Traffic Light of Mystery Week

I just finished Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers, having recently read The Mystery of the Yellow Room and Green for Danger.  I realized today these are the same three colors in a traffic light.   Not that that is significant.  Or intentional.   Of the three, Five Red Herrings is by far the best.   Not a huge surprise as Sayers is usually said in the same breath with Christie for tops in mystery.  I’ve not actually read any of hers before, though I may have tried once upon a time.   Partly I wanted to forget the plots from having seen the old TV shows with Ian Carmichael, which were very good, but I don’t like to read mysteries in which I know the end.    

Image

Five Red Herrings takes place in an artistic Scottish fishing village.   Everyone either paints, fishes or does both.   It’s a real place and I had fun looking it up on Google maps.    This book might have a bit too many railroad timetables and police interviews with porters and Scottish dialect, but I was so happy to read an intelligent, fair play mystery.   One Sandy Campbell — a resident of Kirkcudbright and artist — irritates, annoys, irks and enrages everyone around him.  When Campbell is found dead after a night of drinking and quarreling, it looks like he fell down a steep bank while painting, but Lord Peter Wimsey soon figures out this cannot be.  It’s murder.   Wimsey comes up with six suspects almost immediately and it is largely entertaining finding out what each of these eccentrics has been up to.   The clues were enough that I figured out who it was shortly before the reveal, but not how it was done.

Definitely going to be reading more Sayers.   Although it makes me long for a personal servant like Bunter, which is not really a possibility.

Along with being a Cozy, this gives me a Golden Age Bingo.   

Book with a Color in the title:  Mystery of the Yellow Room

Book with a Number in the Ttile: Five Red Herrings

Book with an Amateur Detective: Body in the Library

Book with a Professional Detective: The Case is Closed

Book Set in England – Murder is Easy

Book Set in the U.S. – League of Frightened Men

BINGO!

I also think this counts as a Mystery Classic and as a Scottish book – it is set in Scotland.  

Advertisements

The Mystery of the Yellow Room – Gaston Leroux

No one writes like Gaston
No one frights like Gaston
No one’s plot’s as incredibly trite as Gaston’s
For there’s no book in town half as madly
Plotted, a pure paragon!

Okay, Phantom is probably more madly plotted.   But it was as good as I could do in about three minutes, which is all it’s worth.   What to say about the Yellow Room?   What I want to say will spoil the whole thing.   If you don’t care about that, keep reading.   I’ll put no spoilers in the first part of this review.   The story:  Help ho!  Murder! cries young Mlle. Stangerson.  A no longer young half-French woman who spends all her time on Science! with her father in a very strangely designed laboratory in the middle of Nowhere, France.   She sleeps in a yellow room right next to the lab in the summer, so her father and their servant Daddy Jacques are right on hand to bang the door down when she starts screaming.   The concierges come help and all 4 of them finally knock down this door and find Mlle Stangerson in a pool of blood and NO ONE ELSE!    How could this be?   Sacre bleu!    This is one of the earliest locked room mysteries and while it does, technically, make sense in the end, I certainly don’t think it was fair play in the least.  And the trial scene is ridiculous.   There are two detectives vying for the honors here, but the main man is an 18 year old journalist know-it-all whose sheer charisma, I guess, leads everyone in France to accept what he says no matter how absurd it sounds.   Read this if you have an interest in the history of locked room mysteries or if you are playing Golden Age Mystery Bingo and need a mystery with a color in the title, though if it comes to that, Green for Danger is probably better.    It was entertaining enough, and it’s short, until you get to the end and are like, what??   Seriously??

