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.

The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood (15)

Galloping along, but not nearly as fast as I need to, I have finished P.G. Wodehouse’s The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood, a Blandings novel and one which was partially the basis of an episode of the show Blandings, IIRC, which I believe is why I bought it.  Can no longer recall the episode, but on impulse started the book I think during a pause when I wasn’t feeling The Messenger.   It was short and amusing so I went back to it right after Lonelyheart 4122.   Wodehouse is one of the two grown-up authors I first enjoyed when moving on from children’s books (mostly) along with Christie.  Everyone else was reading Flowers in the Attic or some such muck and I read all the Wodehouse I could find.  No, that makes me sound more singleminded than I was, but a quantity of Wodehouse was read during my teen years and probably 20s, but then I stopped.   Mostly I don’t remember which ones I read either.   Brinkmanship was written in the 60s, so fairly far into P.G.W.’s career.   An enjoyable read, though I don’t think I would put it in the top bracket.   Lord Emsworth has been in  America seeing his sister Constance safely married, but when he gets home another sister, Hermione, is installed.   Poor Lord Emsworth, all his sisters are battle-axes.   There are also numerous couples in various stages of pre-matrimonial bliss.   Tipton Plimsoll, wealthy young man-about-town, engaged to Veronica Wedge, Hermione’s daughter, until it gets around he’s stony broke.  Wilfred Allsop, too in love with Lord Emsworth’s pig-keeper to speak to her.   And Sam Bagshott, son of an old friend of Galahad’s who is broken up with his love, Sandy, who is now tormenting Lord Emsworth by acting as his secretary.   Hijinks, of course, ensue.   It is all quite fun, but somehow doesn’t quite add up to as much as one remembers some of the others adding up to.    It felt like the various bits of plot resolved themselves all independently and not in one grand finale, but other than that, no complaints.


Also published as Galahad at Blandings, so don’t get them both.

I finished this yesterday?  I think.  No, Tuesday, I think.   Not sure.   At any rate, now, Thursday evening I have 4 days and a couple hours to read 5 books.   A cakewalk for some, but for me, a near impossibility.   How do some people read so much?   I don’t even have kids to take care of.   Pretty sure no reading at all, except to the kids, would get done if I did.  The only reason this might work is because I have a long holiday weekend in front of me.   Anyone else want to join my 98 1/2 hour Read-a-thon?    What was that?   I can’t quite hear you…

Lonelyheart 4122 (14 of 20)

Lonelyheart 4122 is the 4th in the Flaxborough Mysteries featuring Inspector Purbright and I think Watson is really reaching his stride now.   This was such a fun one.   Arriving in Flaxborough is Miss Lucilla Teatime, a whiskey-drinking, cheroot smoking, con artist of no small talent.   Meanwhile, two Flaxborough natives have gone missing, both single women of some means, both clients of Handclasp House matrimonial agency.  One has been missing some weeks, the other seems to have disappeared months ago.   Did one or both meet the man of her dreams or an unfortunate end?   Purbright has started to look into this and learned that Miss Teatime has become the latest client of the agency.   He tries to protect her, but she’s too slick for him (and he is unaware of her real aims in signing up.)   Both Miss Teatime’s path and Purbright’s eventually head in the same direction.   I say eventually, but this is a short book.   A quick, eminently enjoyable read with few wasted words.   I sha’n’t waste many either.  Colin Watson’s books have all been deservedly reprinted and are available cheaply on the Kindle and more expensively in paperback.   Got to admit some of the dead tree prices are ridiculous, so good luck if you’re not a Kindle reader.

lonelyheart4122  Weirdly, this shows 4112, but it is 4122 in the book.

I finished this on Sunday and have been looking for shorter books to try to finish six more in the time left.   Not too likely, but I’m still trying.   One of the flaws in the Kindle — you can’t tell how long a book is without opening and looking up the pages.   So, I’m not sticking to my list anymore.  I might make it if I read nothing but Colin Watson, but I want to mix it up more than that.



