Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction 8th Series: Review

The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction 8th Series (1959) edited by Anthony Boucher really isn't. The Best, that is. Or if these stories are, then I'm afraid science fiction and fantasy had a pretty off year in 1959. Stories that were supposed to be funny, weren't (Ron Goulart and "A New Lo," I'm looking at you). Stories that were supposed to be fantasy didn't seem to have any fantasy elements (Shirley Jackson and "The Omen," I'm looking at you). And it's not as if every story that didn't meet the expectation provided by the brief introductions were positively bad stories...but if you're told something's going to be humorous, you kind of expect to at least chuckle a bit even if the humor isn't your particular brand. Or you expect fantasy elements when you've been told straight up that the story before you is a "wholly delightful fantasy." So--if these stories are supposed to be the best representatives of particular styles of fantasy and science fiction, then they don't fulfill their objective. 

And, unfortunately, most of those stories that do fall under the fantasy and science fiction umbrella manage to fall a little flat as well. I expected more from authors such as Poul Anderson, C.S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov, and Brian Aldiss. The best of the bunch is a story from an author I'd never read before: "Captivity" by Zenna Henderson. This is one of several stories about "The People," an alien race whose members were forced to flee their dying planet and some of whom landed on Earth where they must try to keep their presence secret. Due to circumstances not explained in this story, those who came to Earth were separated and so there is some contact with humans as they try to find others of their kind. This particular story focuses on one young alien who is known as "the Franchers kid." He's never fit in and no one takes an interest in him until a woman whose health has prevented her from teaching full-time volunteers to work with him privately. She soon discovers his uncanny and unearthly musical abilities and eventually helps him find his people. This is a touching story that is ultimately about accepting differences and understanding that different doesn't have to mean dangerous. 

The Shirley Jackson story is actually a sweet little story about the effects of coincidence, but (as I mention above) I was disappointed when I found no elements of fantasy (or science fiction) at all. As a straight work of fiction it is particularly good, but it fails to meet the standard of the collection's purpose. Overall, one of the more disappointing SF and/or Fantasy collections I have read. ★★

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Red Warning: Review

It's one thing to teach philosophy, another to be philosophical when your world has been torn away
from beneath your feet. ~page 113

Jack Bishop is finding it hard to be philosophical about much of anything. The girl he loves, who was once his philosophy student, has run away to Paris to be an opera star after winning a contest. He chucks his job as a philosophy teacher and follows her to France--where he wallows in the misery of (so he thinks) unrequited love.

Elsie Ritter has transformed herself into Mademoiselle Adrienne, the young sensation of the Paris Opera House. She has the world at her feet and a few rich and/or handsome admirers to fall there as well. One such admirer is M. Torrens, a paralyzed older man who shows his admiration by becoming her patron and giving her a fabulous emerald necklace. 

Not long after she receives this gift, she also begins receiving rather ominous "red warnings"--from sinister red statuettes to a red pincushion stabbed through with a miniature dagger to newspaper clippings with threatening words circled in red. She is frightened and turns to one of her other admirers, Baron Gluck, for help. He arranges to have Jack brought into the effort to discover her stalker and to help protect her. Mixed into this story, is the rumors of "The Fox," and international jewel thief who has begun to mix murder with his robberies. A terrifying web draws closer and closer around Elsie and she is nearly strangled to death twice before the plot unravels on a speeding train from Paris to Avignon.

Red Warning (1933) is the fourth detective novel by Virgil Markham. It makes rather a show of claiming to have been written by the French Detective "Gaillard" and to have been "Englished & Rearranged With New Punctuation by Virgil Markham." And I must say there were times when I felt like it had gone through several translations from one language to another before finally landing in English--although I'm quite sure that Markham didn't translate the story from anywhere but his own brain.

It would be so convenient if conversion from another language were involved--then I could believe that something was lost in the translation. Otherwise, I'm just slow on the uptake or there really are some vital connections missing. I felt quite often that Jack Bishop (our hero) and Baron Gluck (the rather murky former [?] jewel thief who seems be helping our hero and his girl) must be passing notes under the table explaining to each other what they were talking about...because what they were really talking about wasn't what they seemed to be talking about. This is conveyed by Markham through facial expressions and meaningful glances:

 A long conflict of eyes followed. There was an unmistakable seriousness in the calm grey gaze of the Baron and a puzzled concentration in Jack's wild glare. Then the younger face relaxed, comprehending, and the Baron's eyes brightened with a meaning flash--a period to his sentence, or perhaps an underscoring.
   "I get you," said Jack Bishop.
   The Baron nodded shortly.

