Friday, October 25, 2019

Blueprint for Murder

Blueprint for Murder (1948) by Roger Bax* is a rare thing for me--an inverted mystery. I generally find it very difficult to enjoy a mystery novel where there is very little mystery. The blurb on the back of my edition tries to make it seem more like a standard detective novel:

Wealthy industrialist Charles Hollison is found bludgeoned to death shortly after his son, Geoffrey, and nephew, Arthur Cross, return from World War II. As the principal beneficiaries of Charles's will, both men are suspects. Inspector James, called in to investigate, thinks he knows which of them is guilty.

But we know from the beginning who the guilty party is (Inspector James is right). And a nasty piece of work he is too.

When we first meet Arthur Cross, he is on the run towards the end of the war. He has made his way from a Nazi concentration camp (wearing a German uniform, by the way) and is trying to put as much distance between himself and the Germans and the invading Russians as possible. When he's just about on his last legs, a kindly Polish man and his daughter take him in after listening to his tale of an escape from the camp which involved knocking out a guard and stealing his uniform. He repays their kindness by murdering them. And we get our first glimpse of just how cold-blooded he is.

Upon his return to England, both he and his cousin Geoffrey are welcomed with gladness by Geoffrey's father, Charles. Arthur's parents died while he was young and Charles took him in and raised him as if he were another son. The elderly gentleman offers them both shares in the family business, a comfortable salary, and a home with him if they'd like it. He also (inadvisedly) tells them that he plans to update his will, leaving the bulk of his estate between them. 

Arthur has no desire to kick his heels in a stodgy business job. He plans to live life hard and fast (and fun) and needs a large influx of cash sooner rather than later. He also has pressing reasons to leave Europe and head for somewhere more remote. So, despite unemotionally recognizing how generous and kind Charles has been (and is being) to him, he begins methodically plotting his death. His goal is create an unbreakable alibi that will allow him to do the deed and even be suspected, but give the police no way to prove him guilty. And he does a pretty good job--using a method and devices that I'd not encountered before in my murderous reading. Once the crime is committed, the second leg of the book is spent wondering if Inspector James will find a break in the impenetrable alibi.

But, of course, there is one little thing that Arthur didn't think about...and when that begins to fall apart, the last leg of the book turns into a thriller with Arthur forcing his cousin to take him by boat into a raging winter storm and help him escape to Holland. Geoffrey must find a way to scuttle Arthur's plans and save both himself and the girl he loves.

This is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the plus side, this is a marvelously plotted inverted mystery and I want to give credit to Bax for giving me an inverted mystery that I could appreciate. Bax has given Arthur the means to devise what really looks like an unbreakable alibi. I began to think that he might actually get away with it. And I thought the means by which his plot unravels was cleverly done as well. The ending was exciting and suspenseful without being too over-the-top (especially for a mystery portrayed in my edition as a police procedural). Negative points: there really is very little of Inspector James in this and very little actual detecting going on. James does a bit of interviewing--but most of the work is done off-stage. And, for me, there was way too much time spent with this cold-blooded, vicious killer and watching him plot the murder of a kindly, inoffensive man. But, even though it's really out of my comfort zone, it's a darn good mystery. ★★


*Bax is a pseudonym for Paul Winterton, an English journalist who wrote under the names of Bax, Andrew Garve and Paul Somers

***********
Vintage Golden: What (Out of Comfort Zone)
Deaths = 3 (two drowned; one hit on head)
Feb = author's birth month

Monthly Motif 2020




Click on the link for full details. For this challenge each month is assigned a motif or theme. The task is to read one book each month that fits the motif...I've listed my tentative choices below.

January "Winter Wonderland": The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill (set in Ireland, that beautiful green island that I'd love to visit one day) [1/31/20]

February "Seeing Red": Red Threads by Rex Stout (2/14/20)

March "Sub-Genre Sound Off" [Academic Mystery]: Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray (victim teaches at a Language School--much of the plot centers on the school) [3/30/20]

April "Classics or Currents" (Birth Year): Nobody's Perfect by Douglas Clark (4/20/20)

May "Author Introduction" (New to Me Author):  4 Feet in the Grave by Amelia Reynolds Long (5/30/20)

June "Name or Number": Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon (6/10/20)

July "Around or Out of this World": Death in Berlin by M. M. Kaye (7/31/20)

August "Creature Feature":  The Proud Cat by Frances & Richard Lockridge (8/3/20)

September "When Text Just Isn't Enough": Detective novel with either map or family tree or crossword puzzle included: Out of Control by Baynard Kendrick (9/12/20)

October "Thrills & Chills": Five Victorian Ghost Novels by E. F. Bleiler (ed) OR Classic Ghost Stories by various OR The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost by John Bellairs

November "Dynamic Duos": Murder in a Hurry OR Death Has a Small Voice OR Curtain for a Jester by Frances & Richard Lockridge (Mr. & Mrs. North) OR If the Shroud Fits by Kelley Roos (Jeff & Haila Troy)

December "Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice": Mrs. Jeffries & the Feast of St. Stephen by Emily Brightwell


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Color Coded Challenge 2020: My Sign-Up



Every year I think I've used up my last title with "Brown" (or a shade of brown) for the Color Coded Reading Challenge and every year I prove myself wrong (or buy more books with suitable titles). I'll keep signing up as long as I have suitable titles (I'm determined to use titles and not covers).

