Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Case With Three Husbands: Review

Case with Three Husbands (1967) features one of Margaret Erskine's favorite stocks-in-trade--the eccentric family. The Towers is home to the Bonner family consisting of two brothers, one of whom renounced his military rank and gave back his medals when India won her independence, and the twin sister of one them as well as three members of younger generations. All have lived in the gloomy old mansion with the front gates and front of the house closed up in protest of the abdication of Edward VIII. Anyone who wants to visit the house must come to the tradesman's entrance.

Aunt Agatha (the twin) is preparing to to celebrate her 75th birthday when she suffers a shock that produces a stroke. Meanwhile, Rose (Bonner) Linnell, the many-times married member of the next generation, thinks she may have seen one of her supposedly dead husbands wandering around the grounds. Was that what shocked Aunt Agatha so--after all, the family is expecting to inherit money that depends on there being no hint of bastardy or bigamy. Agatha begins to recover, but before she is well enough to tell anyone what brought on the attack she is murdered in her bed.

Fortunately for the Bonners, Inspector Septimus Finch of Scotland Yard is in the neighborhood recovering from a gunshot wound. He is staying with his doctor friend Adam Braithwaite for the final stage of his convalescence. Dr. Braithwaite just happens to be attending the Bonner family and so Finch has an inside track on the mystery. And he has already overheard an interesting conversation and found a crucial clue--a pair of men's size ten shoes that had been buried along the shoreline of the coastal village. It isn't long before Finch has discovered the identity of the mystery man and the reason why Aunt Agatha had to die.

Margaret Erskine is a good, solid, second-tier mystery writer. She provides a good, twisty mystery with eccentric characters and plenty of clues and red herrings. Finch is a likeable, though a bit colorless investigator--though part of that could be the result of his convalescent status. The interactions of the other characters really carry the story in this one and I enjoyed trying to figure out who the man was that Rose had seen and who had possibly caused Aunt Agatha's stroke. ★★ and 1/2.

[Finished on 10/15/17]
This counts for the "Staircase" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mount TBR 2018 Sign-up

January 2018 will kick off the seventh year for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge (I miscounted last year!) and I don't seem to be getting those mountains moved at all. Despite the fact that I hope to have knocked 150 books off of my 2017 Mount TBR by the end of December, there are still whole mountain ranges lined up and down my hallway and in my back room waiting to be conquered. As fast as I read 'em and get them off the stacks, my bookaholic ways help me replace them. [Case in point--just returned from a long weekend in which I brought home about 20-25 new-to-me books.]

So, once again, I plan to concentrate on reading primarily from my own books in the coming year. And you're invited to join me in knocking out some of those books that have been waiting in the wings for weeks....months...even years.

Challenge Levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

And the rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade.  All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2018.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2018. No library books. If you're looking for a library book challenge or one that counts books on your non-owned TBR list, then there may be challenges out there that do that. This one does not.

*Rereads may count only in the following circumstances: If you did not own the book when you read it long ago and far away [based on your age, you can decide what that might mean] and you bought the book pre-January 1, 2018 intending to reread it now that it's your very own.  [To clarify--the intention is to reduce the stack of books that you have bought for yourself or received as presents {birthday, Christmas, "just because," etc.}. Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books.]

*You may count any "currently reading" book that you begin prior to January 1--provided that you had 50% or more of the book left to finish when January 1 rolled around.  I will trust you all on that. 

*You may count "Did Not Finish" books provided they meet your own standard for such things, you do not plan to ever finish it, and you move it off your mountain [give it away, sell it, etc. OR remove it from your e-resources]. For example, my personal rule (unless it's a very short book) is to give a book at least 100 pages. If I decide I just can't finish it and won't ever, then off the mountain it goes and I count it as a victory--the stack is smaller!  

*Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.

*Feel free to submit your list in advance (as incentive to really get those books taken care of) or to tally them as you climb.

*There will be quarterly check-ins and prize drawings!

*A blog and reviews are not necessary to participate. If you have a blog, then please post a challenge sign up and link THAT post (not your home page) into the linky below. Non-bloggers, please leave a comment declaring your challenge level--OR, if you are a member of Goodreads, I will once again put together a group for the challenge there. Feel free to sign up HERE if that's where you want to participate. At the beginning of the year, I will update the sidebar link called Mount TBR Review Headquarters for current reviews and progress updates.

