happy Bloggiversary to me!  5 years.   If you like reading and e-socializing with other readers, blogging is great.  I know I should be Tumblring or Instagramming, blogging is for dinosaurs, but I’m a reader.   That’s unlikely to change.   You can talk at me in your podcast or your vlog, but first you have to convince me to hit play and that hardly ever happens.   Even with the bloggers I enjoy reading.  So I hope you all keep blogging, too.  I can’t read all that many so hopefully it’s not too much to ask.   I started five years ago and still haven’t finished my Century of Books.   I think my heart’s not really in it.   I forget about it for long stretches.

The other thing I did almost immediately was R.I.P. VIII.   That will make this the sixth R.I.P.  with many thanks to those fine hosts who’ve kept it going over the years.

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Click on the above to be taken to the site.   Here’s a bit of the description, in case you just fell off a turnip truck.   Sorry!   You might be new to this whole book blogging thing, though if you are, not sure how you found me!

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

R,I.P. XIII runs from 1 September – 31 October 2018 and is a great way to get into fall. (unless you’re from the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s an odd way to get into spring.)

There are, as with most challenges, various levels to participate, but this one is not emphasising the challenge, but more the participation.   You don’t have to read even one book.  You can read short stories or watch a creepy/scary/mysterious movie.

I usually manage Perl the First – read 4 books, but they may mostly have to come in October this year.   I haven’t decided for sure, but I’m thinking about Welcome to Night Vale (which was supposed to be a Book of Summer), Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Sundial by Shirley Jackson and maybe some Poe stories.   I probably need another one, but not sure what.

Hope you’ll join us Imbibing Peril!   The more the creepier!

The Widow’s Cruise – Book 16 of #20BooksofSummer

Nicholas Blake, nom de plume of Sir Cecil Day-Lewis, wrote a series of mysteries featuring Nigel Strangeways.   I read someone’s review of this one and bought it on that basis and have now read it.    It’s the 11th one, so he’d certainly already learned his stuff by this point.   Nigel and his good and great friend Clare Massinger, sculptor, are off on a Greek cruise.  They depart from Athens and meet a selection of passengers who all become involved in the crime committed about halfway through the book.   Melissa Braydon, rich, sexy, youngish widow; her apparently unstable sister, Ianthe;  the semi-fraudulent Greek expert Jeremy Street; the ebullient Nikki, your cruise director; a pair of twitchy twins, Faith and Peter; an annoying child spying on them all; a seemingly friendly but actually also spying on them all grown man, and a Bishop and his wife.    It reads very much like a Christie.   Simple, clean style.  Limited group.   She often had people from other countries, but these are all Brits.   I was enjoying this, the only trouble (and is it a trouble?) I knew what had happened as soon as it did.  Then it was just a matter of wading through 100 pages for everyone to catch up with me.  And Blake did stretch it out as long as he could.   A short book, it probably could have been a bit shorter.   I will read some others to see if they are always that guessable (or was I just super-intuitive today?)

Honestly, my reviews, if you can call them that, keep getting shorter and shorter.   Probably there is something more to say.   Maybe reading books so quickly isn’t good for the reviewing of them.   I liked Blake’s characters.   I can’t say much about the mystery having the solution in my head almost immediately.   Were there enough clues?   Were there too many?   Did he telegraph the whole thing?   Maybe he did.   In the end it seemed like a daft way to do things, but I can’t really say more than that without spoiling something.

widowscruiseI’ve obviously gone off-liste.   They were too long.   Had to go for shorter works.   I may have said that already.   So for Follow the Clues, which I seem to have failed to post my last one which was Fog of Doubt, I can’t really use this.    I can’t think of anything they have in common.   All righty then.   Never mind.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.