Here's the basic rule: read nine books with the various colors listed below in their titles or as a dominant color/image on their covers. For full details, click the link above. I'll list my books and date read as they come.

1. Read book with "Blue" (or a shade of blue):
The Clue in Blue by Betsy Allen (2/27/20)
2. Read a book with "Red" (or a shade of red):
Red Threads by Rex Stout (2/14/20)
3. Read a book with "Yellow" (or a shade of yellow):
Golden Rain by Douglas Clark (5/21/20)
4. Read a book with "Green" (or a shade of green):
Death-Wish Green by Frances Crane (6/18/20)
5. Read a book with "Brown" (or a shade of brown):
Death Rides a Sorrel Horse by A. B. Cunningham (8/31/20)
6. Read a book with "Black" (or a shade of black):
The Ebony Bed Murder by Rufus Gilmore (4/18/20)
7. Read a book with "White" (or a shade of white):
Trixie Belden & the Mystery at Bob-White Cave by Kathryn Kenny (9/2/20)
8. Read a book with any other color:
Silver Wings for Vicki by Helen Wells (2/15/20)
9. Read a book a word/image that implies color (rainbow, polka dot, etc):
Jerry Todd & the Rose-Colored Cat by Leo Edwards (8/3/20)

FINISHED!

Calendar of Crime 2020: My Sign-Up

Ellery Queen's Calendar of Crime (Signet Edition)
As mentioned elsewhere, mysteries are my primary go-to reads. So it shouldn't be difficult for me to fill up a Calendar of Crime with all sorts of murderous reading dates. The goal--at least one month-related mystery book (see chart below) per month for a total of 12 books. If you'd like to join me, click on the link for full details.






January: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers [New Year's] (1/28/20)
January: Spin Your Web, Lady! by Frances & Richard Lockridge [Author DOB] (2/8/20)
January: Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis [Primary Action] (2/14/20)
January: The Big Four by Agatha Christie [Original Pub Month] (2/27/20)
February: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton [Pub Month] (1/15/20)
Feburary: The Valentine's Day Murder by Lee Harris [Valentine on Cover] (4/10/20)
February: Deadly Pattern by Douglas Clark [Primary Action] (5/18/20)
March: Silver Wings for Vicki by Helen Wells [Author Birth Month] (2/15/20)
March: The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie [Pub Month] (3/1/20)
April: Curtain for a Jester by Frances & Richard Lockridge [Other Holiday--April Fool's Day] (4/3/20)
April: The Passover Murder by Lee Harris [Passover cups on cover] (4/12/20)
April: The April Fool's Day Murder by Lee Harris [Month in Title] (4/27/20)
April: The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris [Primary Action] (5/17/20)
May: The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson [Pub Month] (1/26/20)
May: The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald [Primary Action] (5/9/20)
June: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie [Pub Month] (1/9/20)
June: Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers [Primary Action] (1/13/20)
June: Information Received by E. R. Punshon [Author Birth Month] (2/6/20)
July: The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill [Pub Month] (1/31/20)
July: The Christening Day Murder by Lee Harris [Indendence Day--original murder took place] (4/7/20)
July: The Longest Pleasure by Douglas Clark [Primary Action] (5/22/20)
August: Death in Kenya by M. M. Kay [Author Birth Month] (2/20/20)
August: The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley [Primary Action] (2/23/20)
August: Golden Rain by Douglas Clark [Academic Setting] (5/21/20)
September: Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney [Pub Month] (1/3/20)
September: Stand Up And Die by Frances & Richard Lockridge [Author Birth Month--Richard] (3/31/20)
September: Death After Evensong by Douglas Clark [Primary action] (5/4/20)
October: Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn [Pub Month] (1/20/20)
October: Red Threads by Rex Stout [Author Birth Month] (2/14/20)
October: 4 Feet in the Grave by Amelia Reynolds Long [Halloween] (5/30/20)
October: Nobody's Perfect by Douglas Clark [Primary Action] (4/20/20)
October: Sweet Poison by Ellen Hart [Pumpkin on Cover] (8/15/20)
November: The Bar Mitzvah Murder by Lee Harris [Primary action] (4/30/20)
December: The New Year's Eve Murder by Lee Harris [Other Holiday] (4/25/20)
December: Murder at Melrose Court by Karen Baugh Menuhin [Christmas] (7/23/20)


Monthly Key Word 2020: My Sign-Up



For the last two years, I have hosted the Monthly Key Word Challenge. I took it up when the most previous host's blog disappeared. The challenge has now gone back home to the original host, Kim who blogs with Tanya at Girlxoxo. I'm pleased to join her as she sponsors it once again and I encourage you to join us as we read books for the monthly prompts (image above). Just click the link to head to her page.