2018 Color Coded and Read It Again, Sam Sign-ups

There continues to be a lot of love out there for both the Color Coded and Read It Again, Sam Challenges. Since I don't monitor these quite as closely as my other challenges, I am setting these up on the same sign-up and headquarters sites. The headquarters and review links will be posted on the sidebar at the beginning of the year. Here are the challenge descriptions and sign-up links:

The Color Coded Challenge 

Once again the categories will be more open--the color may either be named in the title or it may appear as the dominant color for the cover of the book. For "implies color" the image implying color should dominate the cover--for instance a large rainbow, a field of flowers, or the image of a painter.  Get ready for a rainbow of reading in 2018. 

Once I have a chance to look over my TBR list I'll see if I'm able to do the colors this year. It's getting harder and harder to do that from my own stacks. Once again there will not be a prize offered for this particular challenge this year.

Here are the rules:

*Read nine books in the following categories.
1. A book with "Blue" or any shade of Blue (Turquoise, Aquamarine, Navy, etc) in the title/on the cover.
2. A book with "Red" or any shade of Red (Scarlet, Crimson, Burgandy, etc) in the title/on the cover.
3. A book with "Yellow" or any shade of Yellow (Gold, Lemon, Maize, etc.) in the title/on the cover.
4. A book with "Green" or any shade of Green (Emerald, Lime, Jade, etc) in the title/on the cover.
5. A book with "Brown" or any shade of Brown (Tan, Beige, Sand etc) in the title/on the cover.
6. A book with "Black" or any shade of Black (Jet, Ebony, Charcoal, etc) in the title/on the cover.
7. A book with "White" or any shade of White (Ivory, Eggshell, Cream, etc) in the title/on the cover.
8. A book with any other color in the title/on the cover (Purple, Orange, Silver, Pink, Magneta, etc.).
9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.).

* Any book read from January 1 through December 31, 2018 will count.
*Crossovers with other challenges are fine.
*Please post about the challenge on your blog. Sign ups accepted until Nov 1, 2018.
*Please sign up using the Linky below. Give your name & blog (Example: Bev @ My Reader's Block) and use a direct link to your challenge post as your url. Please don't connect to just your home page.  Links to a list on GoodReads or other social media sites are also acceptable.
*Please use the Review Headquarters Page (sidebar link coming in January) to post review links and a final wrap-up post when you finish the challenge.  [Reviews are not required--but we'd love to see what you think about the books that you've read if you do review.]

*No blog or GoodReads site? That's okay. Post a comment here to announce your entry into the challenge and when you have completed the challenge just post a comment at the review site with a list of your books.

Read It Again, Sam
For those of you who love to revisit old friends in the book world, I present another round of The Read It Again, Sam Challenge. While not quite as popular as the Color Coded Challenge, this one still has its devotees. There will not be a prize offered for this particular challenge this year.


*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're lost in a nostalgic haze and want to tackle a higher level, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade.  You cannot change down, however.
*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2018.
*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2018.
Any book read from January 1 through December 31, 2018 will count no matter when you sign up.

*Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.
 *Please post about the challenge on your blog if you have one and then sign up using the Linky below. Use a direct link to your challenge post as your url. Please don't connect to just your home page.  Links to a list on GoodReads or other social media sites are also acceptable.
*Please use the Headquarters Page [coming at the beginning of the year] to post review links and a final wrap-up post when you finish the challenge.  Reviews are not required--but we would love to see what you think about the books that you've read if you do review.

*No blog or GoodReads site? That's okay. Post a comment here to announce your entry into the challenge and when you have completed the challenge just post a comment at the review site with a list of your books. 

Déjà vu: Reread 4 books
Feeling Nostalgic: Reread 8 books
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Reread 12 books
Living in the Past: Reread 16+ books

Looking Towards 2018: Vintage Mystery Challenge Poll Results and Other Challenges

The votes are in two votes for a return to Vintage Bingo; no votes for Vintage Scattergories; one vote for Vintage Themes; three votes for the Original Challenge; two votes for another round of the Scavenger Hunt; and the winner was Something Different with six votes. I will be putting the finishing touches on the latest edition of the Vintage Mystery Challenge this week and hope to have the rules and sign-up posted soon.

