Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Attention All Challengers! S0....life here on the Block has been, shall we say, challenging since I got back from vacation. I cam back to work to no computer (not hooked up after our office move) and my laptop at home has gone on strike. It looks like the Check-in Posts for the Just the Facts & Mount TBR challenges will wind up happening at the end of July instead of the regularly scheduled mid-point. But they are coming. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

R.I.P. Peril on the Screen



Last year when I signed up for the R.I.P. "Challenge," I decided to add to my usual commitment by doing a Vincent Price film view-a-thon--and quite fun it was, too.  But I had no intention to watch any films this year, I'm just not much for watching scary movies (I'm a big scaredy-cat, truth be told).  However, my online wanderings led me to a Sherlock Holmes movie that I hadn't seen before: The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, a TV movie from 2002 starring Matt Frewer as Holmes and Kenneth Welsh as Dr. Watson.




In The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, Holmes is called in to investigate a series of deaths connected with the abbey in Whitechapel.  Members of the abbey had been on a mission trip to Guiana where they encountered the worship of a vampire-bat-like demon called Desmodo.  There is an outbreak of deaths which are attributed to rabies and many bats are killed.  When members of the abbey's order begin to die and are found with puncture marks on their necks, superstition says that Desmodo has appeared in bat form to exact revenge for the death of his "children."  The mission trip is cancelled and Brother Marstoke thinks that he and the others will be safe once they return to England.  But another death occurs and he consults with Holmes--just in case a human hand is involved, even though Marstoke does not rule out a diabolical source.

Holmes, of course, does not believe in the supernatural and begins to question the members of the abbey.  He discovers conflict among the brothers and with a certain Dr. Chagas who considers himself the protector of bats.  The residents of Whitechapel are certain that the doctor is a vampire (evidenced by the fact that he only goes out at night--and that he was out on the nights of further attacks). Holmes is just as certain that the doctor is innocent and works to prove him so.

An enjoyable evening--though Matt Fewer is no Jeremy Brett.  The movie has a very theatrical quality about it.  The scenes feel much more like a play production than a movie experience.  There are moments where the characters pause--most noticeably--almost as if they are waiting for some sort of audience response. And there is a huge effort to give the film a spooky, other-worldly atmosphere. A decent movie and a decent story--worth the time if you're interested in a different version of Holmes, but not necessarily a must-see.

The film is billed as a "non-canonical movie based on an original story."  No mention of what story--Wikipedia lists the author as director Rodney Gibbons.  I would have to say, however, that The Whitechapel Vampire owes much to the Holmes film with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce: The Scarlet Claw.  In both films a supernatural creature--either a vampire or a clawed beast--is said to be the cause of the deaths, but Holmes knows better.  The human beast is murderous enough.  And the method of murder is very similar as well.

Rules of Murder: Review

Julianna Deering (aka Deanna Julie Dodson) tells us in the afterword to Rules of Murder that once she decided to write a mystery in the Golden Age tradition she thought it would be great fun to break every rule listed by Ronald A. Knox in his ten commandments for mystery writers.  What a clever idea--and how delightfully clever the result! The only possible improvement I could suggest would have been to allow the reader to try and spot all the transgressions rather than have one of the characters announce each one as they came along.  It would have been fun to see if I could have listed them all.

Rules of Murder is set in 1930s Britain. Most of the action takes place at a country house, complete with country house party and a corpse in the greenhouse.  The corpse is one David Lincoln--a slimy, blackmailing cad who probably deserved what he got, but hopefully not from Drew Farthering's mother or step-father. Before long the country house grounds are littered with bodies.  Drew, his life-long chum Nick Dennison (boon companion and son of the butler), and the lovely Madeleine Parker (niece to Drew's step-father) are soon on the case--trying to prove that Drew's mother didn't commit suicide and his step-father didn't commit murder...among other crimes.  

This is a fabulous first entry into a new series that brings back all the fun and feel of the Golden Age of mystery.  Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers would definitely approve of the obvious homage paid to the classic tales of detection.  The characters are just right for the period and Drew Farthering is an absolute charmer. There is romance and humor and plenty of amateur detection.  Farthington and friends make all sorts of mistakes on the way to the solution--and the police are good, solid investigators (not the bumblers that often appear in vintage novels).  I look forward to future installments and am interested to see what Deering does by way of an encore in Death by the Book (due out in 2014) after this four-star beginning.


