All posts by phinnea

Murder by Matchlight – Book 4 of the #20BooksofSummer

I’ve gone off-liste.   I read JJ’s review of Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac a couple weeks ago or so and he HATED it.   His blistering, yet entertaining scorn had me thinking I must read this now.  I don’t know why.   If someone said, this show is bad or this pudding is terrible I would not hurry to partake.  But thanks to JJ I had to order this and make it my next read once Roman Hat was done.  I’m in a somewhat different position.  I have not read the other Loracs that JJ found so similar.   I’ve only read Fire in the Thatch which takes place in the country and is not much like this one.   This one takes place in November 1944 – wartime London.  This is critical because the blackout is an element of how the murder is done and how Bruce Mallaig happens to be strolling through the park and becomes witness number 1 to the titular murder by matchlight.  Witness #2 is a man who hides under the bridge the victim waits on for someone.  He lights a match and in that light Bruce sees a face above and behind the man on the bridge.  The light goes out, there is a thud and Bruce races to the bridge, tackling witness #2 and calling for the police.

The police have their work cut out for them.   Who is the victim?  Are these witnesses who they say they are or are they involved in the crime?   It then emerges that the victim – an Irishman by his voice – has only been going by his current name for about 9 months, so who is he really?   There are many interviews, of course, but I didn’t find them tedious.   Each added something to the investigation unlike the searches in The Roman Hat Mystery.   I believe I could answer JJ’s questions about the film studio and the motive (at least I can at the moment, who knows how long I’ll remember?), but that would be some serious spoilage here.  The coincidental meet-ups are, as far as I can tell, coincidental meet-ups, but there didn’t seem to be a ridiculous number of them and they’re partly explained by these people living and working in proximity.   They may have met before, but now they know who each other are.   Perhaps someday when he’s had a nice rest and not read too many Loracs recently, he’ll give it another try and not find it the pile of hooey he does now.   I enjoyed it.   Gives a great picture of wartime London, I liked the characters.   I did find some aspects a bit of a stretch, but overall enjoyed the story and would recommend it, unless you’re JJ.   Then all bets are off.




The Indigo Necklace – 2nd Book of Summer

Undecided as to which book to read next I went to for a random number.   It was 1.   Why does it somehow feel like cheating to randomly roll a one?  At any rate, the book was The Indigo Necklace the 4th or 5th Jean and Pat Abbott mystery.   I started to write this weeks ago, but apparently failed to save it.   Jean and Pat are married now and recently moved to an apartment in an old New Orleans family mansion.   The Clary family is living in genteel poverty, renting out parts of the manse to scrape by.   Jean is very happy with their place except for the mysterious person who uses it as a throughway in the middle of the night.   They’ve never seen the wife of the male head of the house, Dr. Clary.  She’s ill and waiting for a place in the hospital.   One night when Pat is at work, Jean is out on the gallery – what they call those walkways along the upper floors – having a cigarette when abruptly the doctor’s wife appears.  She apparently suffered brain damage when she was ill years earlier and clearly has no idea what’s going on, but seems sweet in a child-like way.   Shortly after she is dead at the bottom of the stairs.  Jean runs down to find the body.  Did she fall, was she pushed, where’s the nurse who wears the indigo beads?   Does the nurse practice voodoo?   Or is she being maligned by the other servants?   Did the doctor do away with his wife to be with his new love?   Did a curtain rod fall on Jean or did someone knock her out?  These questions and more are entertainingly answered.  I think the Abbott mysteries are lively and those New Orleans meals were filling me with envy.   I will read more of these, but because the early ones all seem to be print-only it’s slower to acquire them.    I have a couple though so will read them sometime.   They remind me a bit of the Lockridge mysteries.  The wife is a little ditzy, but insightful.   Pat Abbott is some sort of detective, but seems to be known everywhere and is working on some war work, maybe catching spies.   They aren’t as well off, but they sure dine well in New Orleans.


Haven’t worked out how to save pics with this machine, so that’ll have to wait.