Also--for those participating in other challenges:

Mount TBR, Color Coded, and Read It Again, Sam will all be back for another round in 2018 as well. A new poll will appear in the sidebar about the Follow the Clues Challenge to gauge interest for next year. I didn't find it to be as interesting as I expected and I haven't gotten a sense from the number of folks who have posted reviews that this has been a great success. Please let me know what you think about it in the sidebar poll.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Sound of Murder: Review

When Sid and Minnie hear a loud noise from the back of their van, they think it’s the engine stalling. Hours later, Sid discovers a corpse…

Inspector Borges of the Barcelona police finds himself on a busman's holiday when he visits his good friend Sir Otto Graffham in London and a prominent businessman plunges out of his top floor apartment in the grand Termini building. He lands in the back of Sid Butterworth's lorry, but isn't found until Sid arrives home. Sid had been visiting his sister, Minnie who worked for Halber Corsair, the unfortunate business man. The building also houses the offices of many of the companies that Corsair controlled. Officially, the verdict has been brought in as an accident--why do builders put low windows in high-rise apartments anyway? But soon the gossip-mongers start in and the rumors start flying that Mrs. Corsair, who will benefit most handsomely from her husband's death, may have given him a shove.

Her nephew, Keith Antrim, wants to spare her any unpleasantness and enlists the aid of Sir Otto to clear her name and stop the rumors before they reach his aunt. Graffham doesn't see how they can possible stop people from talking, but his guest, Inspector Borges is interested in the case and asks to discreetly investigate. Graffham's headstrong niece, Anthea, insists on driving the inspector around and winds up up helping the investigation along. Their investigations soon reveal that it's possible that there was someone else in the Termini penthouse besides Corsair and his wife. Who coughed while Mrs. Corsair was preparing to go out to dinner and the theatre? And why didn't she see him?

They also found that several people other than Mrs. Corsair may have had means and motive to kill Halberd Corsair. It might have been Halberd's brother-in-law Colonel Summersby. Summersby had been denied an immediate loan desperately needed to pay off gambling debts. Was the colonel desperate enough to arrange for his wife to inherit the necessary sums from her brother. Or maybe Clair Summersby had taken matters into her own hands. Or perhaps Keith Antrim had decided to dispatch his uncle himself. Family aren't the only possible suspects. Corsair was pretty ruthless in his business management and was even in his last hours contemplating shutting down Julian Killigrew's literary magazine for lack of profits. But...for all that, is there any evidence against any of these? 

Inspector Borges is a gentle, polite detective who lulls his witnesses and suspects into revealing more than they intend. He softly picks his way through the statements, picking up clues along the way that all point in one direction--to murder and a very clever murderer. Anthea is a little more bold--having made the acquaintance of Keith, she's decided that A. He's a very interesting man, indeed whom she wants to know better and B. That being the case, he couldn't possibly have murdered his uncle. Her main goal in helping Borges is to prove that point and she even goes undercover as a survey-taker to move the investigation along. A most engaging and entertaining mystery that is heavy on conversational detecting and light on the tracking of evidence--not that there isn't evidence to be found, but more clues are sprinkled in the interviews than strewn about waiting to be picked up. ★★★★

 [Finished on 10/11/17]
Published in 1970, The Sound of Murder by John & Emery Bonett (joint pseudonym of John Hubert Arthur Coulson and Felicity Winifred Carter Coulson) fulfills the "Truck" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Death in the Doll's House: Review

Death in the Doll's House (1943) by Hannah Lees and Lawrence Bachmann features a story where a good hefty dose of child psychology comes in handy to find the killer of Celia Bliss Starling. Celia was a dark-haired beauty who just couldn't help the fascinating effect she had on the male species. Randall, her husband loved her more than anything--but couldn't help being jealous of his wife's attraction for other men. His jealousy drives him to drink and who knows what a drunken jealous man might do if pushed far enough? Blacker Farragon, doctor and friend to the Randall Starling is summoned by Celia on the night of the tragedy. She says she's afraid that "something's going to blow" and wants Blackie to find a way to calm Ranny down. Blackie isn't so sure that it isn't a cover for the dark-haired siren to try her charms out on him one more time, but makes an effort to talk to his friend. But he makes little progress and leaves the house convinced that Celia is making mountains out of molehills just for a little attention.