I am the Messenger – 13 of #20BooksofSummer

Mark Zusak is the author of the super bestseller The Book Thief.  I was drawn to this grade 7-12 story by the description.

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

I almost gave up on it a couple times.  One of the first people he deals with is horrible and the whole way it plays out is somewhat weird.  I’m all for helping, but am unconvinced that self-appointed hurting is called for.  This being fiction, it all works out, of course.  Hopefully people inspired by this will find people to help in a less stalky way.  It might bother some folks that there’s no real explanation of how all this is managed.  It’s basically a fantasy and you just have to accept that.


I think I was hoping for something  of a better explanation for what happens, but the book is all about the message, not the means.


The Woid is Moideh – Book 12 of the #20BooksofSummer

Okay, it’s British.   They don’t say it like that.   But they should.  The Word is Murder was published in the UK in 2017 by Anthony Horowitz, prolific writer of TV shows including Foyle’s War and Midsummer Murders and books carrying on for other detectives such as Holmes and Bond, but also his own mystery within a mystery Magpie Murders.   Of his books, I’ve only read this and Magpie Murders, both of which I find myself somewhat disappointed with.   In this one, Horowitz casts himself as Watson to a police consultant named Hawthorne.  I don’t know about you, but putting yourself in your own book smacks of massive egotism to me.  I guess it’s supposed to be amusing.   But mostly it fails.  As they say, your mileage may vary.   The victim is a well-off, middle-aged woman who goes to a funeral parlor to arrange her own funeral.   Six hours later she is strangled in her living room.


The writing just seems really awkward, which is sad, because I thought Foyle’s War was excellent.   So smart.   Great characters, well researched.   This seems to be a combination of clichés — standing in the victim’s living room Horowitz is touched by her death and wants to help bring the killer to justice.   He acknowledges Hawthorne’s ability at his job, his very Holmesian observational skills, but yet seems to want to outshine him only to find Hawthorne there ahead of him every time.   There’s this really odd conceit that he’s trying to get away from fiction, so he’s writing this as non-fiction, which is, of course, why he has to be in it as himself, but of course, it isn’t non-fiction so that just seems strange.   Hawthorne’s an enjoyable character, except 1) his homophobic views seem to be sort of grafted on for reasons only Horowitz knows and 2) Horowitz still feels at the end some need to flesh the man out so we do find out a bit more about him, but it’s pointless.   Why Hawthorne couldn’t stay simply a former policeman whose only interest in life is in solving crimes, I don’t know, except perhaps that wouldn’t make him different enough from Sherlock of whom he’s clearly a direct descendant.

I also realized for the first time that bloggers are apparently quoted like reviewers.   I was never a blurb reader, so I don’t know how often this happens.  They were not bloggers I read regularly, but all seemed pretty enthusiastic.   ‘Delightful’ seemed to be the operative word.  Perhaps I hope too much for a genuinely GADdish experience.   Not a police procedural with a ridiculous, over-the-top ending.   Okay, I guess this is just me.   Go on read it.   Odds are you’ll enjoy it.  To me it just feels amateur, which is bizarre, considering how much the man has written.



Super-spoilery P.S.   I went on Goodreads to see what other people thought and one of them pointed out a serious plothole which I am disappointed with myself for not catching.  Scroll down to read.





















The accident takes place in 2001, but Damian discusses it in RADA in 1999.  Important things hinge on this chronological impossibility.  Very sloppy.  And I should have noticed.   So should the publisher.