The Billiard Room Mystery #1 of #20BooksofSummer

So, a week ago I finished my first book of the 20 Books of Summer and my first Brian Flynn novel, The Billiard Room Mystery.   Recently made available on Kindle, I’ve heard about him for so long now I had to buy it.   I also apparently bought a paperback version.   Ooops.   Published in 1929, it fits the mold of the standard country house mystery, which surprised me for some reason.  The master of the house holds a cricket week every year and good players are invited to participate.  This year that includes Flynn’s new detective Anthony Bathurst and the victim who is found strangled and stabbed on a billiard table, Bill Cunningham, who knows both these men and is an old family friend, a couple of military types, and the family.   They play cricket and bridge and eat Kedgeree from fine china the way they do in these stories until Gerry Prescott is found one morning by the maid dead on the billiard table.   She screams, all come running and then it’s a race between Bathurst who fancies himself a detective and the actual police.  Bathurst is a bit annoying partly because this is his first case and he has absolutely no humility at all.  There’s also a robbery of the pearl necklace of the lady of the house.   That’s solved in about 20 minutes and serves more as a distraction than anything.   Prescott’s mother arrives and everyone feels very awkward around her.   An IOU Prescott got playing cards has disappeared along with all his money, if he had any.  It appears to be an entertaining enough read to consider reading him again, but the end is a bit…  well, I can’t make much sense out of it.   The whys of the killer seem to be elusive, not as to the main motive, the murder itself, but why was he strangled and stabbed?   Why was he on the billiard table?  Why various other things that I won’t elaborate on, but seem to be fairly pointless or inadequately explained.   Also the whole idea of luring the pearl thief back to the house instead of going to where he’s hiding and arresting him there seems ludicrous.   I suspect that like most writers Flynn gets better and it’s a good enough debut that I will try him again, but if you want to read only one Flynn, I suspect there’s a better one out there.   It took me 11 days to read this and at that rate it will be the 8 Books of Summer, but shhh!  don’t discourage me.


20 Books of Summer 2019

Cathy at 746 Books is again hosting her 20 Books of Summer challenge.  If 20 is too many you can make it a 15 book challenge or 10 or…  well, I suppose 1 is the minimum.   The 0 Books of Summer would be a strange challenge.  I’ve decided to go with 20, but to make them all, or almost all, mysteries.   Mysteries are usually fast, easy reads for me and while it might be better to read some classics or some non-fiction which I keep buying and not reading, but I’m slow so I need fast reads to have any hope of getting through 20 in 3 months.  I’m going to bend the rules a bit.   Not going to wait until June 3 to start.   That’s a Monday.   I want to read this weekend, don’t I?   So, I’m starting tomorrow (or maybe later tonight, heh heh) and I’ll stop Labor Day, September 2nd.


I have picked out 20, or thought I had, I somehow wound up with 23, so I’ll keep them all and there’ll be a few extras in case I can’t get through 1 or 3.   I have some pictures.  We’ll see if I can stick to the list.  I’m not going to be too strict about it, but I’ll try.   Here are the Pics:

The Indigo Necklace – a Francis Crane novel.  I enjoyed The Turquoise shop which was the first Pat and Jean Abbott book

The Billiard Room Mystery – I will finally read a Brian Flynn novel after reading many posts on him.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Can’t remember why I bought this

Bertie and the Tin Man – a Peter Lovesey I have seen about for years

Death at the President’s Lodging – ditto.   I should read some Michael Innes.  He’s been on my radar for ages.

Tenant for Death – Cyril Hare also on radar

The Norfolk Mystery – I think someone reviewed this and it sounded good.

The Clue of the Twisted Candle – Edgar Wallace another classic writer I’ve never read.

Death on the Last Train – George Bellairs.   Don’t remember why I got this.   Why am I even writing these?

Weekend at Thrackley – Alan Melville.   I like another of his.   It’ll come to me.   Maybe.

The Canary Murder Case – I liked the Kennel Murder Case.

A Question of Proof – I’ve read a couple Nigel Strangeways that I liked.

Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett.

His Burial Too – I like Catherine Aird

Charity Ends at Home – same with Colin Watson

The Crooked Wreath – Probably will read all Christianna Brand

The Roman Hat Mystery – my second Ellery Queen

Murder on Wheels – my second Hildegarde Withers

The Circular Staircase – okay, the reason I’m reading all of these is that I haven’t before.

Seven Per Cent Solution – I may have read this when I was a wee child, but maybe I just saw the movie.

Swan Song – the next Gervase Fen

The Moon Spinners – Mary Stewart

Greenmantle – the second John Buchan.