He immediately feels guilty when he's awakened several hours later by a phone call telling him that Celia is dead from a gunshot and Ranny is in bad shape from an apparently self-inflicted wound. The cops are ready to accept the obvious--that Starling's jealousy finally got the better of him and he killed his wife and then attempted to commit suicide once he realized what he'd done. But Blackie doesn't believe it. He's known Ranny far too long and knows that his friend isn't a murderer. But if Ranny didn't do it, then who did?

There are plenty of suspects. For instance, Philip Starling is Randall's pompous brother--a brother that Ranny has trusted with his financial affairs. Is it possible that Philip isn't as trustworthy as he seems and Celia found him out? Or maybe Caroline, Philip's wife, killed to protect her husband. Or Dell Bliss, Celia's sister who has always lived in the shadow of her more glamorous sibling. Everyone says Dell adores her sister. Is that really true? And then there's Judy Walnut--Blackie's nurse who has connections with Celia that no one ever knew.

Blackie is determined to find out the truth and it may all depend on Mimsy, Celia and Randall's six-year old daughter. Ever since the murder, Mimsy has been a changed girl in ways that speak to something deeper than grief. Once full of boundless energy and a mouth full of stories for her "Uncle Black," Mimsy is now a somber child who has lost her taste for stories and, more importantly, no longer wants anything to do with her beloved Babar--a toy elephant that has been her constant companion. Instead, she has latched onto Cupid, a reindeer for which she has previously had nothing but disdain. Black's boss at the hospital insists on sheltering the child, but Black is convinced that she has seen something important and if they can just find out what then the truth of that dreadful night will be revealed. His colleagues are amazed when he has a dollhouse installed in his office and brings Mimsy in to play house with him. But the story of the dollhouse may just lead to the true story of murder.

This was a delightful surprise from authors from whom I had never read anything before. The plot is competently rendered and I particularly enjoyed Black's interactions with Mimsy in his efforts to help her tell the story of what she saw on the night of the murder. Black is an interesting character--a large, almost clumsy doctor who obviously is more suited to psychology than the general practice (which he finally realizes at the end of the book). The rest of the characters are also well drawn and there are plenty of efforts to mislead the reader. An enjoyable mystery set during the war era. ★★

[Finished on 10/9/17]
This fulfills the "Furniture" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

Sherlock Holmes & Mr. Mac: Review

Young Inspector Alec MacDonald was introduced to Holmes readers in The Valley of Fear. MacDonald works well with Sherlock Holmes and doesn't have the same need to compete with him that Lestrade does. Gary Lovisi has expanded on the relationship built in the Doyle novel and gives modern readers two new cases: "The Affair of Lady Westcott's Lost Ruby" and "The Case of the Unseen Assasin." The former is a brand new case while the latter is built upon the mention of "...the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard Assasin--an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of The Legion of Honor."

When "The Affair of Lady Westcott's Lost Ruby" begins MacDonald (or "Mr. Mac" as Holmes calls him) believes he is being called upon to track thieves who have stolen a valuable jewel. He's a bit disgruntled when he discovers he's been summoned to find a lost dog. But he becomes very interested in Lady Westcott and decides to do his best for her. Then the elderly woman herself disappears and Mr. Mac finds the need to consult Holmes. Who would have guessed that the case of a missing dog could have have a great effect on the security of England?

In "The Case of the Unseen Assassin," Mr. Mac and Holmes find themselves racing against time to find one of London's earliest mass-murderers. Someone is shooting society members as they go about their business on the streets of London. The victims include a bank clerk, a newly-elected M.P., and a banking manager. But then Holmes finds evidence that the chain of murders began even earlier with a window washer and an attempt that went awry. He and Mr. Mac sense a connection, but what could possible connect men from such different walks of life? There is an even earlier rash of murders that occurred in Paris and when the two detectives find the missing links there, then the pieces fall into place for the London crimes.

Lovisi has obviously done his research before writing these stories--both historical research of the Victorian era as well as having a genuine understanding of the Doyle characters and style of writing. There are a few instances where the reader is aware that these stories spring from a modern pen rather than from Doyle himself and overall the Holmsian aura is very genuine. Lovisi fleshes out the character of Mr. Mac and makes him a worthy detective to work with Holmes. Two highly entertaining mysteries in the Holmes tradition. ★★★★

[Finished on 10/8/17]

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Looking Towards the 2018 Edition of the Vintage Mystery Challenge