Under the Volcano – 11 of the #20BooksofSummer

This was supposed to be the #1 Book of Summer.   I started it June 1st, but while I didn’t hate it, I had trouble getting into the style and was only reading a few pages at  time.   I set it aside and went back to it after ten books and found it much easier going.   Still not easy, but it was much swifter going.   I still can’t decide what I think of it and I finished it on the 10th.   I went to the beach and thought I’d get my thoughts in order, but I don’t think it helped.   Under the Volcano was written by Malcolm Lowry.  Set in 1938 Mexico (though I think it was written entirely post-war) it is the story of the Consul, Geoffrey Firmin, and his love for Yvonne alcohol.   Yvonne returns to try to patch things up with Geoffrey on the Day of the Dead.   For someone who has supposedly been pining for her to return for a year, he’s fairly indifferent.   His much healthier brother Hugh is there and things are beyond awkward as Geoffrey makes some effort to drink less, but really, not so much.   It is a highly charged atmosphere as Hugh is apparently still in love with Yvonne and the three of them more or less spend the day together.   Geoffrey’s life, never very together by the sound of it is in a downward spiral.   Yvonne is hoping to help him pull out of this and live happily ever after, but it’s a tall order.

51TW8gJ6DBL It certaInly builds a sultry, trippy atmosphere.   Lowry can write, there’s no question about that.  I think it gives an excellent picture of what it’s like to be a serious drinker falling apart in mid-20th century Mexico.   The beauty and the poverty, the imminent violence everywhere.  It is both paradise and inferno.   This book is in a number of top 100 of the 20th century and yet, I can’t decide what I think about it.   If you enjoy heavily atmospheric stories of wasted lives, without a lot of plot, this is for you.  I’m claiming this as my 20th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge.  Reading this, which took quite a while, and going on vacation has set me further back in the 20 Books of Summer.   I don’t know why I can’t seem to read more on vacation, but I don’t.

D’oh!   Already had a 20th Century Classic.   Have now posted this under New to Me Author Classic.  Sorry for the confusion!

Brief, Non-Spoilery Review of Fog of Doubt – Book 10 of the #20booksofsummer

Halfway through the 20 books of summer!   A pity it’s 2/3 over.  You might think I can at least get to 15, but I seem to have saved the longer ones for last.  I could cheat massively and replace the second half of the list with short reads, but no, I don’t think I will.  I have wanted to read some of them for years.  I shouldn’t have added up all the pages, then I wouldn’t know how impossible it is.  Anyway, never say die, or something.

Fog of Doubt — Christianna Brand – really, just go read my or J.J.’s chapter by chapter, it’ll be much faster.  But no, that’s unfair.  As a number of people pointed out on The Invisible Event, quite correctly, there’s a lot of good writing in it.   It’s just not a good mystery.   Not a good fair-play detective story anyway.  And I just found Cockrill, the detective, incredibly irritating.   He didn’t detect, he intuited.   Twice.    “I just have a feeling that a gun is involved.”   So blankety-blank stupid.   Why on earth would you stoop to writing like that?   No one ever should have to do that.   Just discover the darn gun in the drawer.   Thought the whole thing with the gun was hair-pullingly ridiculous.  So, no, I’m not reconsidering.   Some good characters and some good lines is not enough for a good book.

The legendary fog of London was known as a London Particular (an alternate title for Fog of Doubt), also a pea souper, which in the fullness of time, London Particular became one name for thick pea soup.   I love that.   Someday maybe I’ll go there and have a bowl of London Particular.

In the meantime, if you’re a completionist and want to read all of Brand, you may as well get this one out of the way.   Otherwise, I think you can skip it, unless you’re particularly (see what I did there?) enamored of little old ladies putting crepes on their heads and other adorable eccentricities.   I liked that Rosie was smarter than everyone thought.   Wish something better had been done with that.   I find it bizarre that in writing about a two year old child she’s constantly referred to as ‘it.’  Also the nighttime routine apparently being referred to as potting the baby seems odd to me.   Did everyone say that or just Brand?

The main trouble with the book is that any of them could have done it with just a little rewrite.   There was no feeling of, ah, yes, of course it was X, because it just as easily could have been Y or Z.   Anyway, plenty of people like it, so you might, too.   Just don’t look for fair play.

For Just the Facts – this book features a courtroom scene.   For Follow the Clues there’s quite a lot in general similar about them, but I think the main thing is Scotland Yard working with someone outside the yard – Sir Henry in Red Widow and Cockrill in Fog.