I haz a sad. As far as I can make out, no one is hosting Readers Imbibing Peril this year and this was one of my favorite events. It was X years old last year and after 9 years of hosting by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, it moved to The Estella Society. There is, however, a comment I just found on Carl’s site saying “Stay tuned!!!” so, I’m tuned. Perhaps I will just start reading spooky things regardless.
In other news, I’ve just read my first Harlequin romance. I needed a book book at the beach and stopped in a used book store and found what looked like a mystery by Carolyn Hart who has written a bunch. The Devereaux Legacy caught my eye. I’ve never read her and it sounded interesting enough — young woman finds out she supposedly died at 2 on a boat in a hurricane with her parents and the grandmother who raised her. She heads to North Carolina to look into this when said grandmother dies while writing a mysterious letter. Gothic romance in many ways hasn’t changed since Ann Radcliffe’s days writing Mysteries of Udolpho. The heroine quakes and quivers with all the evil around. Then she gets up just enough courage to get herself in trouble. I had no idea it was a Harlequin until I read the forward. Apparently mysteries of Ms. Hart’s sort weren’t selling in 1983. So she tacked on a ghost and a romance and bingo, it sold. As these things go, I could imagine far worse.
This cover doesn’t look like a romance, does it? It also doesn’t have anything to do with the story. The heroine in question having dark hair just like her mother. She has a “fated face,” there are obscure pronouncements by cryptic old women, a handsome cousin, the inevitable misunderstanding, the sinister relatives, ancient unsolved mysteries, more recent unsolved mysteries, none of which need ever have been mysteries in the first place. If I’d seen this cover, I would have known exactly what I was getting into:
This is exactly what the book is like except I don’t believe there’s ever a mention of a strange red jacket. See? You can judge a book by its cover, when they put on the right cover.
My latest Christie and another Not Proper Book of Summer. My excuse is that I found it having mislaid it months ago and started reading it. It was so familiar at first I thought perhaps I’d read it and forgotten it, but no, I think I read the first chapter, the rest was new. New to me, as it was published in 1954. This is another of her forays into spy territory. More entertaining than some, but the woman was no Le Carré. While I don’t think of her mysteries as cozy — though probably most people do — they offer a puzzle, which her thrillerish books don’t. They are vague and unrealistic, frequently featuring a plucky, down on her luck young heroine and a nebulous force of evil that secretly controls everything.
This time our plucky heroine is a redhead named Hilary who’s feeling a bit suicidal after her child died and her husband left her. She has gone to Morocco to feel better and when she doesn’t, she goes out in search of sleeping pills. She is noticed and offered a deal by a British agent — a probably suicidal mission as a more interesting way to end her life. She resembles the wife of a missing scientist, Olive Betterton, who is dying after a plane crash. Hilary takes the deal and becomes Olive Betterton who was on her way to join her husband wherever he’s gone. They expect to find not only Tom Betterton, but dozens of missing scientists from around the world and foil the foul plot, whatever it may be.
Another super-boring cover. It’s got a plane on it, so that’s the category for the Scavenger Hunt. I think I’ve read maybe 4 qualifying books all with lousy covers.
If you enjoy, light, spy fantasies, this might be for you. If you like a good mystery, skip it. There isn’t even really much of a crime until the end. In fact, it’s difficult to see why the whole thing had to be an evil plot to begin with.
Yesterday I had a feeling there was something else. I was not so lame as to only read 2 books in a month and a half. (Can’t believe I totally missed July.) I also read Agatha Christie’s Third Girl. The title comes from the concept of sharing expensive apartments in London – a young, working woman and a friend would get an apartment and then they’d need a third girl. It is a Poirot mystery with a completely unbelievable solution, but Mrs. Oliver always amuses me. I never get tired of Christie essentially satirizing herself, or at least herself as famous author, hating the detective she invented on a whim and has had to live with ever since. There is something about later Christie that never quite works as well as Christie between the wars, and probably up to the 50s. She moved with the times, it’s always around the year she wrote, so there are young working women and artists and drugs, but somehow it always worked better for me in an isolated old mansion with silver chafing pots keeping breakfast hot for all the guests in the morning, minus the ones who’d just been killed.
Not the cover I had, but much better. Honestly, I begin to think cover art is a lost art. Maybe because of ebooks. I did read an ebook, but it still had a cover of a door open and a shadow stretching into a room. Yaaaaawwwn. Knives and numbers and peacock feathers much better. Anyhoo, it starts with the third girl in an apartment visiting Poirot because she thinks she may have killed someone. Then she bugs out without saying more because Poirot is Too Old. This, naturally, wounds Poirot’s amour propre and he goes to see his friend Ariadne Oliver for some comfort. It turns out Mrs. Oliver was the one who recommended this girl see Poirot to begin with so tracking her down becomes much easier. Finding the crime is much more difficult and the book is entertaining enough as you read until you get to the end and think, yeah, no way. I can’t, of course, tell you why without giving the whole game away. I would say this is probably only for Christie completists. Or fans of Mrs. Oliver as she’s in fine form.
Okay, there was no popular demand. But I’m back. For now. Will it last? No one knows. Time will tell, as they say. And I’m way behind and off-liste, mostly, for my Ten Books of Summer. I did read one that I was supposed to, so let’s start with that. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. This is a trilogy of which I’ve only read the first one. It was described to me as Harry Potter for grown-ups. Well, yeeees, kinda. It starts off with Quentin Coldwater and his friends in New York about to apply for college. But Quentin is different and after some Strange Events he is inducted into a magic college. All very Potter-like except older, yet less mature. I found it pretty readable, but not terribly gripping. The older Quentin gets, the bigger a baby he seems. In the novel is a series of fictional books which seem to be parallel to the Narnia books, which turn out not to be fictional. It is different enough from both Narnia and Potter that it doesn’t feel like Grossman just ripped them off, and perhaps if I stuck with it and went on Quentin would stop sulking at some point. The villain was pretty creepy, the magic was different, I’m not sure why I feel so meh about this book, except I think the characters just don’t cut it for me. I have the second book, maybe I’ll give it a shot some time, but not soon.
Can anyone explain the cover? I don’t remember a tree of significance in the story. But then it was over a month ago.
I also read another Mr. and Mrs. North mystery Hanged for a Sheep in which the ex-husband of a rich woman is shot in her dining room in the middle of the night and there is apparently no evidence to pin it on anyone. The lack of police procedure stuff in these novels annoyed me in this one. I just couldn’t buy that the murderer could shoot the guy, move the body and yet there be nothing to give that person away. And it was just so stupid to kill them there in the first place. Shoot him and dump him in the river. Not your family home. This is, of course, Pam’s family and more people must die before they figure anything out. I would have to say this is not a good one, but I will read more of them.
I definitely put too much history/biography on the list. I am working on Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf, not progressing on Our Mutual Friend, and made some headway on Kim. I’ve also read a bit of another North novel, a bit of Kerouac’s Big Sur and started the Problem of the Green Capsule. Perhaps I should just review beginnings of books. I could do a lot more of those.