Hello, fellow vintage mystery lovers! It's the time of year when challenge hosts start thinking about next year's challenges. Anyone who's been involved with my Vintage Mystery Challenge knows that I like to change things up every couple years or so. We've had the Scavenger Hunt style challenge for two years and it's been fun hunting images on the covers, but I wanted to ask your opinion on the 2018 Edition. Would you like something completely different (which will be a surprise, because I'm still working on the details) or would you like a reprise of an earlier version of the challenge? Below, you'll find links to the various editions of the challenge so those who've been playing from the beginning can refresh your memories and newer folks can see what we've done before. In the side bar to the left, you'll find the poll. Here are the poll options

1. Vintage Mystery Bingo
2. Vintage Scattergories
3. Vintage Mystery Themes
4. The Original Vintage Mystery Challenge
5. Another Round of Vintage Scavenger Hunt 
6. New & Improved--Surprise 2018 Edition

Two things--If we return to the Original Vintage Mystery Challenge, I will not be able to promise prizes for everyone again. I will have to arrange check-in posts or other prize awarding competitions. And if a previous edition is chosen that did not yet include Silver Age  participation, I will add a Silver Age level for those who like their mysteries with a little less age on them.

Mount TBR Checkpoint #3 Winner!

My apologies for not getting to the prize drawing as soon as planned. This week has been a bit of a horror at work and I just came home yesterday and became a couch zombie (just staring at my laptop and not really doing anything). It might have turned out that way tonight--but I just remembered that I had some random number generating to do for challenge prizes. So....let's get this prize show on the road!

The Custom Random Number Generator is all warmed up and after plugging in our numbers, it has given me....Number 3, Joel @ I Should Be Reading. Congratulations, Joel! I'll be contacting you soon with the prize list.

Thanks to everyone for joining in on the check-point. Are you all ready to finish the last 3-month haul on our trek?


Vintage Challenge Checkpoint #3 Winner!

My apologies for not getting to the prize drawing as soon as planned. This week has been a bit of a horror at work and I just came home yesterday and became a couch zombie (just staring at my laptop and not really doing anything). It might have turned out that way tonight--but I just remembered that I had some random number generating to do for challenge prizes. So....let's get this prize show on the road!

The Custom Random Number Generator is all warmed up and after plugging in our numbers, it has given me....Number 13, Christina @ You Book Me All Night Long. The painting on The Five Red Herrings has turned out to be a blue ribbon winner! Congratulations, Christina! I'll be contacting you soon with the prize list.

Thanks to everyone for joining in on the check-point. Now for a mad-dash round of scavenging before the end of the year.

Also--I've been thinking about my plans for next year's challenge and will setting up a poll to get your input. So, keep your investigative eyes peeled for a Vintage Mystery Challenge polling post coming soon.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Night Walk: Review

Night Walk (1947) is the twelfth book to feature Elizabeth Daly's antiquarian book dealer and part-time sleuth, Henry Gamage. Gamage makes his way to the isolated village of Frazer's Mills when an old friend finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation. Garry Yates comes to the village in an effort to see his lady love on the sly. Rose Jenner's guardian doesn't like her to see strange young men--doesn't really like her meeting any young men at all, truth be told. But Yates has made her acquaintance and the two have fallen in love. He has the chance to be in the area, so he takes it. 

He just happens to arrive on the very night that a mysterious prowler roams through the village, scaring various inhabitants. The prowler moves from Edgewood, a rather exclusive sanitarium, where s/he rattles Mrs. Norbury's door handle to trying to enter the Public Library where Hattie Bluett is working late on a donation of books, to leaving a fire axe outside the room that Yates is given at a local rooming house. But the prowler isn't finished. Because someone has entered the Carringtons' stately home (home of Rose Jenner) and killed her elderly guardian. 

Yates is sure he'll be a suspect as soon as the police know he's Rose's suitor--a suitor who would have found no favor with old man Carrington. And even if he's lucky enough not to be suspected (he thinks he has an alibi), he still wants Gamage to get to the bottom of things for Rose's sake. Gamage goes undercover as an inmate of Edgewood (supposedly in need of recuperation from overwork) and soon he's following the footsteps of the prowler and tracking down clues. Appropriately enough, our bookish detective finds a vital clue in the local library and he's quite sure that prowler was no random maniac, but someone well-known to the deceased.