I'm glad Jack gets it. Because I didn't. Later the Baron plays the same tricks with Elsie:

Elsie looked at Gaillard and opened her mouth, but the Baron, with a high gleam in his eyes, raised a finger, as much as to say, "Have patience, all will be made clear." her lips slowly tightened.

But the Baron doesn't make things very clear at all, despite giving lots of "explanations" throughout.

Curtis over at The Passing Tramp says that 

The reader sometimes may wonder whether everything that is happening is really happening. Red Warning reads less like a classical detective novel and more like an Edgar Wallace mystery thriller, with heavy lashings of Georges Simenon and William Faulkner.

Yet when the explanation is offered at the end, one realizes there were clues embedded in the text.  I think I understood it all by then, though I am not completely sure.  

That's more than I can say. I'm completely sure that I didn't understand it all and I definitely didn't pick up on the clues in the text. Curtis also gives a fair amount of background info on Markham and his detective fiction as well as another look at the story itself. Be sure to check out his post from 2012.

The funny thing is--despite the rather strange way the Baron has of communicating with our young friends and the various odd incidents (There's this whole semi-dream scene on board the train that really had me confused. I really thought that Jack was dreaming about someone being shot. But then the guy was really dead. Or was he?)--anyway...the funny thing is that despite all the strangeness and oddness, I really did enjoy this. It was a decently exciting read. It moved very quickly. I read the near-400 pages in one day. Markham has a way of bundling up the reader and pulling her along. I got caught up in the action and only paused briefly to shake my head over this scene or that conversation and then I'd be back in the thick of things wondering exactly who The Fox was and how did s/he fit into all this anyway? An entertaining read and I'll certainly pick up any other Markham titles that I come across. ★★

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Review

I currently have a love/hate relationship with Martin Edwards. I absolutely love him for all his work on Golden Age detective classics--from his work with the British Library series introducing classic detective novels to new generations to his The Golden Age of Murder which gives all kinds of information about the Detection Club to this newest gem, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, which highlights the rise and duration of the Golden Age novels, gives synopses and background for 100 of them, and name-drops scads of others. I naturally love any resource that will tell me more about my favorite genre and period--especially if it tells me about books I didn't know existed. BUT that leads to the hate part of this relationship. I hate him for bringing to my attention all sorts of tantalizing novels that he then tells us have sadly disappeared from print. Some the British Library doesn't even have a copy of. Which means that I probably will never be able to read those oh-so-interesting-sounding little mysteries. Curses! Of course, that didn't prevent me from promptly adding every single tantalizing title to my "TBF" (To Be Found) list in the forlorn hope that might get my greedy little bibliophile hands on them one of these days....

Martin Edwards has forgotten more than I will ever know about vintage crime classics. And he presents his knowledge in a most accessible way. A whole book full of novel synopses could easily have been dry-as-dust, but Edwards, as the title indicates, weaves his synopses into a story about the development of the classic crime novel from the turn-of-the century to 1950. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering new authors and new novels, as well as being delighted to see some of my favorites make the list. ★★★★

~Thanks to one of my 2017 Secret Santas, Terri Sigmon Quinn, for this terrific book!

Partners in Wonder: Review

Books by Harlan Ellison are a trip. You never know if it's a trip through Wonderland or a trip through the darkest regions of human nature, but it's a trip. Partners in Wonder (1971) takes the unpredictable Ellison and teams him up with some of the biggest names in science fiction at the time--including Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley, Ben Bova and more to produce an even more out-of-this-world trip than usual.

It was interesting to see how Ellison's style would mesh with other equally strong (and sometimes head-strong) writers. As one might expect, sometimes it worked really well and sometimes...not so much. Ellison is quite proud of all the stories (naturally), though even he admits that some of the match-ups work better than others. For instance, he tells us in the intro to "The Power of the Nail" that neither he nor Samuel R. Delaney felt that particular story was successful. (I find myself in agreement with the authors). He also tells us that a collaboration with Isaac Asimov was supposed to happen, but never quite came to fruition. Now, there's a match-up I would have liked to have read.★★ and 3/4 for the whole collection.

My favorites are the two stories he and Robert Bloch wrote as follow-ups to Bloch's famous "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" which aren't really a collaboration so much as conversation through story. Also in the favorites:

"Runesmith" by Ellison & Theodor Sturgeon: about a man who uses his dark arts to inadvertently bring about the destruction of civilization--only to find that he's been the tool of darker forces than he realizes.

"The Human Operators" by Ellison & A. E. Van Vogt (easily the best of the stories): In which just enough men and women are kept alive by their Ships to keep the machines in repair. And as soon as they get old enough to be dangerous, they are killed off. Will humans find a way to take back control?

