Monday, July 29, 2019

A Passage to India

A Passage to India (1924) by E. M. Forster is very much rooted in its time and place. Set in colonial India, the reader is exposed to the viewpoints of both the British who rule in India and the Indians who must live their lives as subjects to a foreign government. Forster comes through as solidly anti-imperialist and his characters appear most passionate when they speak of the situation of those who must endure the imposition of British power or those who are part of the system but feel it unjust. 

Forster also highlights how the British believe that their way and their people are always right. Ronny Heaslop, the young British city magistrate of Chandrapore and intended of Adela Quested, exemplifies this point of view. His treatment of Indians is deplorable and his condescending treatment of Adela's interest in understanding the people she might come to live among (should she decide to marry Ronny) underlines his belief that Indians don't matter enough to try and understand. This attitude is underlined again when the accusation of sexual assault is made against Dr. Aziz and Ronny's rapid move to break his engagement when Adela realizes she has been mistaken. Rather than seeing the wrong that has been done to the doctor, Ronny believes that Adela has betrayed her countrymen. She has "let the side down."

Of course the Indian point of view is also well-represented. In the first half of the book Dr. Aziz has made some headway in friendship with Cyril Fielding, a headmaster at a local school, as well as intellectually profitable interactions with Adela as she tries to understand the Indian way of life. But all that falls apart with her accusation--even though he is ultimately exonerated. Aziz loses his faith in any good will from the British contingent and tells Fielding at the end of the book that they can never really be friends until India is free from British rule. This is very true--no matter the good intentions; no matter how equal any British subject may try to treat the Indians, there is still that difference. There is still the position of the ruling class and the ruled. ★★and 1/2.

Finished 7/21/19

...Life never gives us what we want at the moment we that we consider appropriate. Adventures do occur, but not punctually.  (p. 23)

...Ronny was dignified. 
Mrs. Moore was surprised to learn this, dignity not being a quality with which any mother credits her son. Miss Quested learnt it with anxiety, for she had not decided whether she liked dignified men. (p. 24)

MC: I really do know the truth about Indians. A most unsuitable position for any Englishwoman--I was a nurse in a Native State. One's only hope was to hold sternly aloof.
AQ: Even from one's patients.
MC: Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is let him die. 
(Mrs. Callendar; Adela Quested, p. 25)

But Ronny was ruffled. From his mother's description he had thought the doctor might be young Muggins from over the Ganges, and had brought out all the comradely emotions. What a mix-up! Why hadn't she indicated by her tone of voice that she was talking about an Indian? (p. 30)

AQ: Now look here, wouldn't you expect a Mohammedan to answer you if you asked him to take of his hat in church?
RH: It's different, it's different; you don't understand.
AQ: I know I don't, and I want to. What is the difference, please? 
(Adela Quested; Ronny Heaslop, p. 30)

I'm just a servant of the Government; it's the profession you wanted me to choose myself, and that's that. We're not pleasant in India, and we don't intend to be pleasant. We've something more important to do. (Ronny Heaslop; p.52)

How he did rub it in that he was not in India to behave pleasantly, and derived positive satisfaction therefrom!...His words without his voice might have  impressed her, but when she heard the self-satisfied lilt of them, when she saw the mouth moving so complacently and competently beneath the little red nose, she felt, quite illogically, that this was not the last word on India. One touch of regret--not the canny substitute but the true regret from the heart--would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution. (pp. 52-3)

The feeling grew that Mr. Fielding was a disruptive force, and rightly, for ideas are fatal to caste, and he used ideas by that most potent method--interchange. Neither missionary nor a student, he was happiest in the give-and-take of a private conversation. The world, he believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of good will plust culture and intelligence-- (pp. 64-5)

AQ: I do so hate mysteries.
MM: We english do.
AQ: I dislike them not because I'm English, but from my own personal point of view.
MM:I like mysteries, but I rather dislike a muddle.
CF: A mystery is a muddle.
MM: Oh, do you think so, Mr. Fielding?
CF: A myster is only a high-sounding term for a muddle. No advantage in stirring it up, in either case. Aziz and I know well that India's a muddle.
(Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, Cyril Fielding; p. 73)