Gamage is a low-key detective who does his sleuthing primarily through conversation with the villagers and official help from local police (who have had a good word about him from his friends on the force in the city). A bit of reconstruction comes in handy as well. Daly offers up engaging characters and plays fair with her clues--making for an entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed the scenes in the library and the way she worked books into the plot.★★and 3/4.

[Finished on 10/3/17]
Fulfills the "Written Document" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

September Wrap-Up & P.O.M. Award

I'm still running a bit behind on reviewing and summing up--but at least I'm doing better than July and August. So...here is my September wrap-up post and my contribution to Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month.  I'll also be handing out the coveted P.O.M. Award for the best mystery. So, here's what happened here on the Block in September....

Total Books Read: 16
Total Pages:  2,879

Average Rating: 3.23 stars  
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 47%
Percentage by US Authors: 47%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  13%
Percentage Mystery:  86% 

Percentage Fiction: 100%
Percentage written 2000+: 7%
Percentage of Rereads: 13%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 20 (63%)

AND, as I note each month, Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. September was another big month for mysteries with all but two of the sixeen books falling into that genre. The only five-star winner was a non-mystery, Adam McOmber's My House Gather's Desires, so we'll have to look further for our P.O.M. Award Winner.
Here are the mystery books read in September:
The Far Traveller by Manning Coles (4 stars) 
Let Dead Enough Alone by Frances & Richard Lockridge 3 stars) 
The Title Is Murder by Hugh Lawrence Nelson (3.75 stars) 
Case With No Conclusion by Leo Bruce (2.75 stars) 
Coffin from the Past by Gwendoline Butler (3 stars) 
McGarr at the Dublin Horse Show by Bartholomew Gill (1 star)
The Menehune Murders by Margot Arnold (4 stars)
The World's Best 100 Detective Stories Vol. 7 by Eugene Thwing, ed (3.5 stars)  
The Gloved Hand by Leigh Bryson (3.5 stars) 
Mr. & Mrs. North & the Poisoned Playboy by Frances & Richard Lockridge (4 stars) 
The Small World of Murder by Elizabeth Ferrars (1 star) 
Journey's End by Evelyn Berckman (DNF) 
Stag Dinner Death by John Penn (3 stars) 
To Wake the Dead by John Dickson Carr (4 stars)

September finds us with four books earning a four-star rating: The Far Traveller by Manning Coles, a comic mystery that's heavy on ghosts and light on mystery--but great fun; The Menehune Murders by Margot Arnold, another winner starring the team of Penny Spring and Sir Toby Glendower; Mr. & Mrs. North & the Poisoned Playboy by Frances & Richard Lockridge, the Norths are always fun; and To Wake the Dead by John Dickson Carr that master of locked room mysteries. I am pretty sure that all of these authors have gone home with a P.O.M. Award in the past (though it's getting harder to keep up--note to self, go back and make a list of all the previous winners). So, we're going to move along to the next in rank...
The Title Is Murder by Hugh Lawrence Nelson with 3.75 stars. A killing spree at the bookstore! Who would have thought there would be more blood than ink in the fiction section? Nelson shows us what murderous fiends bookworms and book dealers can be in his debut mystery. Nelson knows his way around the book world and gives us a good view of an exclusive bookshop from the 40s. Good characterizations and light romance help balance the story and it makes for an enjoyable evening's read.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hoosier Hills Book Fair

It's that time again...time to feed my book-buying habit in a big way with my yearly visit to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank Community Book Fair. Last year I attended the paid entry first day just to see if it made a difference in what I came home with. It sure seemed to--I brought home a record-breaking 103 books and a LOT of vintage mysteries. So, this year I decided to do the paid entry thing again just to see if results remained consistent. Not so much. I came home with just a little over half my haul of last year--55 books (one is destined to go to my mom) and among them is one duplicate because past Bev forgot to cross off a first edition (new Avon) Lord Peter Wimsey novel. Ah well, it doesn't seem to have been a very good year for vintage mysteries in general around here. For the first time ever, I came away from the Friends of the Library clearance sale without buying a single book. Not one (Brad thought I was sick). There just wasn't anything in my area.