"The Song the Zombie Sang" by Ellison & Robert Silverbeg: In which a concert musician really outlasts his reputation.

"Come to Me Not in Winter's White" by Ellison & Roger Zelazny: A physicist who is the world's leading expert on time uses all his knowledge and resources to bend time to his will in order to save the love of his life. But will he lose her in the process?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude: Mini-Review

I love poetry. I love to read it and, occasionally, write it. But I find it extremely difficult to review. I find the Emily Dickinson quotes very apt: "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold that no fire can ever warm me, I know that it is poetry." and "If I feel physically as if the top of head were taken off, I know that is poetry." For me reading poetry is a very visceral experience--triggering memories and emotions and, in today's parlance, "giving me all the feels." Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude gives me all the feels: joy and loss and nostalgia and hope--and everything else in between. His poems have a genuineness, an earthiness, an honesty that you cannot ignore. His poems about the fruit of the earth make you want to go out and plant a garden. His poems about lost friends make you want to rush out and find yours and give them a hug before they too are gone. 

Ross's poems are very evocative of Ross the man. I can't remember ever seeing him without a smile. A smile that bursts on your horizon like sunrise--full of joy and hope and gratitude. ★★★★

[Finished on 1/11/18]
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/emily_dickinson_124391
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/emily_dickinson_124391

World's Best Science Fiction 1966: Review

The title of World's Best Science Fiction 1966 edited by Donald A Wollheim & Terry Carr is a bit misleading. These are actually the best SF stories from 1965--and the collection was published in 1966. As the cover photo indicates, it includes stories by such SF luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Leiber, Clifford D. Simak and also those not mentioned: Larry Niven, Harlan Ellison, and Fred Saberhagen. It also includes stories by authors unfamiliar to me: Jonathan Brand, Joseph Green, and David I Massan. There are tales about spaceships that can sail the solar winds, time travel, dystopian futures (see Ellison), mixtures of man and machine, intelligence agents who lose their memories, and robots that keep fighting long after their original enemies are gone. As with all collections (even those that claim to have only the best), the stories represent various levels of strength depending on your taste. My personal favorites are "Sunjammer" by Clarke (the solar wind spaceships), "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" by Ellison (a long-time favorite), "Over the River & Through the Woods" by Clifford D. Simak, "Planet of Forgetting" by James H. Schmitz, and "Vanishing Point" by Jonathan Brand. ★★

Here is a run-down of the stories:

"Sunjammer" by Arthur C. Clarke: John Merton becomes the first man to sail a solar ship solo in the race to the moon. It looks like he'll take home the honors...until the sun decides to misbehave.

"Calling Dr. Clockwork" by Ron Goulart: In a world where healthcare becomes automated, things can really go wrong quickly when they don't go like "clockwork."

"Becalmed in Hell" by Larry Niven: A man will be stranded on Venus if he can't convince his cyborg ship, Eric, that "he" really can feel his thrusters and can achieve lift-off. How do you psycho-analyze a ship with a man's brain?

"Apartness" by Vernor Vinge: Set in a post-apocalyptic world which saw the destruction of the northern hemisphere. A treasure hunt sponsored by the Southern American Empire discovers an isolated tribe of Afrikaners--the only white people to escape the purge in South Africa during/after the war.

"Over the River & Through the Woods" by Clifford D. Simak: Two children come to visit their grandmother--but they come from further away than just miles. They are her great-great-grandchildren and they may be staying longer than either she or they think.

"Planet of Forgetting" by James H. Schmitz: An intergalactic intelligence officer wakes up to find himself on a strange planet with no memory of how he got there or of the last several months. He's quite sure that his boss must have sent him on a mission--his memory stops just moments before entering the man's office. He'd better remember quick--or he's going to find himself in the hands of some very nasty enemies.

"'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison: One of Ellison's most famous stories about a dystopian world where time is regimented and if you waste it too much, you can find yourself quite literally "out of time" whenever the Ticktockman decides you've had your allotment. The Harlequin manages to disrupt the nice orderly society and Ellison uses him to make some very pointed social commentary.

"The Decision Makers" by Joseph Green: When mankind ventures out into the universe and encounters other lifeforms, who serves as his conscience? Who makes sure we don't run roughshod over potentially intelligent life? Green's story proposes the idea of the Practical Philosopher--and tells the story of one man's decision which affects an entire race of intelligent sea creatures.

"Traveler's Rest" by David I Masson: A war story about one soldier who is sent back to civilian life for a well-earned rest. But no one told him how brief that rest could be....

"Uncollected Works" by Lin Carter: A fairly mediocre tale about an aging literary critic who is interviewed by a young journalist. The critic name-drops all sorts of authors and then grows nostalgic over their future works of literary merit.