January: Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney (1/3/20) [Pool of Water]
               Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn (1/20/20)
February: Red Threads by Rex Stout (2/14/20)
March: Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray (3/30/20)
April: Chinese Nightmare by Hugh Pentecost (4/18/20)
May: The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald (5/9/20)
June: Death-Wish Green by Frances Crane (6/18/20)
July: Murder in the Dog Days by P. M. Carlson (7/29/20)
August: Jerry Todd & the Rose-Colored Cat by Leo Edwards (8/3/20) [Rose = Flower]
September: Bullet for a Star by Stuart M. Kaminsky (9/10/20)
October:
November:
December:

Virtual Mount TBR 2020: My Sign-Up

image credit--ST:The Next Generation holodeck with Capt. Picard

Every year my goal is to read from my own stacks (hence the original Mount TBR Challenge). And every year I decide that there are TBR books that I don't own that I just have to Read. So--with my Virtual Mount TBR Challenge, I get to count that mountain too. I'm starting with Rum Doodle and, hopefully, I won't get too carried away with library books. Though it would be nice to say that I've climbed the steps to Vulcan's Mount Seleya....

click to enlarge

If you have tons of books on your want to read list that you don't own, then please join me as we tackle fictional mountains in the TBR world. Just click on the link above.

1. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Scott Turton [library] (1/15/20)
2. The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer [audionovel from library] (1/24/20)
3. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers [audionovel from internet] (1/28/20)
4. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh [library] (2/6/20)
5. The Beatles--Yellow Submarine story adapted by Bill Morrison [library] (2/20/20)
6. Deep Waters: Murder on the Waves by Martin Edwards (ed) [library] (2/24/20)
7. The Big Four by Agatha Christie [audio novel from internet] (2/27/20)
8. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie [audio novel from internet] (3/1/20)
9. Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg [library] (3/9/20)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster [online e-copy] (5/14/20)
11. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie [library online audio novel] (6/14/20)
12. This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila [library] (6/16/20)
Rum Doodle [Commitment Complete]
13. The Colorado Kid by Stephen King [library] (6/17/20)
14. Murder at Melrose Court by Karen Baugh Menuhin [library] (7/23/20)
15. Between the Devil & the Duke by Kelly Bowen [library] (7/24/20)
16. Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bown [library] (8/5/20)
17. What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris [library] (8/9/20)
18. A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny [library] (8/20/20)
19. The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbott [library] (8/26/20)
20. When Gods Die by C. S. Harris [library] (8/27/20)
21. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury [library/audionovel] (9/8/20)
22.
23.
24.
Mt. Crumpit

Mount TBR 2020: My Sign-Up


January 2020 kicks off the ninth year for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge and, despite climbing like mad and conquering Mount Everest on the regular each year, I still have mountain ranges to climb. And miles of bookcases to read before I sleep (or something like that). I just can't resist a good old fashioned used bookstore (though they are becoming rarer and rarer) or the community Hoosier Hills Food Bank Book Sale which adds to the mountains as fast as I knock books off.

So, once again, I plan to concentrate on reading primarily from my own books in the coming year. Perhaps I will actually plant a flag on Mount Olympus before I'm done...buy declared goal will remain Mount Everest. Please join me in  knocking out some of those books that have been waiting for attention for weeks...months...even years. See link above for details.

1. Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney [on TBR since 6/6/19] (1/3/20)
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 5/27/15] (1/9/20)
3. Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers [on TBR since 2011] (1/13/20)
4. Murder on the Waterfront by Michael Jahn [on TBR since 9/21/13] (1/20/20)
5. The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson [on TBR since 5/15/13] (1/26/20)
6. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer [on TBR since 6/9/16] (1/27/20)
7. The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill [on TBR since 5/17/12] (1/31/20)
8. Information Received by E. R. Punshon [on TBR since 2/28/15] (2/6/20)
9. Spin Your Web, Lady! by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since 1/16/19] (2/8/20)
10. Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis [on TBR since 5/31/13] (2/14/20)
11. Red Threads by Rex Stout [on TBR since 6/2/13] (2/14/20)
12. Silver Wings for Vicki by Helen Wells [on TBR since 7/26/18] (2/15/20)
Pike's Peak!
13. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett [on TBR since 10/4/13](2/18/20)
14. Death in Kenya by M. M. Kaye [on TBR since 10/4/13] (2/20/20)
15. The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley [on TBR since 12/1/12] (2/23/20)
16. The Clue in Blue by Betsy Allen [on TBR since 11/26/16] (2/27/20)
17. Betsy & Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace [on TBR since at least 1979] (3/10/20)
18. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow [on TBR since 1/19/15] (3/15/20)
19. Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray [on TBR since 7/1/17] (3/30/20)
20. Stand Up & Die by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since 7/8/16] (3/31/20)
21. Curtain for a Jester by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since 12/25/16] (4/3/20)
22. Big Bad Bear by Zula Todd [on TBR since at least 2011] (4/5/20)
23. The Grey Flannel Shroud by Henry Slesar [on TBR since 7/1/17] (4/6/20)
24. The Christening Day Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since at least 2011] (4/7/20)
Mount Blanc!
25. The Valentine's Day Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 1/8/09] (4/10/20)
26. The Passover Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 1/8/09] (4/12/20)
27. The Ebony Bed Murder by Rufus Gilmore [on TBR since 10/7/16] (4/18/20)
28. Chinese Nightmare by Hugh Pentecost [on TBR since 2/28//19] (4/18/20)
29. Nobody's Perfect by Douglas Clark [on TBR since 12/27/18] (4/20/20)
30. Life & Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall [on TBR since 3/8/19] (4/25/20)
31. The New Year's Eve Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 6/15/10] (4/25/20)
32. The April Fool's Day Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 6/23/09] (4/27/20)
33. The Bar Mitzvah Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 6/15/10] (4/30/20)
34. Kept by D. J. Taylor [on TBR since 2/1/19] (5/2/1)
35. Death After Evensong by Douglas Clark [on TBR since 12/27/18] (5/4/20)
36. The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald [on TBR since 12/27/18] (5/9/20)
Mt. Vancouver!
37. The Quotable Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Van Der Leun (ed) [on TBR since 10/3/19] (5/12/20)
38. The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris [on TBR since 2000] (5/17/20)
39. Deadly Pattern by Douglas Clark [on TBR since 12/27/18] (5/18/20)
40. Golden Rain by Douglas Cark [on TBR since at least 2011] (5/21/20)
41 The Longest Pleasure by Douglas Clark [on TBR since 1990s] (5/22/20)
42. Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran [on TBR since 12/14/12] (5/25/20)
43. 4 Feet in the Grave by Amelia Reynolds Long [on TBR since 7/7/16] (5/30/20)
44. The Gimmel Flask by Douglas Clark [on TBR since at least 1993] (6/3/20)
45. Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon [on TBR since 9/8/15] (6/10/20)
46. The Clocks by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 6/20/19] (6/12/20)
47. Death-Wish Green by Frances Crane [on TBR since 5/23/15] (6/18/20)
48. Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre [on TBR since 1980s] (6/20/20)
Mt. Ararat!!
49. Murder, She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple by Tony Medawar (ed) [on TBR since 10/3/19] (6/20/20)
50. Murder in a Hurry by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since 7/8/16] (6/22/20)
51. Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 10/5/17] (6/24/20)
52. Foul Deeds by Susan James [on TBR since 6/15/17] (6/26/20)
53. Blotto, Twinks & the Ex-King's Daughter by Simon Brett [on TBR since 10/12/13] (7/1/20)
54. The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 5/31/18] (7/6/20)
55. Between the Thames & the Tiber by Ted Riccardi [on TBR since 6/23/18] (7/20/20)
56. In Memory Yet Green by Isaac Asimov [on TBR since 12/31/11] (7/22/20)
57. Footprints Under the Window by Franklin W. Dixon [on TBR since 5/12/18] (7/26/20)
58. Murder in the Dog Days by P. M. Carlson [on TBR since 7/14/11] (7/29/20)
59. Death in Berlin by M. M. Kaye [on TBR since 12/22/18] (7/31/20)
60. The Town Cried Murder by Leslie Ford [on TBR since 3/28/15] (8/2/20)
Mt. Kilimanjaro!!
61. The Proud Cat by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since 3/9/18] (8/3/20)
62. Jerry Todd & the Rose-Colored Cat by Leo Edwards [on TBR since 12/31/16] (8/3/20)
63. The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards [on TBR since 10/4/13] (8/4/20)
64. The Ampersand Papers by Michael Innes [on TBR since 2/27/09] (8/8/20)
65. Scarweather by Anthony Rolls [on TBR since 11/10/18] (8/11/20)
66. The Murder That Had Everything! by Hulbert Footner [on TBR since 6/1/19 & 5/12/19--two different editions] (8/13/20)
67. Sweet Poison by Ellen Hart [on TBR since 11/1/10] (8/15/20)
68. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 6/1/18] (8/17/20)
69. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas [on TBR since 12/6/18] (8/19/20)
70. The Clue in the Diary by Carolyn Keene [on TBR since 10/6/16] (8/22/20)
71. Neuromancer by William Gibson [on TBR since 12/5/20] (8/22/20)
72. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 12/25/79] (8/25/20)
73. The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie [on TBR since 7/18/09] (8/25/20)
74. R.F.K.: A Photographer's Journal by Harry Benson [on TBR since 2/9/19] (8/27/20)
75. A Client is Cancelled by Frances & Richard Lockridge [on TBR since at least 2011] (8/29/20)
El Toro!!
76. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan [on TBR since 8/3/18] (8/30/20)
77. Death Rides a Sorrel Horse by A. B. Cunningham [on TBR since 12/24/18] (8/31/20)
78. Trixie Belden & the Mystery at Bob-White Cave by Kathryn Kenny [on TBR since 7/29/17] (9/2/20)
79. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [on TBR since at least 1982] (9/3/20)
80. Something the Cat Dragged In by Charlotte MacLeod [on TBR since 7/3/09] (9/4/20)
81. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson [on TBR since 10/2/97] (9/10/20)
82. The Octobery Country by Ray Bradbury [on TBR since 1980s--not logged properly] (9/10/20)
83. Bullet for a Star by Stuart M. Kaminsky [on TBR since 9/5/15] (9/10/20)
84. Out of Control by Baynard Kendrick [on TBR since 5/21/19] (9/12/20)
85. Into the Valley of Death by Evelyn Hervey (H.R.F. Keating) [on TBR since 9/11/14] (9/13/20)
86. Bound to Murder by Dorsey Fiske [on TBR since at least 2011] (9/16/20)
87.
88.
89.
90.
91.
92.
93.
94.
95.
96.
97.
98.
99.
100.
Mount Everest