200px-Leroux_Chambre_Jaune

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

Argh.   This book.   The actual solution to the locked room mystery is legit.  Well, semi-legit. Although we’re supposed to believe that Mlle is attacked in the early evening, manages to act perfectly normal immediately after, working with her father for six hours and failing utterly to remove any evidence of the attack she doesn’t want anyone to know about because she has a sekrit.  A secret so terrible, she’s prepared to be killed than reveal it.   The whole secret is extremely hard to believe.   This woman has lived with her father in Philadelphia her whole life.   She falls for the wrong guy.   He says no.   She gets mad and is sent off to live with an aunt from whom she runs away with and marries the guy.    Fine, but the aunt never tells her father.   And apparently her father never attempts to contact her for the at least 9 months she’s gone.    [There’s a son who manages to get born and completely abandoned, but no one seems bothered by that.]   After her no good husband is arrested she goes back to the aunt, has the kid and then goes back to her father, none of this revealed to him.   I’m not quite sure why this can never, ever be revealed.   That she would rather face anything than tell her father she made this big mistake.   He seems devoted to her.   He doesn’t seem cruel.   Though there’s so little character development, it’s hard to be sure.   She would rather meet her would-be murderer than reveal all, and her current fiance feels exactly the same.   Of course, we almost never see her, she’s too injured to come out of her room for most of the novel.   You have to be willing to swallow a hell of a lot for this plot to be believable.

The trial scene is the worst though.   This upstart detective-journalist, 18 years old, reveals how the locked room situation really went down, but without revealing the Sekrit and with no one willing and able to confirm any of his surmises.   He also tips off the criminal, and lets him get away.   He should be thrown in jail.  And everyone believes that Daddy Jacques lit the night light without noticing the bloody handprint on the wall.   There was no blood on the door knob, although the would-be murderer did apparently leave that way and no clean up at all even attempted.   She doesn’t even pick up the mutton bone.   Wouldn’t you make some excuse, go to your room and clean up if you wanted to cover the fact that a murder had been attempted on you?   I don’t think she even had time to hide the strangulation marks on her neck, though Gaston maintains she did.   Bizarre set-up.   Bizarre crimes.  Bizarre victims.   Suspension of disbelief unmaintainable.

END OF SPOILERS

1.5 stars I think.   Readable, but the ending made me want to throw the book across the room.

This book was read for the Golden Age Mystery Bingo space a book with a color in the title.  It also counts as a Cozy Mystery and a Book in Translation, though not a very good one, I think.  Oh, and it’s a French Book.  And it fits my Century of Books.  So, it was good for a lot, if not a good read.

Green for Danger

I got this because it was on someone’s list of best mysteries plus it had a color in the title, but I am not going to use it for that square in Golden Age Mystery Bingo because it’s a medical mystery andI never read those, so I’ll save it for the medical mystery block.   I was fairly bored for 50 pages and even needed to write down the seven characters to keep them straight.   It was sort of like they were all in scrubs and I couldn’t tell them apart easily.   It takes place during WWII in a military hospital.  A postman, caught in an air raid, tragically dies under anesthesia for a minor operation.  This being a mystery, we’ll soon find out it wasn’t an accident.   Suspicions are narrowed down to our magnificent seven all of whom are brittle, stiff-upper-lippy most of the time with bouts of hysteria.   It seems to take a long time to catch the killer even though the inspector claims to know whodunnit almost from the beginning.   If you know that, why would you keep everyone together?   Hoping for another murder?   I don’t know.   This whole thing just bugged me.   And then afterward I thought, what has the title got to do with it?   It’s the color of the canister of carbon dioxide they don’t use during the operation.   Stupid title.   But the movie has Alistair Sim, and from the quotes I saw sounds a lot funnier than the book.   So, I’m hoping to watch that soon, which I think makes it count for Lucky Number 14 Challenge

11. Movies vs Books: You’ve seen the movie adaptation (or planned to see it soon) but never had time to read the book. It’s time to read it now, so you can compare the book vs the movie.

full.greenfordanger-22742__90085.1383176025.400.400

Tragically we Bleakalong Chapters 22-32

This is written  a day early, but I got to chapter 32 and if you’ve done the same, understand why I can’t stop THERE!   The ending of chapter 31 was bad enough.  Really, Jo, you had to walk how many miles just to give our heroes the plague?!  [About 21 miles from Lincoln’s Inn to Folly Ln, St. Alban’s]  And where the heck did he go?  Has he been kidnapped by La Dedlock?   Or perhaps the mysterious fruitcakey French maid?   Though she was in town last we saw.   Perhaps Mrs. Snagsby…  but no.   We know she’s following her husband around like a stalker and apparently very good at it.