"Vanishing Point" by Jonathan Brand: A spaceman tells his kids a bedtime story about the time he and his shipmates went off to visit with the representatives of the Galactic Federation. The only person they meet is an old man on a bit of Eden-like ground. They make an odd discovery about the man and the place where they rendezvous.  Not high adventure--but a charming story.

"In Our Block" by R. A. Lafferty: There are some pretty unusual people living at the end of our dead-end block. They can manufacture whatever you want out of thin air...at reasonable prices too. But one has to wonder why the two guys in the story don't take advantage of all the bargains....

"Masque of the Red Shift" by Fred Saberhagen: As the astute reader might guess, Saberhagen uses the Poe story as a bit of inspiration for his SF adventure. The Emperor of Esteel is hosting a party in honor of his "dead" brother Johann (a hero in the fight against the berserker robots) when a berserker is smuggled in under the guise of a captured anarchist. A little reanimation and a black hole is needed to get the survivors out of this mess.

"The Captive Djinn" by Christopher Anvil: A tale about an Earthman who uses a little Terran "magic" to escape his alien captors. Just remember what Arthur C. Clarke said--"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"The Good New Days: by Fritz Leiber: About three brothers who live with their mother--who is described in ways that make her seem other than human. This is a breathless, fast-paced story which, I think is supposed to be social commentary, but which really didn't make sense to me at all.

[Finished on 1/9/18]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Search for Spock: Mini-Review

Sooo...back in November when I was Christmas shopping for others, I found this Spocktacular parody of the Where's Waldo books. And decided that I needed it in my life. I discovered Waldo when my son was small and we had hours of enjoyment looking for Waldo in all of his different adventures.

This search for Spock is exactly like that (only not quite as difficult as some of the Waldo scenes). It was lots of fun hunting for Spock and recognizing all the in-jokes from various classic Trek episodes. The only reason I didn't give it a full five stars is because there weren't extra items to search for on a couple of the scenes. I don't know if that was a mistake and there were supposed to be an extra items list for those scenes (it seemed from the text that all pages were supposed to have extra items) or if that was intentional.

Bartholomew the Beaver: Mini-Review

This is a very cute children's book about a young beaver who doesn't want to grow up and do all the grown-up beaver things (like building dams, chomping down trees, swimming well under water, using his tail to slap the water and warn of danger) that his parents try to teach him. He just wants to play and have fun. Until one day when he meets up with a wolf and he learns how useful some of those skills can be.

~I collect beavers (figurines, Christmas ornaments, etc.). Any time I see a children's book about beavers I have to get it. I'm still trying to find the one my grandma had at her house when I was little. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2017 Follow the Clues Winners!

 It's time to find out our winners for the inaugural Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge. Using my trusty Custom Random Number Generator, I'll plug in the parameters for all our participants. A whir here, a clank there (and a good kick or two--I think it's getting tired with all the winners tonight...) and it tells me that our random winner is...

JJ @ the Invisible Event

Congratulations, JJ (impressive stats and graphing on your wrap-up post!)

And...our overall winner with a chain of evidence with 168 links (!) is....

Kate @ Cross Examining Crime

Wow. With that kind of evidence, I'm sure Kate could put away the vilest criminal for several life-times! What an impressive chain.

Thanks for playing along with this one. And good luck to the detectives hunting for evidence chains in the New Year. I will contact JJ & Kate about prizes ASAP.

2017 Vintage Scavenger Hunt Winners!

Well, the entries for the 2017 Vintage Scavenger Hunt Wrap-Up and Prize Drawings have closed. I pulled out the Custom Random Number Generator and have selected our 6+ and 12+ prize winners as well as visited the wrap-up posts to find our Grand Prize Winner. After much clanking and whirring, our prize winners are

In the 6+ drawing: Neer @ A Hot Cup of Pleasure
In the 12+ drawing: Sergio @ Tipping My Fedora

And our Grand Prize Winner, with two full scavenger hunt cards for a total of 150 items found: Joel from I Should Be Reading. Joel is a regular scavenger hunting machine!

Congratulations to our Winners (let's have a rousing round of applause)! And thank you everyone who joined me for a year's worth of scavenging. I hope you all have joined me in the 2018 edition of the Vintage Mystery Challenge--Just the Facts Ma'am!

I will contact the winners as soon as possible with details on the prizes.