Vintage Mystery Extravaganza: My Sign-Up


I am, of course, going to sign up for my very own Vintage Mystery Extravaganza Challenge. And it's fitting that this is my first sign-up for the 2020 challenge year--because this is the first challenge that I ever sponsored. It is very near and dear to my heart. I'm in for the basic level in both Gold and Silver...but you all know me, I'll be trying to do all twenty of the basic prompts as well as the bonus levels. Hope you'll join me--just click the link above for all the details.

Basic Level: Commandments/Rules/Devices (Gold)
1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926) [Rule #18: Suicide] (1/9/20)
2. Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers (1932) [Rule #16: Secret Societies--Bolsheviks] (1/13/20)
3. The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson (1934) [Rule #2: Supernatural Elements] (1/26/20)
4. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934) [Rule #14: More than one detective--Wimsey & Superintendent Blundell] (1/28/20)
5. Information Received by E. R. Punshon (1933) [Rule #6: Unmotivated confession] (2/6/20)
Commitment Complete!
6. Spin Your Web, Lady! by Frances & Richard Lockridge (1949) [Rule #12: Must have a detective] (2/8/20)
Commitment Met!!
7. Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis (1942) [Rule #19: Spies] (2/14/20)
8. Silver Wings for Vicki by Helen Wells (1947) [Rule #13: No corpse] (2/15/20)
9. The Ebony Bed Murder by Rufus Gillmore (1932) [Rule #4: ingenious device] (4/18/20)
10. Chinese Nightmare by Hugh Pentecost (1947) [Rule #5: Chinaman] (4/18/20)

Vintage Mystery (2011: Murderous Mood Level) (Gold)
1. Red Threads by Rex Stout [1937] (2/14/20)
2. Death in Kenya by M. M. Kaye [1958] (2/20/20)
3. The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley [1939] (2/23/20)
4. The Big Four by Agatha Christie [1927] (2/27/20) 
5. The Clue in Blue by Betsy Allen [1948] (2/28/20) 
Complete!

Vintage Mystery (2013: Scattergories) (Gold)
1. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (#19 Planes, Trains, & Automobiles) [1928] (3/1/20)
2. Good Luck to the Corpse by Max Murray (#21 Things That Go Bump in the Night: "Corpse" in title) [1951] (3/29/20)
3. Stand Up & Die by Frances & Richard Lockridge (#4 Leave It to the Professionals) [1953] (3/31/20)
4. Curtain for a Jester by Frances & Richard Lockridge (#6 Yankee Doodle Dandy) [1953] (4/3/20)
5. The Grey Flannel Shroud by Henry Slesar (#1 Colorful Crime) [1959] (4/6/20)
Complete!