Mr. Fielding, no one  can ever realize how much kindness we Indians need, we do not even realize it ourselves. But we know when it has been given. We do not forget, though we may seem to. Kindness, more kindness, and even after that more kindness. I assure you it is the only hope. (Dr. Aziz, p. 126)

The Notting Hill Mystery

The Notting Hill Mystery (1863) by Charles Warren Adams has been put forward as the first published detective novel. Is it? Well, that's a discussion for another time. What it is is an early version of various mystery and crime themes and methods found at work in the next century when such novels really hit their stride. We have a story told in epistolary-fashion, through reports and letters and diary entries. We have an inverted mystery--there's little doubt that Baron R**** is responsible for his wife's death (among others), but is there enough evidence to convict him? We have an insurance agent put to work as detective and endeavoring to prove whether the woman's death was through accident, suicide, or murder. We have a mercenary man determined to kill the people who stand between him and the inheritance of a fortune. There's even a map of the Baron's house. And there is also more than a hint of the gothic involved as we have mesmerism (hypnotism to you and me) and a sort of sympathetic magic between the twins in the story (the Baron's wife and her sister).

Ralph Henderson, the insurance agent, has meticulously compiled letters, diary entries, transcripts of witness interviews, and summation reports and submitted these materials to his superiors for review. We, the reader, have access to every bit of evidence that he has accumulated so that we may consider the facts and come to our own conclusions. He says that his employers will come to their decision about the matter--but it is quite apparent that he believes the Baron to be guilty and the materials point that way. His employers (and we) must decide if the materials support a charge of murder and if there is any real evidence beyond hearsay and inference. And is it possible to prove when (if) someone has been hypnotized into doing something or when a sympathy between two individuals has resulted in the death of one of them?

Provided that the reader is willing to believe in the powers of hypnotism and possibly the paranormal, this is an interesting early take on a somewhat unusual method of murder. Of great value to those interested in the history of the detective novel and reading it in one of its earliest forms (if not the earliest). ★★

Finished 7/12/19
Deaths = 3 (two by direct poison; one through "sympathetic" reactions between twins)
Just the Facts Golden: How (Unusual murder method)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Death of a Fool

Death of a Fool (1957; originally Off With His Head) by Ngaio Marsh

Set just after World War II, Marsh represents a rural village in England that still hangs on to the ways of the past....the long ago past. For centuries the village of South Maridan has celebrated the winter solstice with a Wednesday Sword Dance. Outsiders are not generally welcomed to the festivities which features the "Dance of the Five Sons" and revolves around the death and resurrection of the father figure (the Fool), played by William Anderson or the Guiser as he's known--the local black smith. The parts of the sons are taken by his own sons with two additional parts, "Crack" (who chases and tries to "tar" the young women) and the "Betty" (a teasing figure who also tries to woo the ladies), played by Simon Begg (ex-military son of the local grocer) and Ralph Stines (son of the local clergyman). But Mrs. Bunz, an eccentric German researcher of such ancient rites, comes rolling into the village and is determined to see all there is to see and makes a general nuisance of herself as William Anderson and his sons and friends rehearse for the big day. 

Also in the mix is Dr. Otterly who plays the fiddle for the dance, Dame Alice Maridan who hosts the Sword Dance every year at Maridan Castle and also Ralph's aunt, Dulcie who is companion to Dame Alice, Trixie--a local barmaid, dalliance of Ralph's but planning to wed one of the blacksmith's sons though the old Guiser doesn't approve, and Camilla Campion--daughter of William Anderson's wayward daughter and serious love interest for Ralph. Camilla has recently come to South Maridan to see if she can patch things up with the grandfather who virtually disowned his daughter when she ran off to marry a "popish" man.