Here's what this year's treasure hunt found:

The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird (as a stand-in for the copy that I can't find in my stash of books)
Tether's End by Margery Allingham (MacFadden Books)
Give the Little Corpse a Great Big Hand by George Bagby 
The Mouls House Mystery by Charles Barry
The Alfred Hitchcock Murder Case by George Baxt
The Cream of Crime: More Tales from Boucher's Choicest by Jeanne F. Bernkopf (ed)
Blue Octavo by John Blackburn
Earthman, Come Home by James Blish (Avon #T-225)
Red Snow at Darjeeling by Lawrence G. Blochman (Saint Mystery Library #125)
Cat and Mouse by Christianna Brand (Avon #385)
The Soundless Scream by Michael Butterworth
Take Only as Directed by James Byrom 
The Saint Closes the Case by Leslie Charteris (TV tie-in) 
No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
The Club of Queer Trades by G. K. Chesteron (Delta Books; UK)
The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie (Dell #5860)
The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (Pan Books) 
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie (Dell #6848)
Table D'Hote by Douglas Clark
Help from the Baron by John Creasey 
The Crisscross Shadow by Franklin W. Dixon
Rebecca's Pride by Donald McNutt Douglass 
The Medical Center Murders by Lisa Drake with Otto Penzler 
Poppy Ott & the Stuttering Parrot by Leo Edwards
Murder on Wall Street by John B. Ethan
Murder at the Nook by A. Fielding  (Alfred Knopf hardback, 1930 edition)
The Safety Pin by J. S. Fletcher
A Murderous Journey by Kenneth Giles
Puzzle in Parchment by Elizabeth Greshem (academic mystery)
Cleek The Master Detective by T. P. Hanshew
2.L.O by Walther S. Masterman
An Ad for Murder by John Penn
The Chronicles of Quincy Adams Sawyer Detective by Charles Felton Pidgin & J. M. Taylor
The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Dell #3127)
The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (hardback w/illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy)
Ripley's Believe It or Not! by Robert Ripley (Pocket Books #96; 2nd printing)
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers (New English Library; UK press)
Unnatural Death by Dorothy L.Sayers (Avon, 1st printing) 
The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur Upfield (Pan Books)
Judge Dee at Work by Robert van Gulik
The Willow Pattern by Robert van Gulik
The Feathered Serpent by Edgar Wallace
Dead Man Manor by Valentine Williams
The Fox Prowls by Valentine Williams
The Mystery of the Gold Box by Valentine Williams
The Portcullis Room by Valentine Williams
Behind the Green Door by Mildred A. Wirt 
The Clock Strikes Thirteen by Mildred A. Wirt
Danger at the Drawbridge by Mildred A. Wirt
Saboteurs on the River by Mildred A. Wirt
Tale of the Witch Doll by Mildred A. Wirt

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Vintage Scavenger Hunt Check-in Post (aka Prize Opportunity)

Calling all scavenger hunters! We are now three-quarters of the way through our vintage mystery cover scavenger hunt. [Where has the time gone?!] Back in 2016 when I launched this year's version of the reading challenge, I randomly picked categories for various check points along the way. Here are the categories for this round:

1. Painting/Photograph

2. Cigarette/Pipe
3. Staircase
4. Spider/Spiderweb
5. Snow/Snowy Scene
6. Green Object

You may enter once for every object already found and claimed prior to this post going live. Objects count from both Gold and Silver cards. Links may point to relevant reviews OR you may create Check-in Specific posts. Please use the following for the link title for the Check-in:

Name (Object) Card   [example: Bev (Pipe) Gold]

If you do not blog (or have a way to link up through Goodreads, etc), please enter in the comments and point me to the cover of the edition you read.

The linky will be available until Tuesday, October 10th. On Wednesday, I will use the magic random number generator to draw a winner who may choose a prize from my prize vault.



Mountaineering Checkpoint #3

Oh my goodness!  Where does the time go?  Last I checked, September was just starting....and now it's gone and it's time to get the third quarterly checkpoint up and running. Let's see how our challengers are doing after they've got 9 months under the ol' mountain-climbing belt.  

For those who would like to participate in this checkpoint post, I'd like you to do two things:

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. 

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
A. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.
B. Pair up two of your reads. But this time we're going for opposites. One book with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist. One book with "Good" in the title and one with "Evil." Get creative and show off a couple of your books.
C. Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?
D. Choose 1-4 titles from your stacks and using a word from the title, do an image search.  Post the first all-eyes-friendly picture associated with that word.

Please prepare your answers in a Checkpoint blog post and link up below.