Vintage Mystery (2016 Scavenger Hunt) (Gold)
1. 4 Feet in the Grave by Amelia Reynolds Long (Tombstone) [1941] (5/30/20)
2. Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon (More than two people) [1936] (6/10/20)
3. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie (Clock/Timepiece) [1929] (6/14/20)
4. Murder in a Hurry by Frances & Richard Lockridge (Dog) [1950] (6/22/20)
5. Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie (Blue Item--Russian Stamp) [1929] (6/24/20)


Basic Level: Commandments/Rules/Devices (Silver)
1. Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney (1960) [Rule #3: Secret Room] (1/3/20)
2. The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill (1989) [Rule #12: Must have a detective] (1/31/20)
3. Nobody's Perfect by Douglas Clark (1969) [Rule #20: A great deal is made out of tracing cigar butts] (4/20/20)
4. The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald (1974) [Rule #16: More than one culprit] (5/9/20)
5. Deadly Pattern by Douglas Clark (1970) [Rule #8: Clues not fairly shared] (5/18/20)
6. Golden Rain by Douglas Clark (1980) [Rule #18: Appearance of Accident/Suicide] (5/21/20)
Silver Commitment Met!

Vintage Mystery (2011: Murderous Mood Level) (Silver)
1. Deep Waters: Murder on the Waves by Martin Edwards (ed) [all stories pub 1975 or earlier] (2/24/20)
2. Death After Evensong by Douglas Clark [1969] (5/4/20)
3. The Longest Pleasure by Douglas Clark [1981] (5/22/20)
4. The Gimmel Flask by Douglas Clark [1977] (6/3/20)
5. The Clocks by Agatha Christie [1963] (6/12/20)
Complete!

Vintage Mystery (2016 Scavenger Hunt) (Silver)
1. Death-Wish Green by Frances Crane (1960) [Body of Water] (6/18/20)
2. Foul Deeds by Susan James (1989) [Mask] (6/26/20)
3. The Ampersand Papers by Michael Innes (1978) [Spooky House/Mansion] (8/8/20)
4. Into the Valley of Death by Evelyn Hervey [H.R.F. Keating] (1986) [Hat] (9/13/20)
5. Bound for Murder by Dorsey Fiske (1987) [Library] (9/16/20)
Complete!


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Case of the Missing Servant (mini-review)

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall is the first in a detective series featuring Vishi Puri, owner and chief investigator of India's Most Private Investigations. In this first recorded outing (he, like Sherlock Holmes, had many investigations that haven't been told), he has two investigations going at once. In the first, he is looking into the case of the titular missing servant. In the other, he has been asked by one of his national heroes to check out the man's potential son-in-law. Brigadier Kapoor, like Trump, isn't really interested in facts. He just wants Puri to dig up dirt on the fellow because he doesn't consider him a "real man" (he never served in the military--which seems to be the gold-standard for determining real men with the Brigadier). Meanwhile, someone has been taking potshots at Puri and his mother (who has learned a thing or three about detecting from her late husband) sets out to find those responsible because she doesn't think Puri is taking it seriously enough. Winds up both mother and son are pretty good detectives. 

This was such a breath of fresh air after I tried reading H. R. F. Keating's first Inspector Ghote book (The Perfect Murder). The cases are interesting and we see quite a bit of Puri's techniques for investigating--not to mention his mother's successful investigation into who might be trying to kill her son. Hall's story feels much more authentic than Keating's and is full of humor without poking fun at the culture he is representing. Vishi Puri is India's greatest detective--at least in his own mind--and it is amusing to read his self-important "memoir." I also took great delight in the the nicknames he gives his employees...from Handbrake (his driver) to Facecream (his undercover woman). We also learn quite a bit about Indian culture through a narrative that is full of wit and brilliant descriptions. Great fun. ★★

Deaths = 1 (stabbed)

The Unexpected Guest

The Unexpected Guest (1999) by Agatha Christie (1954; play version) and Charles Osborne (novel adaptation)

The unexpected guest is Michael Starkwedder who has come to Wales to visit the country of his mother's youth and perhaps buy a house. The night is foggy and he runs his car into a muddy ditch. When he goes for help at the nearest house, he finds that he's not the only unexpected guest there--death has visited the home of Richard and Laura Warwick. The master of the house, Richard, lies dead of a gunshot wound and Laura stands nearby with the gun in her hand. She swears that she has killed her husband because he was cruel to her and others in the house, but Michael doesn't believe her. He thinks she's covering for someone else and he decides to help her fool the police. They manufacture evidence pointing towards a man who swore vengeance on Richard after he ran over the man's son. (Richard was exonerated of guilt because the nurse who was with him swore he was sober and driving under the speed limit.) But when the police try to track the vengeful MacGregor down, they find that he died some time ago in Canada. 

So who did it? Did Laura really kill her husband after all. Maybe it was her lover--the man Michael thinks Laura is covering for. As the story goes on, everyone from Richard's mother to his half-brother to his secretary/housekeeper to his valet/male nurse seems to have a motive to do away with the unpleasant man--or at least to shield someone they think did it. So they all look suspicious. The police decide they've found their man/woman in the end...but did they?