Ernie, the youngest son, has a run-in with his father just before the dance. The young man, who is a bit mentally handicapped, is quite attached to his mongrel of a dog. It's not explained exactly what is wrong with the animal, but his brothers and father all tell him that the dog should be put down. The Guiser finally does shoot the animal and this sends Ernie into a crying rage. He's also jealous of his father's central part in the Sword Dance. He's quite sure that he could dance the Fool even better than his father and is very put out that he must be the "Whiffler" (who whisks his sword back and forth in pantomime to clear the way for the revered Fool).

His brother Chris also has a dust-up with the Guiser in the days leading up to the dance. Chris is Trixie's intended, but the Guiser doesn't want to see his son wedded to such a girl. (The Guiser really is an awful snob all 'round.) And the brothers as a group are a bit put out with the old man over a scheme to sell the smithy--which really doesn't pay like it did in the days before automobiles--and start up a gas station/garage. They, of course, are in favor of a more profitable venture and he stubbornly refuses to give up the old ways.

And so comes the day of the dance. All goes well until the Fool is supposed to rise up from behind the rock where he has fallen after a mock beheading at the hands of his sons. When he doesn't get up on cue, the sons investigate only to find that William Anderson has actually been beheaded in truth. The local Superintendent and Sergeant of police were among those in the audience and everyone (including them) present--dancers and audience alike--are positive that no one came near the Guiser once he fell down, perfectly alive, behind the stone. So, how could he have been killed? Superintendent Carey and his Chief Constable have the good sense to realize that they need the help of the Yard...and the Yard has the good sense to send Inspector Roderick Alleyn to figure out the mystery of the impossible beheading.

Marsh always sets her scene well. The reader immediately gets the feel of the village from the moment Mrs. Bunz shows up in her little car--all eager to join in the festivities and completely missing that the chilly nature of her reception by the inhabitants has nothing to do with winter weather. The characters come to life and I definitely got the flavor of the dance and music performed for us all. I was slightly disappointed that I spotted the villain of the piece early on--but for the life of me I couldn't see how the thing was done, so I can't say the mystery was spoiled for me altogether. Really a quite interesting study of small village life in rural England. ★★★★

[Finished 7/7/19]
Gold Just the Facts: Where--small village
Calendar of Crime: Dec--other holiday ("Sword Wednesday" at winter solstice)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Gaudy Night: audio edition

Continuing with my orgy of listening to Dorothy L. Sayers novels on audio, I've listened to the Gaudy Night (1935), the penultimate book in the Wimsey/Vane mystery cycle. As with the other audio reviews, I am not focusing so much on the whole story here. If you'd like to see my thoughts on the novel, please click the linked title above. 

Ian Carmichael gives another fine narrating performance, giving voice to a full range of characters from dons and students at Oxford to American visitors to members of the college staff. This particular round of hearing the story, I was reminded how much I enjoyed the interactions of Lord Peter with Mr. Padgett

For some reason, this affair of a mop and a bucket seemed to have made Padgett Peter’s slave for life. Men were very odd. 

as well as Harriet's encounters with Reggie Pomfret and Peter's nephew Lord St. George. There is a great deal of humor in this novel of poison pen antics at a women's college. Of course, there are also more serious themes from the eternal question of romance between our two main characters to the value of intellectual honesty versus the well-being of a man and his family. Sayers addresses some interesting intellectual subjects under the guise of an entertaining mystery with romantic undertones. Carmichael brings humor, warmth, and depth to his reading of the story.
Finished 7/1/19
Just the Facts Golden Card = Character has similar job (academic secretary)
Medical Examiner: Death = one; shot

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Midpoint Check-in Winner!

Calling all cars, calling all cars...Detectives are asked to check in with Headquarters. Please report progress. Headquarters out.

Last Monday the call went out to all our Just the Facts detectives to look over their notebooks and see what clues they have found so far. Six detectives, Joel @ I Should Be Reading; Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, Linda, Countdown John, Rick, and Dexter96 (on Library Thing) have been working tirelessly in country houses and on the mean streets to check items off their lists--with 29 categories checked off out of those requested. 