2017 Mount TBR Final Check Point Winner!

Today was an absolutely crazy day at work (it's graduate student admission season at the university), and I almost forgot that it was time to find a winner for the Final Checkpoint prize.  So....without further ado, I will just plug in the random number generator and enter in the parameters....and the lights flash and webpage whirs and we get  (drum roll, please).....Link #10!  That means that Barbara H @ Stray Thoughts is our winner!  Congratulations, Barbara!  I'll be contacting you soon with the prize list.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the final check-in.  I enjoy seeing your progress and the way you fit the titles to the proverbs (for those who did). Thanks as well to all climbers for joining me in scaling those Mount TBR heights in 2017.  Hope to see you on more mountains this year!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Man Lay Dead: Review (possible spoilers)

A Man Lay Dead (1934) by Ngaio Marsh finds us in a typical country house mystery setting. Sir Hubert Handsley is well-known for his country house parties full of dancing, "rags," and general shenanigans. This weekend he decides to invite guests to participate in the latest thing among those "in the know"--Murder. Invited to the doings are Charles Rankin--ladies man and privileged scoundrel who manages to put up the back of nearly everyone he meets; Nigel Bathgate--Charles's cousin (invited strictly on that strength) and journalist who's looking for a big story to make his break into the big-time; Rosemund Grant--in love with Charles and expecting to marry him;  and Arthur and Marjorie Wilde--an archeologist and his attractive wife. Also on hand is Angela North, Sir Hubert's niece, who is a thoroughly modern girl and an intelligent love-interest for Nigel; Dr. Tokareff--a Russian with knowledge of Russian secret brotherhoods and weapons; sundry maids; and Vassily,a Russian butler who also knows about weapons.

They all gather for pre-dinner drinks and Sir Hubert describes the game--in which one member of the company will be given a red placque by Vassily to indicate their status as Murderer. She or he will have until 5:30 pm the following day to plan their attack and must then proceed to "murder" someone ("You are the corpse") between 5:30 and 11 pm. Then the clue-finding, cross-examining, and deductions will begin. Sir Hubert has a vast collection of weapons and in the midst of comments about what a lot of choice the murderer will have in doing away with his victim, Rankin reveals that he is carrying a dagger himself. It is an extremely valuable, extremely sharp weapon and the Russians immediately dispute his right to the dagger--it apparently is a ceremonial dagger belonging to one of those Russian brotherhoods....an ideal weapon with plenty of intrigue behind it to add spice to their game.

However, when the game is well and truly begun and the corpse is found next day it is a very real one. Someone has plunged the Russian dagger into the back of its owner. Inspector Roderick Allen of the Yard is called in to investigate the delicate affair. He arrives to find not only the Russian angle, but a how full of jealousy, spurned love, collector's greed, and an inheritance not to be sneezed at. Nearly everybody has a motive of sorts, but it appears that nobody could have committed the crime in the time allowed. He must discover the meaning of the burned glove, track down the missing butler, find the "package to be destroyed" in Tunbridge B., and break a cast-iron alibi before he can bring the culprit to book

It's been a long time since I read the first book in Marsh's Inspector Alleyn series (back when I discovered her at our local library some 30-odd years ago). I had quite forgotten about the Russian intrigue and I had also forgotten that Sergeant Fox was not Alleyn's right-hand man in this one. Nigel Bathgate is an okay Watson and even has a few shining moments, though why Marsh had to have him fall into the hands of the Russians and have pins stuck under his fingernails is beyond me. Bathgate does serve his purpose, though, he provides the eyes through which we observe Alleyn and learn about him in this first story. And since he (Bathgate) has a journalist's interest in the affair it helps keep the reader focused on the story.

I'm fairly certain that this was my first fictional introduction to the "murder game" playing a part in an actual murder. I've read several variations since then, but I still remember my sense of surprise when they found Charles dead near the cocktail table. I sensed that the game would go awry in some fashion--but I wasn't quite sure just how at the time. 

Reading it a second time, I was struck by how little Marsh really tells us about our detective. We know that he's a Scotland Yard man and we get the impression that he comes from a genteel background--but that's about it. Having read all the stories at one time or another, I know Alleyn--at least as much as Marsh allowed us to know him--but I realize that readers meeting him for the very first time may find him a little lacking. He's not fleshed out and really isn't very interesting at this point. Fortunately, the fun and games at the country house and the Russian intrigue add a bit of spice.★★ and a 1/2

With Bathgate as an integral part of the story, this fulfills the "Journalist" category under "Who" in the Golden Detective Notebook for Just the Facts, Ma'am." Also = my Freebie choice for the Book Challenge by Erin 8.0.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The White Cottage Mystery: Review

In this case there doesn't seem to be any proof except that everyone is innocent...Everyone wanted to kill Crowther--everyone admitted they entertained the idea--everyone had an opportunity, and yet nobody did it. It's an incredible situation.
~Detective Chief Inspector W. T. Challanor

The White Cottage was first published by Margery Allingham in serialized form in The Daily Express (1927). It was later edited by her sister, Joyce, to remove the repetitions found so often in serializations and published in book form after Margery's death.