[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...I won this review copy through a GoodReads First Reads Give-Away and it was sent to me by Bethany House, the publisher.  The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Challenge Complete: Adam's 2013 TBR Pile



Adam from Roof Beam Reader sponsored another round of TBR Tower Taming with his 2013 TBR Pile Challenge. This was my third year playing along with Adam to knock of 12 books from the TBR stacks.  And I have now complete all twelve plus the additional two alternates!  Now I just have to wait to sign up for the 2014 edition....

Here's my list of conquered books:

1. Death at Crane's Court by Eilis Dillon (1987) [read 5/23/13]
2. A Private History of Awe by Scott Sanders (2006) [read 4/27/13]
3. Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson (2001) [read 6/17/13]
4. Poems & Prose by Christina Rosetti (1998--this edition) [read 8/27/13]
5. Black Widow by Patrick Quentin (1952) [read 4/3/13]
6. A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield (2005) [read 3/22/13]
7. The Web Between the Worlds by Charles Sheffield (1979) [read 1/21/13]
8. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (2006--this edition) [read 8/6/13]
9. Slippage by Harlan Ellison (1997) [read 1/19/13]
10. Aaron's Serpent by Emily Thorn (1962) [read 2/22/13]
11. The Hollow Chest by Alice Tilton [aka Phoebe Atwood Taylor] (1988--this edition) [read 7/12/13]
12. The World's Best 100 Short Stories III: Mystery by Grant Overton, ed. (1927) [read 2/24/13]

Alternates:
A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S. J. Simon (1984--this edition) [read 8/28/13]
The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah (1988)  [read 7/3/13]


A Bullet in the Ballet: Review

Synopsis: Murder runs rampant among the members of the Stroganoff ballet company.  It seems that the title role in the ballet Petroushka is an unlucky one.  When the dancer Palook is shot just at the moment of the character's death, Inspector Adam Quill is called in to discover who might have wanted the dancer dead.  Just when he settles on fellow dancer Pavel (who just happens to move into the vacant starring role) as his culprit, someone eliminates the newest Petroushka before he even gets to make his entrance. Is it possible that someone hated both dancers? Or does someone have a real dislike for the ballet itself and hopes to cancel the show? Quill hunts among the dressing rooms for clues and interviews all and sundry in the company....but it will take one more performance of the ill-fated ballet before the case will be solved 

According to the blurbs in the International Polygonics edition of A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms and S. J. Simon, everyone from Sir John Gielgud to Sir Alec Guinness to Andrew Lloyd Weber thought this book was the wittiest, funniest book ever--or at least when the edition was published in 1984.  Ned Sherrin who wrote the introduction says, "There have been three great English comic novelists of high style in this century--Waugh, Firbank, and the combination of Brahms and Simon." Well...okay.  

Maybe one has to be a little more conversant with the ways of the ballet world or have knowledge of the ballets which are mentioned or something....because this one did not find this book to be all that hysterical or witty.  Mildly amusing at times--yes.  But great high comedy? Not so much.  It is full stereotypical prima donnas, stereotypical Russian ballerinas, a stereotypical ballet company owner, and a stereotypically dense policeman (who wouldn't recognize the murderer if s/he had a giant "M" painted on their forehead--and s/he might as well). There is all the little jealousies and love affairs and preening and temper tantrums that one would expect backstage in any of the arts--overplayed and larger-than-life.  The mystery (as hinted in reference to the dense policeman) isn't particularly mysterious.  I spotted the murderer in one of the earliest appearances--Quill isn't quite so quick.

The most interesting character is Stroganoff, the company's owner.  His single-minded "the show must go on" attitude in the face of his rapidly diminishing stock of lead dancers is the most amusing part of the whole book.  He simply can't understand why the police are so upset that he had Palook's body whisked off-stage while the grand finale continued virtually uninterrupted.  The audience never suspects that the star is really dead--and, in fact, a few critics remark that the death of Petroushka was rather unconvincing.  It is on Stroganoff's behalf that I am assigning two and a half stars to A Bullet in the Ballet.

Death at the Bar: Review

Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh is a "reread" for me.  Reread is in quotes because I actually listened to it this time.  Our local library had clear out of all their books on tape about this time last year and I scooped up this 8-cassette rendition read by James Saxon.  Saxon, by the way is terrific to listen to.  He manages to give all of the characters their own distinct voice (although I think it was a good thing that there were only two ladies--one of whom had a nice Irish brogue). I am not, generally speaking, an audio-book kind of reader.  Not that I have anything against them, I just process the books much better in print (particularly on a first go-round).  But when faced with a weekend trip in the middle of a read-a-thon I thought listening would be a great way to stay on track for the 'thon.  And as mentioned I thoroughly enjoyed Saxon as the reader.