I'm very tempted to count this for 1954 (for a couple of challenges)--while the novelization was published in 1999, Osborne has, according to Wikipedia, not added one jot or iota to the Christie play. "The novelisation is a straightforward transfer of the stage lines and directions of Christie's script into a written narrative." The book's play roots are pretty apparent, especially when stage directions are worked into the narrative. For example, "He crossed to the french window, held back a curtain, and peered out as though seeking inspiration." But the story itself is worthy of Dame Agatha and the fact that I spotted the killer doesn't detract from that--especially since I just latched onto the person as soon as they came on the scene and didn't really worry about whether clues were pointing that way or not. It would be nice to see the play (or read the script) and see exactly how Christie intended it. ★★ and 1/2.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (1950) by C. S. Lewis is the classic fantasy/fairy tale about Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan--their discovery of the world of Narnia beyond the fur coats in the wardrobe and what they found and did there. The book is many things: It is, as Lewis tells us in his note to his own Lucy (his godchild), a fairy tale. It is a story to amuse children on a rainy afternoon. It is a rollicking good adventure story. It is also a meaningful allegory--telling the story of Christianity in simple form, but never getting preachy about it. 

I'm pretty sure that this was the first fantasy novel that I ever read; the first fairy tale beyond short stories like "Red Riding Hood" and those found in The Blue Fairy Book. I loved the adventure and the simple tale of good versus evil--with good, of course, triumphing. I enjoyed watching the children battle alongside Aslan and his woodland creatures and being crowned kings and queens at the end. I also loved Mr. Tumnus and his decision to do what was right even though he knew it would cost him. And I adored the Beavers--they added just the right amount of humor to the story.

Reading it again after forty years (or so), I find that I still love all those things--just as much as if I were reading it for the first time all over again. I found myself still indignant over Edmund's treatment of Lucy and wishing he weren't so very selfish there at the beginning. But at least he makes up for it in the end. This really is a lovely children's book with plenty to appreciate when you're an adult as well. ★★★★  then--and now.


[Finished 10/16/19]

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Perfect Murder (mini-review)

The Perfect Murder (1964) by H. R. F. Keating

Spoiler Alert! There is NO murder in The Perfect Murder. Sorry about that. But for all of you who might pick this up thinking that this is one of those impossible crimes or that your murder mystery actually has a murder in it, I thought you ought to know. I also think you ought to know that this is (in my opinion) far from the perfect anything--story, crime novel, etc. This is my second outing with Keating writing under his own name* and I have to say that I am beginning to think that he just isn't for me.

But...back to the story. Why, you might ask, is it called "The Perfect Murder" if there's no murder and what we do have going on isn't perfect? Glad you asked. It seems that the secretary of Lala Varde, a prosperous businessman, has been bashed over the head with a candlestick. Lala Varde reported it to the police as a murder--because by his logic someone was trying to murder his secretary, so by golly it's murder. Even if it didn't succeed. The name caught on with the newspapers and such and nobody seems to care that the man really didn't die. The ever-conscientious Inspector Ghote is assigned to the case and is immediately faced with lies, disdain, and corruption.

So...I'll just fess up now and tell you that I did not read every word of this. Not even as much as every other word. Only enough that I decided that I could legitimately count it for a few challenges and I'm shoving this thing off my Mount TBR and sending it back to the library's used book shop where it came from. I skimmed to the end just so I could know what really happened. Kate over at crossexamingingcrime says that Keating is "good at establishing an interesting setting in a culture which readers can identify with but also find difference in." I'm afraid I didn't find this to be the case. I never did settle into the setting that Keating gave us and I certainly didn't warm to the methods of Ghote and the culture surrounding him as represented. And don't even get me started on Lala Varde and his never-ending need to make silly rhymes about everything when talking. No rating because I didn't really read closely enough to hand one out. Others have handed out four and five stars...so your mileage may vary.

*I have also read a couple of his historical mysteries written under the name Evelyn Hervey. I enjoyed those more--handing out three stars.

Calendar of Crime 2020

photo credity: Ellery Queen's Calendar of
Crime (Signet edition)
Ready for another year of mysterious months and dangerous days? I'm pleased to sponsor the 2020 edition of the Calendar of Crime. Just a reminder that this mystery-based challenge allows readers to include any mystery regardless of publication date. If it falls in a mystery category (crime fiction/detective novel/police procedural/suspense/thriller/spy & espionage/hard-boiled/cozy/etc.), then it counts and it does not matter if it was published in 1892 or 2020. 




The Rules
~Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2020. All books should be read during this time period. Sign up at any time. If you have a blog, please post about the challenge. Then sign up via the form below and please make the url link to your challenge post and not your home page. If you don't have a blog, links to an online list (Goodreads, Library Thing, etc.) devoted to this challenge are acceptable OR you may skip that question.

~All books must be mysteries. Humor, romance, supernatural elements (etc.) are all welcome, but the books must be mysteries/crime/detective novels first.