We now know why the Opium Eater had no personal effects.   Never trust a landlord named Krook.   A pity he hadn’t hidden them in some secret hidey-hole in the room for Jobling to stumble upon.   It seems fairly likely the letters went up in smoke with the landlord.   And what will happen to Miss Flite now?   Why didn’t the whole place go up in flames chock full as it is with papers and hair and such?    But he wrote it so well.   The soot…  the smell… the… ick.

And poor Esther.   Thank goodness she has a rich guardian.   Boy, Ada’s just a whole lotta nothin’, ain’t she?   If you’ve got nothing but looks, being a character in a novel doesn’t do much good.   And dammit.  I thought we’d got rid of Skimpole.   Surely by the end even Jarndyce will kick him to the curb.  Hopefully, Richard will learn a thing or two before we see him again.   Nothing too drastic.  Just cut the Skimpole out of his character.

So, Mama Dedlock and Captain Hawdon had a little Esther without getting properly hitched.  Hawdon seems to have had pretty serious problems dating way back, but I’m sure we’ll find out how it’s not his fault.   Poor dedicated Guppy, what will he say to lady D?   And I had been rooting for Woodstock to come back and make a match of it, but I can’t stand to give satisfaction to his awful mother who thinks Esther isn’t good enough, but will if she learns she’s Lady Dedlock’s daughter, I presume.    I shouldn’t blame Woodstock for his awful mother, but he did suggest she contact them and he must have known what she’s like.

The League of Frightened Men

I finished this last night – the second Nero Wolfe book.  I used to read quite a lot of Nero Wolfe until I read one which viewed beating your wife as an appropriate response to infidelity which just turned my stomach and I couldn’t read him anymore.   So I was in the secondhand book store and there were a few of them so I picked them up.  It was okay.  Hardboiled talk gets a bit old after a couple hundred pages.  This one was too long and I didn’t really think peoples’ motivations were all that clear.  I would like the lifestyle, though.  Private cook.  Calling the car around whenever you like.   Although I gotta say despite having a gourmet chef I rarely drool over their meals.   Corn fritters?  Squirrel stew with black sauce?    You could have anything and you pick squirrel?

Quick rundown: the League is a group of Harvard men who were responsible for a classmate’s injury back in their school days.   They felt guilty all this time and helped him out, but now he’s a successful author and no longer needs anyone’s help.   At this point, he apparently starts killing them off one by one or does he?   Only Nero Wolfe can figure it out, of course, and only for a great big pile of money.

This Golden Age Mystery is set in the U.S.  So I’m filling that block with it.   I think I’d like to see the movie.

Image

Eugene Onegin – a day late

Once again, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this reading and many thanks to Marian at tanglewood for hosting.  The pace was excellent for me, leaving plenty of time to slip the chapters in between other readings and yet not forget what had happened.   Taken as a whole it’s a bit odd.   Sort of jumps around abruptly.   It does feel like he wrote the different parts at widely different intervals.   Suddenly Tatyana’s all sophisticated and grown-up and Eugene has lost his Byronic indifference.   There’s a fine how-do-you-do.   But whatever you make of the plot such as it is, the verse is amazing.   So light.   So full of humor.   This is a Russian?   It reminds me of someone, but then I tried to think of whom and no one I’ve read is like this.   Granted, my reading of poetry is pretty minimal.   Did I say already it’s like watching a ballet?   A witty ballet.   I must definitely read some more Pushkin.  I must also recommend the Falen translation.  I don’t know Russian and have only read a stanza of other translations, and honestly, most of them seemed fine, but I can say Falen keeps up the tone and captures at least some of the wit.   Unless you know both languages, you don’t know what is lost, but Falen captures so much that I believe I can recommend his version without hesitation.

Image

My book says Pushkin died March 1st, Wikipedia says February 10th.   Did someone get confused switching calendars?  Either way it was close to 177 years ago, having fought a duel, though Eugene Onegin illustrates how stupid duels could be.

In addition to the Readalong, I believe this also qualifies as Russian Literature and European Reading and A Classic in Translation.   It is not a cozy mystery.   Definitely need more Pushkin in my future.   Maybe someone will host another readalong?  Hint, hint.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.