But down to cases:  Attorney, Luke Watchman is headed to Devon and the Plume of Feathers pub for an annual holiday with his cousin Sebastian Parish and his friend Noman Cubitt.  On the way there he has a minor mishap with another motorist.  Watchman jumps out of his car to berate the other man on his driving habits and the driver mutters an apology at him and tries to avoid being seen clearly. Watchman is somewhat mollified, but gets the impression that he might know the other man and that the driver definitely doesn't want to be seen by him.

Watchman arrives at the Feathers and once settled he meets up with Parish and Cubitt in the private bar--where he regales them with the tale of his accident and his impressions of the other man. The other man is none other than Robert Legge--a fellow guest of the pub and a man who has been sitting in a secluded part of the bar.  Watchman tries to engage him in conversation, but it is clear that Legge does not want to be sociable.

During the course of the evening it is revealed that Legge is a "masterpiece" with the darts and can do all sorts of tricks with the darts and board--from playing Round the Clock (hitting point sections in order) to a circus-type move where he can outline a person's hand with darts.  Watchman doubts his skill--challenging him to repeat exactly a set of dart moves from the previous evening (and losing money on the bet) and then a game of Round the Clock, but shying away from presenting his hand for the circus trick.  The next evening Watchman changes his mind and says that if Legge can beat him at Round the Clock again, then he will let Legge do his dart and hand trick with him--he figures the worst that can happen is a prick from the dart and he's gotten a bit of courage from the brandy bottle produced by the proprietor.  

He would be wrong...by the end of the night Watchman is dead and a trace of cyanide found on the dart.  There was plenty of the stuff about the place--Abel Pomeroy, the pub owner, had been using the deadly poison to dispose of rats.  Someone decided to use it to dispose of Watchman.  But who?  The obvious person is Legge because he threw the dart.  But there are several witnesses to swear that he could not possibly have smeared poison on the instrument.  When Inspector Roderick Alleyn and Detective Sergeant Fox arrive to assist the local constabulary, they find all sorts of motives lurking about--there's Decima Moore and her boyfriend, Will Pomeroy who differ on politics and who don't appreciate Watchman's attentions to the lovely Decima; Parish and Cubitt are legatees under Watchman's will; and there are a couple of people who had dealings with Watchman in court.  The difficulty is that those with the most motive seem to have the least opportunity.  Fox will get a taste of poison himself (and be saved by Alleyn) before they can bring the crime home to the culprit.

The last time I read this one Marsh fooled me. She did it again and (this is embarrassing) I'm pretty sure she fooled me in the same way. I latched onto a particular character and,  just as one of the characters kept bleating on about how Abel Pomeroy has tried to poison them all (he hasn't), I could not get that character out of my head as the villain of the piece.  Marsh managed to force the clues on me and I still missed them.  I thoroughly enjoyed having the wool pulled over my eyes.  Four stars.

 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poems & Prose by Rossetti: Review

Christina Rossetti was considered by many of her contemporaries to be Britain's finest living poet.  "Goblin Market" is her most famous poem--a poem that I read repeatedly as I made my way through high school and college English classes.  But I had discovered her long before that...in a small volume of "best-loved poems" found on the shelves of the Wabash Carnegie Library.  I promptly fell in love and then searched in vain for collections of her poetry.....until I discovered this book--Poems & Prose--about three years ago at Borders (before it went away).  

Poems & Prose is billed as containing Rossetti's strongest and most distinctive work: poetry (including "Goblin Market", "The Prince's Progress", and the sonnet sequence "Monna Innominata"), stories (including the complete text of "Maude"), devotional prose, and personal letters.  The collection includes published work as well as that which she withheld from publication.  And the work is presented in chronological order--which gives the reader a chance to see her development as a poet and a writer. 

I do wish that I could say that I was as enchanted with Rossetti's work as I was when I first discovered her.  Unfortunately, I found the longer poems just that--long.  Very long.  Long enough to make me lose interest before the end of most of them.  The sonnet sequence and the shorter works are lovely and the language of the poems quite beautiful.  "Maude" is an interesting short story that is very autobiographical--featuring a young poet and her interactions with contemporaries. The other short stories that I found most interesting were "The Lost Titian," about a missing masterpiece, and "Vanna's Twins," described as a sort of "Babes in the Wood" without the happy ending.  "Vanna's Twins" is a very touching and sad story.  Overall--three and a half stars, rounded to four on GoodReads.