So, which 20 will make the finals?   Will I read 20?   Will I read 8?   Stay tuned or better yet, join in!  Sign up!   There’s time!   Pick 20 books or 10 or however many you like!   It’ll be fun!   The more, the merrier.




Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is very early this year.   Like, tomorrow.   Unfortunately, I have things to do, so 24 hours of reading will not occur, but I will try to read AMAP (as much as possible.)   I have decided to make this whole weekend a readathon and in that will hopefully read closer to what I might have if I could focus on it for the proper 24 hours.    Please join in!   You’ll be reading with people from all over the world!   This has been going on for years and every year draws in a few more chumps, I mean, readers.   You might even win a prize if you sign up and do the mini-contests.    Oh, and snacks are important.   Stop at the store and pick up your favorite snack or two.   (Or six.)  Post pics on your favorite social media.   (Or six.)   And we’ll all read together wherever we are (sort of, because as I mentioned, I have some commitments, but as they say, any reading is better than none!)  Everyone starts at the equivalent of 5 AM Pacific time so we’re all reading (or hoping to) for the same 24 hour period.



And heck, start early.   Read today.   Go late.   Read Sunday.   It’ll be fun,



The Etruscan Net

Having enjoyed Close Quarters, I ordered a few more Michael Gilbert novels.   It seems for the most part you’re stuck finding old second-hand copies.  British Library Crime Classics has apparently put a couple out, but not in the States yet.  They always seem to take longer here.  At any rate, this one drew me because the main character is running an art book store in Florence and the story involves possible Etruscan forgeries and/or archaeological theft.   That seemed pretty much up my alley so I turned to it next, even though it’s his 14th novel or so.   Gilbert still writes well, but that description of the story is a bit misleading.   Our bookseller is swiftly tossed in prison for a hit-and-run he presumably didn’t commit.   Owing to the Italian political situation at the time (shortly after the bad flooding in 1966) it’s much easier just to find the man guilty.   But his friends rally ’round and find a good lawyer and do some investigating themselves trying to get the bookseller off.   It’s a well-written story, but it just didn’t grab me.   A couple of thugs come to town.  We follow mainly an English Etruscan Art expert as he looks into the archaeological digging of a wealthy art dealer who likes to host Etruscan themed dinner parties.   Where’s Etrusc, I wondered?   Of course I know it wasn’t called Etrusc (or presumed it wasn’t, but realized I don’t know bupkis about the Etruscans.)  Etruria, for those who don’t know either.  They flourished in central Italy from the 8th to the 3rd centuries BCE and they made some beautiful stuff.


So, it’s hard to talk about the book too much because I really didn’t get into it, although I did finish it.   It’s just not my kind of story.   Although there’s a plucky young woman, the erudite Etruscan expert, a divine young man who believes he has super powers and as far as math goes, actually does, and his guardian the art dealer who would rather have been an ancient Etruscan…  it should all add up to an interesting story and yet somehow it was a bit of a chore to read it.   I’ll probably read the others that I bought, but it’s put a damper on my enthusiasm for Michael Gilbert.

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall

Originally published in 1974, The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall is a study of the whole Medici family from when they first rose to prominence in the 14th century to the end of the line in the 18th.   Obviously, that covers a lot of territory so this is very much an overview, discussing each prominent member for a short while and moving on.   If you already know about the Medici or Florentine history, this is not the book for you.  However, if you’re curious about this famous Italian family and their extraordinary influence on the art world and their history, it’s great.   Interesting, telling the most prominent stories, but never getting bogged down, I doubt there’s a better quick survey out there.   It also lists all the pictures, statues, and buildings that still existed in 1974 (and presumably most of them still do) and where they’re located.  Handy if you’re going to Florence and want to see as many Medici associated pieces of art and architecture as you can.

I’ve not much to say beyond this.   It’s a quick read and some people may find that it is too quick.   I don’t feel like I learned anything about Leonardo da Vinci, for example, but there’s considerably more on Michelangelo.  There are plenty of books out there to fill in the details if you find yourself fascinated by one or more of them.   I found it interesting how different their personalities and characters were.


housemedici Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.   My computer and I were separated and I haven’t learnt how to do this on an ipad.  But we are reunited, so I should be able to catch up on my embarrassingly short backlog of read books.   And knuckle down and read some more.   I’ve been doing more than their fair share of other things.