And what do you get for all that hard work (and distraction from the actual climb)? The link will close at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, October 10.  Sometime next Wednesday I will crank up the Custom Random Number Generator and pick a winning climber. He or she will have the chance to add to their TBR stack via my gently-used book vault (prize list will be sent). Just think, if you win a book you can start up a pile for next year's Mount TBR Challenge. 

Even if you're not in the mood for a prize or you've already finished your climb, I'd love to have you check in with us and tell us all your news!

***Please note--the linky is for Checkpoint posts only.  The link must be to a specific Checkpoint post (not your blog's home page in general). Links that are not Checkpoint-specific will be removed--to make it easier for me to track a winner.  Enter here OR on my Goodreads Challenge site (but not both places, please).

Sign in below with your Checkpoint post.

October Follow the Clues Reviews

October Mount TBR Reviews

October Vintage Scavenger Hunt Reviews


Sunday, October 1, 2017

To Wake the Dead: Review

It looks like Christopher Kent has landed himself in a whole lot of trouble. He has just returned to England on the last leg of a journey from South Africa that has resulted from a bet with his friend Dan Reaper. Reaper claims that Kent, a writer who also has a private income, hasn't done a real day's work in his life and that he will wager that Kent won't be able to work his way back to England in time to meet Reaper there on the morning of February 1st. The only rule--he can't draw on his bank and he can't use his own name because he might be able to draw credit on it.

January 31st finds Kent in Picadilly--just one day away from winning that wager--but he's not got one penny in his pocket. He hasn't eaten since yesterday's breakfast and he's sure he could make it if he could just get a hot meal inside him. He finds himself outside the Royal Scarlet Hotel where he's scheduled to meet Reaper and comes up with an ingenious idea. Despite being without funds, he still looks presentable and he's sure that if he just walks boldly into the dining room like he belongs then he can order up a hot breakfast and charge to a room (any room) and just walk out again.

It's all going splendidly until a hotel attendant comes and tells him there's a problem regarding his room. It seems that the previous occupant has called with claims to have lost a valuable bracelet and won't rest until the room is checked. The attendant doesn't wish to disturb the gentleman's wife who is still sleeping, so would he just go in and check through the drawers and whatnot to see if the bracelet is there. What's a guy to do? If he tells the attendant he's not the husband and reveals why he's cadged a meal, then the bet's off. If he goes along with the attendant and manages to get in the room, how's he to explain himself to the good lady occupying the room? He's still puzzling that last bit out when the attendant uses a master key to get him in the room and he discovers that he's got a far worse problem on his hands. The good lady is dead--strangled with a towel. And, by the way, she's not just any good lady...she happens to be the wife of his cousin...who just happens to be in the hotel as part of Dan Reaper's party. But Kent doesn't recognize her in the dimly lit room.

So...Kent does what any innocent young man in a John Dickson Carr novel does. He sneaks out the side door (the suite conveniently comes with another entrance) and makes his way to his friend Dr. Gideon Fell's home for advice and help. The good news? Fell and Superintendent Hadley (who is there to consult Fell on the murder at the Royal Scarlet Hotel) seem to believe that he's innocent--provided he can prove when he arrived and his whereabouts the previous evening. The bad news? Jenny Kent isn't the only one who's dead. Christopher's cousin Rodney Kent was killed in a very similar manner to his wife about two weeks previous at a country house in Northfield.

There are various clues available to Fell and Hadley--from the man in the hotel uniform who was observed at both scenes around the time of the murders to a drawer full of ripped up photographs (and one that was not ripped up) to a second bracelet belonging to the dead woman. There are also a great many connections to the past--both the past of the dead woman and the past in Northfield. 

Carr, as per usual, provides a highly entertaining story with interesting characters. He spreads clues about and displays most of them--but there is a bit of information that isn't revealed properly until it's too late for the reader to beat Fell to the punch. And there is one bit of business that takes a bit of swallowing to believe that (oops, can't tell you who) didn't, in all those years, discover that (oops can't tell you what, either). I, mean, really...if my (that thing I can't tell you) had the characteristic that the one in the story did, I'd think I notice at some point. But--other than those two points--the story is quite good and Fell in fine form. He tells Hadley that he is not going to lecture on the mystery and then proceeds to do so. He enumerates various questions that, if they can answer them properly, will provide the solution to the crimes. Naturally, Fell is able to answer them all by story's end. ★★★★

[Finished on 9/30/17]
First published in 1938, this fulfills the "Tombstone" category on the Golden Vintage Mystery card.