Monday, August 26, 2013

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII



RIP8main1
(Images by Artists Jennifer Gordan and Roman Sirotin, used with permission.)

Once again Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is sponsoring his  R.I.P. VIII ( R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) "Challenge."  This is (as the Roman numeral indicates) his eighth year inviting us to curl up with a spooky read or two during September and October.  Here's an invitation (abridged) from the man himself:

Eight years ago I became aware of reading challenges and wanted to start one of my own, hoping to find others who shared my Autumnal predilection for the works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker and other authors contemporary and classic who captured the spirit of gothic literature. All these years later we are still going strong, welcoming September with a time of coming together to share our favorite mysteries, detective stories, horror stories, dark fantasies, and everything in between. 

I welcome you to join us. 

September 1st is right around the corner. It is time to begin.
Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
 

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.
As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:
1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

As I do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. VIII officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. But let's go ahead and break the rules. Let's start today!!!
Multiple perils await you. You can participate in just one, or participate in them all.

For the complete rules and to sign up, please visit the link above.  
Reviews for the R.I.P. Event may be posted HERE.

I've been saving up suitable books all year.  So, I am all set to do


rip8peril1st

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.  

Here's my plan (which, you will notice, calls for more than four):

1. This New & Poisonous Air by Adam McOmber (9/3/13)
2. The Haunted Doll's House by M. R. James (10/9/13)
3. Famous Ghost Stories by Bennett Cerf (ed) [9/13/13]
4. The Temple of Death by A. C. & R. H. Benson (9/16/13)
5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (9/24/13)
6. The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells (9/4/13)

Bonus reads:
7. The Yard by Alex Grecian (9/9/13) 
8. The Dreadful Hollow by Nicholas Blake (9/19/13) 
9. Death Knocks Three Times by Anthony Gilbert (9/27/13)
10. Unthinkable by Richard Cibrano (10/12/13) 
11. Murder at Cambridge by Q. Patrick (10/15/13)
12. Cold Earth by Sarah Moss (10/18/13)
13. Dead of a Counterplot by Simon Nash (10/20/13) 
14. The Water Room by Christopher Fowler (10/25/13) 
15. Gently Go Man by Alan Hunter (10/27/13)



This is for those who like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows or Midsomer Murders, or your favorite film.

And....I decided to perhaps do a little viewing--no set plan for this.  But I have watched my first Peril film:

1. The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (8/31/13)
2. Night Gallery (pilot episode) [9/29/13]
3. The Haunting (1963 film) [10/7/13]


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.
 
I slacked off last week and didn't do a Monday post--so this is two weeks' worth of reading (and a paltry amount for two weeks it is--especially with my participation in the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon):
 

Books Read (click on titles for review): 
Age of Desire by Jennie Fields 
The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Nabb 
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen 
The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart 
 
Currently Reading: 
Poems & Prose by Christina Rossetti (ed. by Jan Marsh): This edition contains Rossetti's strongest and most distinctive work: poetry (including "Goblin Market", "The Prince's Progress", and the sonnet sequence "Monna Innominata"), stories (including the complete text of "Maude"), devotional prose, and personal letters. Those poems which Rossetti published, and those which she withheld from publication, are here brought together in chronological order, allowing the reader to observe her poetic trajectory. This edition also records the major revisions made by Rossetti when preparing her poems for publication. It brings together the fullest range of Rossetti's poetry and prose in one volume, and is an indispensable introduction to this entrancing writer.
 
AND
 
Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh: Settling in for a cozy night of brandy and darts at the pub, an inebriated lawyer suffers a seemingly harmless dart puncture. But within moments of his injury, the unlucky barrister loses more than a simple game of darts -- he loses his life. Called in to investigate this alleged accident, Inspector Roderick Alleyn wonders about the rules of this friendly bar game -- and probes into a pub full of motives for murder.... 


   
Books that spark my interest:
The Dreadful Hollow by Nicholas Blake  
A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado 
A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S. J. Simon 
Rules for Murder by Julianna Deering

Bout of Books: Wrap-Up


The Bout of Books read-a-thon was organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It ended at midnight Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone we were in. 
 
