All posts by phinnea

The Moving Toyshop

Sorry it’s been a hundred years since I wrote.  Very little reading has happened in the past few weeks.  A while back I finished The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin, the third Gervase Fen mystery. Quite fun, though not a great mystery.  There’s a lot to enjoy here.  A poet named Richard Cadogan decides he needs a vacation.   He hounds his publisher into giving him an advance and heads off to Oxford.  After a rather unorthodox trip he finds himself walking into town in the middle of the night and coming upon a toyshop which for insufficient reasons he enters and discovers a body.  He’s then knocked out by a mystery person and when he wakes hours later and returns to the shop with the police, it has transformed into a grocery.  Cadogan is friends with Fen who is a professor at Oxford.  Together they investigate a ridiculously convoluted murder, but have some very entertaining scenes along the way.   They play literary games while tied up in a closet, there’s a lunatic chase by drunken undergrads following a very amusing tea, a plucky heroine, an eccentric rich lady, and, of course, a moving toyshop.   None of it should be taken seriously.

Crispin sounds like an interesting guy.  In addition to the Gervase Fen novels he was a composer.

From Wikipedia: Gareth Roberts has stated that the tone of his Doctor Who novel The Well-Mannered War was modelled upon Crispin’s style. He also remarks (of The Moving Toyshop) that “It’s more like Doctor Who than Doctor Who.”

And yes, I’d have to agree.   Perhaps I’d insert ‘almost.’   I was quite proud of myself for the bit that I did figure out.   Unfortunately, it was only incidental and not the solution.


I’m hoping to finish up some things before the end of the year.   Unfortunately they are long classic things and so this month will probably end up with very little in the way of reviews.    Wish me luck!


The Catherine Wheel & Gambits

The Catherine Wheel is the last book I needed to read (except for the Lorac which is unbuyable) to prevent spoilers when reading Noah Stewart’s post on various gambits in GAD fiction.   This impromptu project was quite fun and the reading of the post was, too.   I’m not sure, given how my brain works, whether these will stick with me or not, but I definitely recognized that I have fallen for an old gag multiple times.   This post will be somewhat spoilery, too, I expect, but I will try to vague it up.   Reading the comments is another set of books you should read if you want your GAD books unspoilt.   Mostly Christie, I think.   Probably best to read all of Christie, but especially ABC Murders.

The Catherine Wheel is the third Patricia Wentworth on the list and starts off a little different.   An old man with plenty of money and no immediate family advertises to meet his extended family.   The grandchildren of his aunts and uncles – so, the next generation – for purposes to be named later.   Curiosity and hope of game lure 8 cousins out to an old family inn, The Catherine Wheel, where they all convene for a weekend of country air, food and wine, and murder….    Miss Silver is given an odd assignment to barge in on this little family party to find out if anyone is still smuggling from this inn – a grand old family tradition.  And barge she does.  And she does a real job of investigating this time and coming up with the vital points to crack the case.



Just tried to post this whole thing and lost half of it, but gained a picture of this tired bunny.    Maybe if I feel like it, I will try to recreate the end of this post, but not now.   I am just like this bunny.


I know I had posted this cover:

I found it amusing.   She did not come to the inn for love, she came because her newly found great-uncle offered a hundred pounds to do so for the weekend, same as the rest of this blood-isnt-really-thicker-than-water family.

I talked about the solution not being fair.  Miss Silver tells you various things along the way and a couple of them are super-improbable.    The first you can swallow because those who ought to know better have reasons for not letting on.    Then, well, I can’t say, but I found a second aspect of this crime really impossible to believe and given the way a certain person behaved they’d all been a lot better off if they’d done them in instead.

Anyhoo, the gambits.    Already blurred in my mind, I will presumably fall for most of them over and over again.   A lot of mistaken identities.   A killed instead of B.   A killed on purpose, but everyone’s supposed to think B was the intended victim.  You’re probably going to want to read the comments, too, and it would be good before you do to have read Christie’s ABC Murders as well.   The Sound of Murder gambit is one I’ve experienced and seen through in the last year, but it didn’t help with solving the mystery.   It was a red herring.  There are a number of mysteries that rely on people looking so much alike that no one can tell them apart.   A premise I almost always grind my teeth over.   I can’t see them, can I?   Not fair at all.    Unless they give other non-visual clues that you should be able to guess.   Unless the people are nearly strangers, someone is going to be able to tell them apart.  I was going to say or the body is disfigured completely, but that still leaves the other person pretending to be someone they’re not.   I imagine that would be very difficult to do unless they were known for never talking about themselves.   Hard to make up a whole life.   I also think the Elisabeth of Austria gambit or the Sissi gambit as I’d prefer to call it – named after the Empress of Austria who, stabbed by an anarchist, said he didn’t hurt me, walked back to her boat under her own steam, lay down for a nap and died – while it is actually possible to happen in real life is completely unfair in fiction unless someone tells that story or one similar early on so you know it’s a possibility.   Even then I’m not sure it isn’t cheating.   At any rate a fun idea and I’d encourage you to read the post if you’re well up on your GAD fiction and maybe contribute one Noah forgot.


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!