In the interests of prize award transparency, let me tell you how I conducted the drawing: Since, as mentioned on the check-in post, my linky provider has changed the number of link-ups I can have open, I put together a Google doc to collect your findings. That document generates a spreadsheet with columns (headed by letters) and rows (headed by numbers). So...I've added a Random Letter Generator to my equipment and after feeding the info into it and the Random Number Generator the winner is.....(drum roll)....Row 6, Column F! Let's have a round of applause for Rick Mills and the Gold Inverted Mystery Phantom Lady by William Irish! Rick is a new detective in our vintage mystery challenge ranks--but an old hand with vintage mysteries. Congratulations, Rick! I will send you an email with the prize list.

Thanks to all for playing along with me and checking in--and to all the detectives working away so busily that they were away from their radios and missed the message from Headquarters. Keep sleuthing and be ready for the final check-in at the end of the year.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mystery of the Emerald Buddha

Mystery of the Emerald Buddha (1974) by Betty Cavanna is the second of her novels that I have read and it is the second to feature smuggling of a sort. This time the action takes place in Thailand during a father's working trip to photograph an ancient palace that will be featured in a forthcoming book. There are also hopes of including pictures of the famous Emerald Buddha, a closely-guarded treasure housed in the palace. In fact, that Emerald Buddha is stolen while they are at the palace and they find themselves in lock-down while the authorities try to sort things out.

Lisette is a teen-aged young woman who is spending a month or so with the father whom she has rarely seen since her parents divorced when she was very young. She has grown up in France and has led a very protected life. Lisette doesn't quite know how to react to this stranger who is her father and she's rather alarmed to discover that as soon as she arrives in America (disconcerting enough for someone who's never traveled before) that she will be going to other side of the world.

When they arrive at Bangkok, she finds herself thrown into a culture unlike anything she's encountered before. Surprisingly, after a bit of culture shock, she begins to open up and change--so much so that she wonders what her mother would say if she knew. Before the story is over, she will make friends with a hippy, learn from the strong female professor who is her dad's collaborator and love interest, help discover an art smuggler, and ultimately deduce the hiding place of the missing Buddha. She is definitely not the same person she was when they arrived.

When the Buddha is stolen, Don--Lisette's new friend--and the hippies he is camping with are suspects. During the visitation hours for the palace, some of the young men staged a major disturbance with the worst of the group climbing up a parapet, desecrating the sacred area, and then falling to his death. It is suspected that at best they might have been paid to create havoc and distract from the theft or at worst that some of them are responsible for the theft itself. Lisette doesn't want to believe that Don was a part of any wrongdoing and uses the time that they are detained in the palace to think about all the available clues. She discovers the solution just in time to impress the king of Thailand. 

Betty Cavanna provides another decent teen-aged mystery with a fascinating backdrop. Descriptions of the Thailand in the 1970s were very interesting and she manages to convey tidbits about the culture without it feeling like info-dumps. The mystery isn't terribly intricate, but it does make for a pleasant quick read. ★★

One mystery never solved for me: Why was Lisette spending such an extended period of time with her father after NOT doing so for so many years? I thought at first we'd be told that her mother had died or something, but that's not the case. Cavanna never does explain why Lisette's over-protective maman  would allow her to spend so much time away from home.

Silver: When--during a trip/holiday
Calendar of Crime: April --Religion place major role
Deaths = one--fell from height
[Finished on 6/29/19]

Friday, July 12, 2019

Killing the Goose

Killing the Goose (1944) is the seventh Mr. & Mrs. North mystery by Frances & Richard Lockridge. I have three editions of this book (hardback, Armed Services Edition, and an Avon pulp-era pocket-size. I've had the novel on my shelves in one form or another since 2010 and have actually read it before--but never for the Mount TBR Challenge. The Lockridge books, especially their Mr. & Mrs. North series, are comfort reads for me. They are fun, entertaining, light cozy mysteries. Some of them are even pretty fair-play for the Golden Age purists. But that's night why I read them. I read them because they're comfortable. And I enjoy the interactions between Pam and Jerry and between the Norths and Lt. Weigand and Sgt. Mullins. I love that Mullins dreads how screwy things can get when the Norths get involved and, yet, he's very attached to them. I like how the Lockridges work cats into the story without making them too cutesy or somehow having them "solve" the mystery.