So....due to circumstances out of my control (detailed in the last update, I won't subject you to it again)...I did much less reading than planned.  I always enjoy doing the Bout of Books read-a-thon because it helps me stay on track for all the challenges I sign up for.  I was hoping to finish at least four books--but that just didn't happen.  Here are the final stats:

Books finished:
  
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen  (343 pages)
The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart (381 pages)

Paritals:
Poems and Prose by Christina Rossetti (260 pages)
Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (We'll call it about 130 pages--my husband, the math-whiz, figured up how many pages = how many tapes I managed to listen to).
 
I have had my usual good time--participating in about half of the mini-challenges.  Thanks to Amanda and Kelly for organizing this again!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bout of Books Update


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Each day there are challenges for those who signed up by Tuesday and we are called on to do an update.

Here's my progress update for Friday and Saturday, August 23-4:
 
So....my whole read-a-thon train got derailed.  I had to make a weekend run up to my parents house and my car died and they had to bring me back home so I can be at work tomorrow morning.  Which means I got very little reading done.  My intentions were to listen to a book on tape while traveling up and back (half-way accomplished) and to read my physical book-in-progress after the parents had gone to bed (I'm a night-owl; they're not).  That so did not happen.  So--as of Saturday night, here are the stats....

Books finished:
  
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen  (343 pages)
The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart (381 pages)

Currently Reading:
Poems and Prose by Christina Rossetti (232 pages so far--all progress on Friday before I left)
Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (We'll call it about 90 pages--my husband, the math-whiz, figured up how many pages = how many tapes I managed to listen to)

I was really hoping to have one if not both of these done by now....but it's not looking good.  


Friday, August 23, 2013

Bout of Books: Progress Update #4


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Each day there are challenges for those who signed up by Tuesday and we are called on to do an update.

Here's my progress update for Thursday, August 22:


Books finished:
  
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen  (343 pages)
The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart (381 pages)

I'm still not making quite the progress that I had hoped.  I blame it on the craziness at work...

Currently Reading:
Poems and Prose by Christina Rossetti (19 pages so far)

Challenge:

Bookish Mad Libs @ The Space Between

You can copy and paste this list into your entry, then replace each item with your book title and author:

A. Place name or type (from a book title) can be a proper name or noun like Italy or mountains: 84 Charing Cross Road {London} from the book

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (read earlier this year)

B. Fave Villain (from a book - list title/series): Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes stories

C. Adjective (from a book title) (hot, cold, dark, etc.): Careless from

The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner (read last month)

D. Number (from a book title): Twenty from

Twenty First Century Blues by Richard Cecil (read last month)

E. Noun (from a book title): Circus from

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (read earlier this year)

F. Fave Hero/Heroine you wouldn't mind spending a LOT of time with (from a book - list title/series): Lord Peter Wimsey (from the detective series written by Dorothy L Sayers)


G. Dessert (from a book title): Plum Pudding from
Plum Pudding Murder by Joanna Fluke (read last year)

My Mad Lib:

Help! I'm being held captive at 84 Charing Cross Road {London} by Professor Moriarty!
It is very Careless here!
He is demanding Twenty Circuses to set me free!
I have just discovered that Lord Peter Wimsey was captured too!
On second thought, please send Plum Pudding, and don't worry if you don't hear from us for awhile!

Much Love,

(Bev@My Reader's Block) 
 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Door: Review

First off....this review is chock full of spoilers.  I can't really talk about the book the way I want to without spoiling it.  So--if you don't want to know the solution, don't read past the synopsis until after you've given Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Door a read of your own.

Synopsis:  Elizabeth Bell is an older woman with a houseful of servants and a niece staying with her.  When the family nurse, Sarah Gittings, is brutally murdered and hidden down a brick sewer Miss Bell begins to wonder how well she knows the people around her.  Because the police inspector makes it clear that it is no homicidal maniac or random burglar who has done this--evidence indicates that Sarah knew and trusted her murderer.  And Sarah isn't the last to die.  There is a cunning mind behind the deaths who wants nothing to disrupt his complicated plans--and doesn't mind seeing an innocent man sent to the electric chair if necessary.  