It opens with Jerry Challanor motoring along country roads when he spies a pretty young woman deposited along the road by a bus. She is struggling with a basket and he offers her a lift. She seems oddly unwilling to allow him to carry the basket into White Cottage for her and he is intrigued--both by her manner and her beauty. He dawdles a bit down by the gate--smoking a cigarette and and passing the time of day with the local constable when a shot rings out and a cry of murder goes up. Mr. Eric Crowther, the nearest neighbor to the cottage has been shot to death in the dining room. Jerry announces himself as the son of Chief Detective Inspector W. T. Challanor of Scotland Yard and soon his dad is on the case.

It doesn't take long for the Yard Inspector to discover that Crowther was a thoroughly unlikeable fellow. He took great delight in finding out secrets about anyone and everyone and then serving up unhealthy doses of mental blackmail. Crowther didn't want money...his only payment was the thrill he got from watching his victims' torment. Mental anguish was the coin of his realm...and it seemed that he had a hold over nearly everyone connected with the case from Mrs. Christensen of the Cottage to her sister (the pretty young Norah who had caught Jerry's eye) to his own manservant and the mysterious (and missing!) Italian who had been at his home. 

Challanor's search for the truth takes him to France where two documents will seem to give him the proof he needs. But every time he's sure the evidence is pointing towards a particular person, he finds that they couldn't possibly have done it. Until he's left with no one. But it is obvious that someone must have pulled the trigger. A single sentence finally puts him on the right track...but will justice really be served?

I have to admit to being thoroughly bamboozled by the plot twist. I thought for sure I had seen my way around one of the difficulties...only to be proved wrong. I do think the ending is a bit of a cheat, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable light and breezy example of the early detective novel. It has just that hint of romance in it--that doesn't overpower the mystery plot. A short, quick read that was just right to kick off the new year. ★★ and a 1/2.

This checks off the "Color in the Title" category under "What" in the Golden Just the Facts Notebook. Also counts for the Winter Respite Readathon.

Reporter's Challenge 2018

Sponsored by Ellie at Dead Herring 
Thru Goodreads Group: The Challenge Factory

The challenge runs from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

Who? What? Where? When? How?
Why? – because it’s fun to read!

Read books that fulfill the various categories under the reporter's standard questions.

Cub Reporter complete: 2/27/18
Columnist complete: 4/3/18
News Anchor complete: 4/11/18 
Editor complete: 5/22/18

Newspaper Mogul complete: 8/7/18

BONUS CATEGORY: Pulitzer Prize Winner (Newspaper Mogul plus Bonus Category) = 30 books COMPLETE: 8/7/18

As in past years, my declared commitment will be for Cub Reporter and I can consider the challenge fulfilled at that level. My ultimate goal will, of course, be to try for all thirty books--but I can see some tricky ones on the list, especially since I want to fulfill all my challenges with books I own. Not sure I have any more books with dead people  or where three people are killed using three different methods. We'll see... 

Protagonist is a religious person (priest, nun, cleric, minister, deacon, etc): A Vow of Penance by Veronica Black (4/11/18)
Victim is in the medical profession (doctor, nurse, EMT, hospital staff, etc.): The Trouble in Hunter Ward by Josphine Bell (7/18/18)
A Main Character is a dead person (ghost, skeleton, vampire, zombie…anybody who is dead): The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne (4/3/18)
Victim is a John Doe (identity of victim is not known immediately): The Body in the Basket by George Bagby (5/22/18)
Not your typical protagonist (deaf, blind, wheelchair-bound, ADHD, Aspergers, etc.): Odor of Violets by Baynard Kendrick [blind detective] (2/27/18)

Animal in the title: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2/28/18)
Title is at least 5 words:
Lament for a Lady Laird by Margot Arnold (2/3/18)
Color in the title: The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham (1/1/18)
A Cold Case (crime investigated is over 10 years old): The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (2/14/18)
Time in the Title (minute, week, clock, year, hour, etc): Murder at Midnight by C. S. Challinor (7/23/18)

Set in a Southern town: The Haunted Showboat by Carolyn Keene [New Orleans] (8/2/18)
Set in a mansion or hotel: The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird (2/16/18)
Set in a state beginning with the letter ‘I’: Death of a Hoosier Schoolmaster by Marlis Day (4/10/18)
Set in Europe (anywhere but England): Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas [France] (3/4/18)
Out of Town (protagonist is not in his/her hometown): Red Warning by Virgil Markham [American hero in France] (1/25/18)