This story lands Pam and Jerry North smack in the middle of another killing spree. It begins with Bill Weigand giving an example of just how routine his policeman's lot has been lately. It involves a file clerk killed in a diner. She and her boyfriend were overheard having an argument. He leaves and she's found dead in the booth. As Weigand's boss, Inspector O'Malley, says, it's a nice and easy one. "Nothing fancy." A lover's spat ending in death. 

But then Pam gets set on the clue of the baked apple. That, to coin a phrase, upsets the apple cart. Because if Frances McCalley ate a baked apple, then it couldn't have happened the way the police think it happened. Then another woman is found dead. This time it's Ann Lawrence who lives on the other end of the social spectrum. She has been hit with a poker and, again, it looks easy. Another argument with a boyfriend and another dead woman. But...Pam finds another snag. This time it's a dress. The dress Frances had on when she was killed was given to her guessed it...Ann Lawrence. To add to the fun, Pam begins insisting, as only Pam can, that someone has stolen a famous voice from the radio. As Mullins would say, now it's just plain screwy.

hard copy cover
Killing the Goose is an exciting chain of events from the dramatic scene in the diner to the socialite's missing money to the unexpected happenings in the telephone booth to the grand finale in a radio broadcast studio. Even knowing the killer in advance didn't dampen my enthusiasm for this madcap mystery. I spent more time in this reading paying attention to the details of conversations and characters since I didn't have to keep my eyes peeled for clues. ★★★★

[Finished on 6/24/19]

Four deaths = 2 stabbed, one hit on head, one shot

Monday, July 8, 2019

Just the Fact Mid-Point Checkpoint

Calling all cars, calling all cars...Detectives are asked to check in with Headquarters. Please report progress. Headquarters out.

So....the beginning of July came and went in a birthday/Route 66 mini-vacation blur and I missed putting up the checkpoint. So--let's remedy that now! Back in the fall when I put together the latest version of the Vintage Mystery Challenge, I randomly selected items from the notebooks for our checkpoint. Here are the categories for the half-way mark (January - July 8, no books posted after this checkpoint goes live):

WHO: Vicar/Religious Figure
WHAT: Inverted Mystery
WHEN: During a recognized holiday
WHERE: On an island
HOW: Death by unusual method
WHY: Author's 1st or last name begins with same letter as yours

My linky provider has thrown me another curve ball--I've apparently opened all the link-ups possible for July. So...that being the case, I am trying a Google Doc Form to collect your entries. Please bear with me as we give this method a whirl.

I will accept  entries until midnight on Monday, July 15. Sometime on Tuesday, I will pull out the Custom Random Number Generator and select a winner. Good luck!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

July 2019 Calendar of Crime Reviews

I'm sorry to be running late on the link-up. I've been on vacation and re-entry to regular life has been a bit of a shock to the system.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

July 2019 Virtual Mount TBR Reviews

I'm sorry to be running late on getting the review link up...we went on vacation and re-entry to regular life has been a bit of a shock to the system

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


July 2019 Mount TBR Reviews

I'm sorry to be running late on getting the review link up...we went on vacation and re-entry to regular life has been a bit of a shock to the system.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

July 2019 Monthly Key Word Reviews

July's Key Words: Fire, Work/s, Stream, Lake, Field, Family, Cloud, Bear, Because

I'm sorry to be running late on getting the review link up...we went on vacation and re-entry to regular life has been a bit of a shock to the system.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

July Just the Facts Reviews

I'm sorry to be running late on getting the review link up...we went on vacation and re-entry to regular life has been a bit of a shock to the system. I'll have the promised mid-point check-in up soon as well.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter