Begun during Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and finished some days ago, Tour-de-Force is my favorite Christianna Brand book so far and the best of the eight I’m reading to find out what gambits they illustrate.   I was a little worried because on Amazon it only gets 3 stars whereas Heads You Lose and Fog of Doubt are both higher rated.   I will never understand people.   Inspector Cockrill is on a package tour of Italy and a tiny, fictional Spanish-Italian island nation which is run by a dictator and is far more interested in smuggling than justice.   They don’t have fingerprint kits or medical examiners or any of that guff.   They just pick the person they want to be guilty and trump up a case against them.   They go through a number of people in the tour group this way.  Inspector Cockrill and the group also go through a number of suspects.   The trouble with books is you know it’s not the right solution when you’re only halfway through.

The tourists are an amusing bunch a former concert pianist who lost an arm, his long suffering wife, a famous writer, a fashion designer, Mr. Cecil, who desires the Spanish tour guide who desires an apparently rich single woman who clings to her purse as though it’s a security blanket, and the inspector.   We get to know them a bit on their mad dash through Italy, but then the inevitable happens.   Murder takes place on the island and they are stuck there for days trying to figure out the culprit and prevent any of them spending the rest of their lives in a medieval island prison.


It’s a bit corny sometimes with Cockrill believing he can get his thoughts across to the natives by adding -a to English words.   But if you can ignore that, it is nice to know Americans are not the only bumptious travelers.   I really enjoyed this one all the way through.   I don’t remember any moments of  what the characters did making no sense like many times in Fog of Doubt.  And while this sort of ending usually drives me crazy, I think she actually wrote it well enough I ought to have guessed.

Silent Pool

Another Patricia Wentworth and unless I’m missing something, this is the same gambit as the other, but not as good a mystery.  Miss Silver barely did anything to discover the murderer in this mansion filled with the requisite unhappy family living off a rich person and resenting the control they have.  Except they are barely family.  A couple nieces and nephews, an adopted child, although she’s more like a ward, there’s a certain amount of indifference here and I don’t think she was ever officially adopted.  The nanny’s on vacay, so in comes a close friend of the mother.   They grew up together along with the nephew though things went wrong romantically, so now the nanny substitute must be thrown together with her true love.   Miss Silver shows up eventually, All in all a less satisfying story.

I realize that may not be a satisfying explanation.   Miss Silver is contacted by a famous actress in disguise who feels someone is trying to murder her.   Miss Silver penetrates the disguise, but then the woman decides she’s being paranoid and goes home to her disagreeable family whose names I have forgotten.  There’s a couple, he a philanderer, she a harpy.   There’s the aforementioned nanny-replacement and her beau.   The niece goes off to America.  There’s the spoiled adoptee and an old actress friend who though somewhat successful back in the day is entirely forgotten and pathetic with no dress sense.   The woman whose name I really should look up, decides to revitalize her life and so she throws a party.   At this party, her friend dies in the Silent Pool.   Very sad and all, but it was just an accident… or was it?   Of course it wasn’t.  Miss Silver is called in and starts knitting away.


While this cover isn’t bad aesthetically, the pool in question is decorative, not swimming.  There’s no ladder.  It’s only three feet deep.  Meant to be gazed at by lovers canoodling.

It wasn’t such a bad mystery, but I thought the way they solved it was a copout.  Guess I’d give it three stars.   I finished this last Saturday, so I’m behind in my work.

The Kennel Murder Case

This is my first Philo Vance though I’ve heard of him for ages, of course.   Vance is a detective who seems to be trying to out-Wimsey Wimsey.   He’s American, supposedly, but he definitely talks like British uppercrust much of the time.   In this one he’s into Scottish terriers and Chinese ceramics.  The victim was also into Chinese ceramics.   No one was into Scotties, but there’s an injured one behind the curtains.  Not to mention the body was locked in his bedroom with a bullet through his head, but had been dead before it was put there.   Mystery piles on mystery.   S.S. van Dine is himself a character, a sort of Watson, but unlike Anthony Horowitz, so unobtrusive you forget he’s there.  The D.A. is apparently called in on this one and he seems to automatically swing by and pick up Vance.

kennelclubmurderThis is not my cover.   I bought a weird copy which is just sort of blue-green paint and white.  It’s quite nicely done as far as typesetting goes.  I think I found one obvious error.   But there’s no one claiming credit, no company, and no page numbers.    Kind of annoying.  But clean, easy to read type and there aren’t many books being put out these days with so few errors.   It isn’t really a kennel murder case though the dog is important, but I guess it sounded more exciting than the Chinese Ceramics Case.   There is a sergeant whose never met a stereotype he didn’t like.   He can hardly choose between blaming the Chinese cook or the Italian visitor.   At least no one seems to be encouraging his biases.  I was drawn into this one from the get-go.  I will definitely read more of them even though it didn’t seem strictly fair.  Some of the actions of various people are rather difficult to believe in the end, but still, entertaining overall.

Bleurgggh – I’m up! I’m up! Dewey’s Readathon October 2018

Hour the First

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.

10:30 – Halfway through the 15th hour

I did fall asleep.   There’s not much reading left in me, I have a feeling, but we will see.  So, not much further than I was over 4 hours ago.   Story of most of my readathons.


I forgot the surveys.   How long have I been doing this?

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?

Tour-de-Force by Christianna Brand

2. How many books have you read so far?

1/3 of one and 1/3 of another

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I’m just hoping to get farther in this one.    It’s getting late, don’tcha know?

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

No.   Distractions.   Teh interwebs and one nap.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How slow I am at reading.   See?  I’m distracted by this survey.   I can’t focus for more than a few minutes it seems.


Sunday  11:38 AM

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

1st, 10th and I gave up mid 19th

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

1/3 of Patricia Wentworth’s Silent Pool and 2/3 of Christianna Brand’s Tour-de-Force
3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?

Well, I haven’t finished Tour-de-Force, but I’m enjoying it.   If they like sweet old-fashioned mysteries, Wentworth is usually good.   More romantic than Christie.
4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you happy?

Have another reverse one in January!
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

Very likely to participate.   Sorry, not helpful otherwise.

Forgot to mention I woke at 7 and read through bleary eyes the last hour.  I will write a review soon.  Hoping to finish Tour-de-Force soon.

Readathon Time!

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!


The Plague Court Murders

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.

plaguecourtmurders 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.



The Beast Must Die

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!

The Chinese Shawl

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.

chineseshawlThe 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.