Set during a competition (Olympics, ballroom dancing, cooking contest, rodeo, etc.): Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman [during an online Book Scavenger hunt competition] (3/24/18)
Centers around a celebration (holiday, birthday, wedding, etc.) [Mardi Gras]: The Haunted Showboat by Carolyn Keene (8/2/18)
Set in the 1800’s: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ripper Legacy by David Stuart Davies [late 1890s] (1/31/18)
Set during bad weather (blizzard, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, etc.): Avalanche by Kay Boyle [Avalanche/then snow storm later in the book] (2/8/18)
Set during summer: Green for a Grave by Manning Lee Stokes (3/13/18)

(Method of Murder)
Poison is murder weapon: The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh [hyoscine poisoning] (3/10/18)
Knife/stabbing is murder weapon: Payoff for the Banker by Frances & Richard Lockridge [2nd Murder = stabbing] (3/15/18)
Gun/shooting is murder weapon: Another Woman's House by Mignon G. Eberhart (2/10/18)
Drowning: Act One, Scene One--Murder by A. H. Richardson [2nd Murder = drowning] (1/30/18)
Rope/strangulation is murder weapon: Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh [2nd Murder=hung with rope] (2/7/18)

WHO - Protagonist has a connection to newspaper industry: A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh [The "Watson" Character is a Journalist] (1/7/18)
WHAT – Your name (first, middle or last) is the same as the author’s name (1st or last) or protagonist’s name (1st or last):  Beverly Gray's Secret by Clair Blank (2/13/18)
WHERE – “Locked Room” mystery (not necessarily a room, as long as the scene is contained): With Blood & Kisses by Richard Shattuck [snow storm keeps them all in the house] (2/23/18)
WHEN – Book set pre 1800: The Lacquer Screen by Robert Van Gulik [China 7th Century A.D.] (7/28/18)
HOW - At least 3 different people killed by 3 different means, all in one story: Some Beasts No More by Kenneth Giles [several murderers--having used different methods themselves--killed by various methods] (6/22/18)


A Century of Books Challenge

Simon at Stuck in a Book has declared 2018 as the year of A Century of Books – henceforth to be known as ACOB. Back in 2012, he put together a challenge to read and review a book for every year of the 20th century – not in order. I joined in a bit late and made my timing flexible (because Simon is good with a little flex in the rules).  This time he has shifted the  century is shifting a bit –1919-2018 – making it a century including this year. I'm going to join him and, like before, I'm going to plan on taking two years to complete it. If I get at least 50 years covered in 2018, then I may count it towards completed challenges for the year. I'll keep track of my list below. To make it even trickier, I'm going to try and fulfill every year with a mystery or mystery-related nonfiction book.

If you'd like to join in, please click the link above. 

Added 12/29/19: Well, it's pretty obvious that I'm not going to finish this in two years as planned [there's no way I can read 16 appropriate books in two days...]. So, I'll have to give myself an extension and say that if I can manage to read the right 16 books in 2020, then I can count this challenge towards next year's tally.

Update 11/2/20: Making this a mystery-only challenge caused me to run into an extra year. BUT I have finally read a mystery from 1972 and the challenge is officially complete!!