~Twelve books, one representing each month, are required for a complete challenge and to be eligible for the end-of-year prize drawing. Each month comes with several categories (see chart above) that may be selected to fulfill the month's reading. If you would like the excel version of the chart to use or have any questions about fulfilling a category, please email me at phryne1969 AT gmail DOT com. I also have a spreadsheet of DOBs for authors on my TBR and read list (at least all that I could track down). You can email me for that list as well.

~To claim a book, it must fit one of the categories for the month you wish to fulfill. Unless otherwise specified, the category is fulfilled within the actual story. for instance, if you are claiming the book for December and want to use "Christmas" as the category, then Christmas figure in some in the plot. Did someone poison the plum pudding? Did Great-Uncle Whozit invite all the family home for Christmas so he could tell them he plans to change his will?

~The "wild card" book is exactly that. If July is your birth month (as mine is), then for category #9 you may read any mystery book you want. It does not have to connect with July in any way--other than a July baby chose it. The other eleven months, you must do the alternate category #9 if you want to fulfill that slot.

~Book title categories: "The," "A," and "An" do not count as the first word. 

~Books may only count for one month and one category, but they may count for other challenges (such as my Vintage Mystery Extravangaz). If it could fulfill more than one category or month, then you are welcome to change it at any time prior to the final wrap-up.

~Books do not have to be read during the month for which they qualify. So--if you're feeling like a little "Christmas in July" (or May or...), then feel free to read your book for December whenever the mood strikes.

~A wrap-up post/comment/email will be requested that should include a list of books read and what category they fulfilled. [Example: January: The House of Sudden Sleep by John Hawk (original pub date January 1930)]

~The headquarters link in the left-hand sidebar will be updated in January for 2020 for easy access to this original challenge post, monthly review link-ups, and the final wrap-up. The final wrap-up link will not go live until the end of 2020, so please save your notification until that time. 

~If you post to Facebook, Instagram, or other social media about the challenge, please use #CalendarOfCrime2020.

~Prizes! All participants who complete the challenge will be eligible for an end-of-year prize drawing. There will also be a "My Calendar's Booked" prize for the challenger who fills their calendar with the most books, so you are encouraged to read more than one category for each month. In case of a tie, there will be a drawing among the folks who booked-up their year so fully.



Friday, October 18, 2019

Virtual Mount TBR 2020

image credit--ST:The Next Generation holodeck with Capt. Picard

Last year I created the Virtual Mount TBR Reading Challenge for all those folks who had asked me why library books couldn't count for the Mount TBR Challenge. It has been such a success that I plan to keep it as a regular challenge feature here at the Block.

This challenge is for folks who have a long "wish-list" of TBRs who would like a chance to tackle those mountains as well. The strategy and general set-up is the same as for the regular Mount TBR--but you don't own the books. Heard about a great book from a friend, took note of the title, and then never got around to reading it? Saw a book online that you thought sounded intriguing but you keep putting off ordering it up from the library? You borrowed a book from somebody and need an extra push to read it and return it? This is the place for you!

Challenge levels:
Mount Rum Doodle: Read 12 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
Mount Crumpit: Read 24 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
Mount Munch: Read 36 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
White Plume Mountain: Read 48 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
Stormness Head: Read 60 books from you Virtual TBR/Wish List Library
Mount Mindolluin: Read 75 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
Mount Seleya: Read 100 books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library
Mount Olympus: Read 150+ books from your Virtual TBR/Wish List/Library

In keeping with the virtual nature of the challenge, all mountains are fictional (reference in comments below). How many do you recognize? The only one shared by both TBR challenges is Olympus--both fictional and on Mars. However, since I don't know actual heights, I have arbitrarily assigned levels.

The Rules:
~This challenge is only for books you do not own. They may be borrowed from the library, a friend, found on a free e-book site (like Project Gutenberg), or anywhere else that allows you to temporarily "checkout" the book. Also--unlike Mount TBR--there is no date limit on your wish list. If you see a book that strikes your fancy after January 1 and want to grab it from the library, etc. then go for it.

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

~Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2020. You may count any "currently reading" book that you begin prior to January 1--provided you have 50% or more of the book to finish when January 1 rolled around. Exception: if you participated in the 2019 Virtual Mount TBR and did not finish a book in time to count it towards that challenge, then you may count it as your first step of 2020 regardless of how much you had left to read.

~Rereads may count if you have not yet counted it for a Virtual Mount TBR Challenge.

~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 virtual mountain.

~Books may be used for other challenges as well.

~There will be a year-end check point and prize drawing!

~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) in the form below. Non-blogger may skip that question on the form--OR, if you are a member of Goodreads, you may join the challenge there. Feel free to sign up HERE if that's where you want to participate.

~If you post on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media about the challenge or books read, please use #VirtualMountTBR2020.

~The headquarters link in the left-hand side-bar will be fully updated at the beginning of January.