Okay, for those of you still with me....This is one of the most disappointing books I've read by Rinehart.  It is credited with being the source for the cliche "the butler did it," because--guess what--he did.  I knew that was a very good possibility going in which is why I chose to read it (I needed a good butler story for my very own Vintage Mystery Challenge).  But that's not what ruined the book for me.  At almost 400 pages, it is, I believe, the longest book I've read by Rinehart.  She manages to wrack up four murders and three murderous attacks along the way and not dredge up much of my interest along the way.  She takes a very long time to work her way to the solution--which, admittedly, is probably a surprise for anyone who doesn't have an inkling of the butler connection before reading.


My biggest complaint about the book is Miss Elizabeth Bell.  She, apparently, is perfectly content to see servants, friends, and strangers all polished off one by one rather than allow the police to have ANY information or clues that she happens to stumble on.  What should you do if you find a rug with kerosene on it after the murderer has killed someone and tried to burn up the body? Hide the rug and try to burn it up in the middle of the night.  Find out that someone has behaved suspiciously with a glass after another person has died?  Well, the last thing you want to do is tell the police--because heaven forbid that we make the widow upset knowing that her husband might have been murdered.   Miss Bell is the most obstructive person in a detective novel (for no good reason) ever.  She exasperates me.  I stopped caring about whether we were going to find out if the butler really did do it and how he accomplished everything long before the mid-way point.  Miss Bell keeps saying she doesn't know what came over her when she tries to hide something.  I know what came over her--a case of the stupids, that's what came over her.  

Miss Bell is also the narrator of the story and she tells it from memory.  She spends way too much time foreshadowing events in very odd manner--it's not even quite the "Had I But Known" sort of thing (although there are bursts of that too).  It's just annoying.  For instance:

It seems strange to be writing all this....the light-hearted experiment to find if a pencil dropped from the third floor made the sound I had heard, and my own feeling that it did not; and the final discovery of the shattered pane in the rear French door of the drawing room, and our failure to see, lying on the step outside, that broken point of a penknife which Inspector Harrison was to find the next morning.

Some of the bits are more pointed and come near to spoiling the mystery for the reader.  This is just not Rinehart at her best.  The Bat does the older woman in the old house much better. The characterization is better, the dialogue is better and the action is better.  I might reread The Bat at some point.  I won't be rereading this one.  Two stars--and I'm not sure about that.

Bout of Books: Progress Update #3


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Each day there are challenges for those who signed up by yesterday and we are called on to do an update.

Here's my progress update for Wednesday, August 21:


Books finished:

 Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen  (343 pages)

I'm not making quite the progress that I had hoped.  I blame it on the craziness at work...


Currently Reading:

The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart (138 pages so far)


Quote: If I looked strange to Joseph when he admitted me, he said nothing. Once Judy had said that Joseph had no capacity for astonishment, and the thought supported me that night as, certainly nervous and probably bulging, I entered my own house.


Challenges:


Book Road Trip @ In Wonderland
Stephanie is asking us to come up with a list of the top 5-10 states/places you'd love to visit and find a book (you either read or want to read) that takes place in that state/place or a book by an author who lives or is from there.
My Bookish Road Trip:
1. The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime by Michael Sims, ed [England] ( read 11/5/12)
2. Death at Crane's Court by Eilis Dillon [Ireland] (read 5/23/13) 
3. The Sparrow (Wings of the West #3) by Kristy McCaffrey [Grand Canyon, Arizona]
4. Once on This Island by Gloria Whelan [Makinac Island, Michigan]
5. Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein [Rocky Mountains, Colorado] (read pre-blog)
6. Murder & Blueberry Pie by Frances & Richard Lockridge [New York City, NY]


I Spy... @ Paperback Dreamer

I Spy…

 ...Snowflakes


A lovely, leather-bound copy of The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

 ...Flames

The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

 

...A City Skyline

A very stylized view of NY City's skyscrapers on Catch as Catch Can by the Lockridges

 

 ...The Moon

The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells

 ...A Sword

 
The Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

...A Wedding Dress

 
White Orchids by Grace Livingston Hill
 

...High Heels

 
Nancy's rocking her high heels in The Secret of the Old Clock

...Fog

London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand

 ...A Christmas Tree

Mistletoe Mysteries by Charlotte MacLeod

 ...Sunglasses

 
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

...Lightning

 
A Dark Time by Dennis Bradford

...A Tattoo

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

 ...Combat Boots

Into the Valley by John Hersey (my copy shows both boots)

 ...Handcuffs

 
The Secret Life of Houdini by Kalush & Sloman (now those are some handcuffs!)

...A Road

 
Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter [and the road it took :-) ]