1919: The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes (10/2/20)
1920: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1/18/19)
1921: Jerry Todd & the Rose-Colored Cat by Leo Edwards (8/3/20)
1922: The Crimson Circle by Edgar Wallace (11/18/18)
1923: Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (3/9/19)
1924: The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (4/13/19)
1925: The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie (6/6/19)
1926: Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers (1/12/19)
1927: The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham (1/1/18)
1928: The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (5/28/18)
1929: Death of My Aunt by C.H.B. Kitchin (11/7/18)
1930: About the Murder of Geraldine Foster by Anthony Abbott (3/22/18)
1931: The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers (5/19/19)
1932: Nothing Venture by Patricia Wentworth (7/19/18)
1933: Red Warning by Virgil Markham (1/25/18)
1934: A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh (1/7/18)
1935: Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh (2/7/18)
1936: Death in Ecstasy by Ngaio Marsh (4/7/18)
1937: Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh (5/7/18)
1938: Then There Were Three by Geoffrey Homes (4/30/18)
1939: Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh (8/19/18)
1940: The Odor of Violets by Baynard Kendrick (2/27/18)
1941: With Blood & Kisses [apa: The Snark Was a Boojum] by Richard Shattuck (2/23/18)
1942: The Dead Shall Be Raised by George Bellairs (1/13/19)
1943: The Death of a Quack by George Bellairs (1/14/19)
1944: Avalanche by Kay Boyle (2/8/18)
1945: Payoff for the Banker by Frances & Richard Lockridge (3/15/18)
1946: Green for a Grave by Manning Lee Stokes (3/13/18)
1947: Another Woman's House by Mignon G. Eberhart (2/10/18)
1948: Blueprint for Murder by Roger Bax (10/25/19)
1949: A Wreath for Rivera by Ngaio Marsh (3/11/19)
1950: Terror in Times Square by Alan Handley (6/5/18)
1951: Beverly Gray's Secret by Clair Blank (2/13/18)
1952: The Blind Spot by John Creasey (8/23/18)
1953: Stand Up & Die by Frances & Richard Lockridge (3/31/20)
1954: The Body in the Basket by George Bagby (5/22/18)
1955: Before Midnight by Rex Stout (10/4/18)
1956: Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie (8/15/18)
1957: The Haunted Showboat by Carolyn Keene (8/2/18)
1958: Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus (8/24/18)
1959: False Scent by Ngaio Marsh (9/15/19)
1960: Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney (1/3/20)
1961: The Mystery of the Fire Dragon by Carolyn Keene (7/29/19)
1962: The Lacquer Screen by Robert Van Gulik (7/28/18)
1963: Dead Water by Ngaio Marsh (11/9/19)
1964: The Perfect Murder by H. R. F. Keating (10/19/19)
1965: Some Beasts No More by Kenneth Giles (6/22/18)
1966: Eyes at the Window by George Selmark (11/25/19)
1967: The Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur (11/24/18)
1968: The Father Hunt by Rex Stout (6/18/19)
1969: The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird (2/16/18)
1970: Deadly Pattern by Douglas Clark (5/18/20)
1971: Basil & the Pygmy Cats by Eve Titus (8/24/18)
1972: Foot in the Grave by E. X. Ferrars (10/28/20)
1973: Devious Murder by George Bellairs (11/13/18)
1974: Black Aura by John Sladek (9/9/19)
1975: Time of Terror by Hugh Pentecost (7/20/18)
1976: The Trouble in Hunter Ward by Josephine Bell (7/18/18)
1977: Table D'Hote by Douglas Clark (11/14/18)
1978: The Invisible Thief by Thomas Brace Haughey (9/5/18)
1979: The Zero Trap by Paula Gosling (4/8/18)
1980: Golden Rain by Douglas Clark (5/21/20)
1981: A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson (8/2/18)
1982: Lament for a Lady Laird by Margot Arnold (2/3/18)
1983: Scotland Yard Photo Crimes from the Files of Inspector Black by Henry Black (3/24/18)
1984: A Very Private Enterprise by Elizabeth Ironside (8/16/18)
1985: Dekok & Murder by Installment by A. C. Baantjer (5/30/18)
1986: Night of the Fox by Jack Higgins (2/19/19)
1987: Bound to Murder by Dorsey Fiske (9/16/20)

1988: The Grub-&-Stakers Pinch a Poke by Alisa Craig [Charlotte MacLeod] (9/10/18)
1989: The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill (1/31/20)
1990: The Secret Files of Sherlock Holmes by June Thomson (1/25/19)
1991: Death of a Warrior Queen by S. T. Haymon (10/24/20)
1992: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Seventh Bullet by Daniel D. Victor (4/27/18)
1993: The Christening Day Murder by Lee Harris (4/7/20)
1994: A Vow of Penance by Veronica Black (4/11/18)
1995: The Winter Women Murders by David A Kaufelt (1/5/19)
1996: Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas (3/4/18)
1997: The New Year's Eve Murder by Lee Harris (4/25/20)
1998: The Charles Dickens Murders by Edith Skom (9/15/18)
1999: River of Darkness by Rennie Airth (6/3/19)

2000: The Quotable Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Van Der Leun (5/12/20)
2001: Mrs. Malory & the Lilies That Fester by Hazel Holt (4/13/18)
2002: Death of a Hoosier Schoolmaster by Marlis Day (4/10/18)
2003: Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner (10/14/20)
2004: The Lover by Laura Wilson (5/17/19)
2005: The Sign of the Book by John Dunning (3/23/18)
2006: When Gods Die by C. S. Harris (8/27/20)
2007: The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas (6/1/18)
2008: The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat by Claudia Bishop (9/14/19)
2009: Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes by J.R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec (8/5/19)
2010: A Holiday Yarn by Sally Goldenbaum (12/24/18)
2011: Between the Thames & the Tiber by Ted Riccardi (7/20/20)
2012: Books to Die For by John Connolly & Declan Burke, eds (3/22/19)
2013: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2/28/18)
2014: Murder at Midnight by C. S. Challinor (7/23/18)
2015: Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman (3/24/18)
2016: Act One, Scene One--Murder by A. H. Richardson (1/30/18)
2017: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (1/23/18)
2018: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer (10/30/18)