Case Histories

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.

 

casehistories

I guess this is RIP 3.   There are mysteries, which are solved by a detective.   So, yeah.   RIP 3

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Police at the Funeral – RIP 2

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.

Kind of a ridiculous cover, but more entertaining than the one I have

 

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.

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.

headsyoulose

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.

 

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.

2leftfeet

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.

henriettawho

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.

religiousbody

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.

somethingfresh

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.