Monday, January 25, 2021

Dead as a Dodo

 Dead as a Dodo (1996) by Jane Langton

When Homer Kelly and his wife Mary leave Harvard behind for his appointment as a visiting fellow at Oxford, they thought he had left his role as part-time detective behind as well. But it isn't long before before the British scholars prove just as adept at making mysteries for their American visitor. When people in college begin dying, Homer (whose reputation as sleuth in scholar's clothing has preceded him) is asked to take a hand. And, of course, the Oxford police don't mind this Yank nosing about in their business.  They welcome him with open arms.

So, Homer dons his deerstalker and begins delving into the deaths. First, a night watchman plunges to his death from a glass-topped roof. Why on earth was he crawling about up there? And how on earth did he get there? Then Dr. Helen Clare's argumentative husband takes a similar plunge down a staircase that isn't all there. It had been blocked off for repairs but who removed the barricades and turned off the lights? Then a lovelorn priest who may have been in the process of losing his faith as well as his girl appears to have committed suicide. But what was Hal Shaw, a just-married tutor in biology, doing in the Reverend Oliver Clare's rooms that night? And what does it all have to do with Charles Darwin, some missing specimens from his famous voyage, the great-great-great-great granduncles of Oliver Clare, a stolen painting of a dodo, Alice & Wonderland and Lewis Carroll, and the steeplejack's missing lines and tackle? Homer must help Inspector Mukerji answer all those questions before they can track down the culprit.

Or at least that's what the synapsis is supposed to be. Quite honestly, this is one weird book. The story has Darwin and Alice & Wonderland themes running all through it that are, one surmises, supposed to be relevant and make sense. But they don't. At least not me. In the middle of it all Homer has these bizarre dreams (both the kind while sleeping and the walking around daydreaming kind) mixing the mystery plot up with Carroll's world. I felt very much like Alice when she meets the caterpillar... Homer (or possibly Langton) had been puffing on one of those hookahs. I get the sense that these Carroll references are supposed to be clever and/or witty, but they strike me as neither.

After wading through all the Wonderland nonsense (and I like Lewis Carroll's work, mind you), I get to the solution. And that, I must say, was a disappointment. I'm not buying the motive (such as it is)--especially not in the late 1990s. Not having been told otherwise, I presume the story takes place about the time that it was published--and I just don't believe that that reasoning works, particularly given who gets killed. Now, if the [redacted--it's a spoiler, highlight empty space if curious] bishop had been killed, then I'd be better persuaded that the person who did it had the motive given. I could see a certain parallel logic, albeit a bizarre logic [quite in keeping with the whole bizarre nature of the book, though].

Overall, a disappointing read. I love me an academic mystery and I was looking forward to one set in Oxford. I have read a few of Langton's Homer Kelly books previously and while they also had an unusual tone, they seemed to be more in the line of Michael Innes' unusual works. I enjoyed both in the past. However, there are a horde of people on Goodreads handing out four and five star ratings, so your mileage may vary. ★★

*And, if anyone reads this fairly soon (while the details are still fresh in my mind) and can tell me what's significant about what Homer sees when he looks out Oliver Clare's window I would love to be enlightened.



Deaths= 5 (two fell from height; one stabbed; one shot; one hung)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Mr. President, Private Eye

 Mr. President, Private Eye (1988) by Martin H. Greenberg & Francis M. Nevins, Jr. (eds)

Greenberg and Nevins gathered up twelve stories featuring thirteen of our former presidents involved in murder and mayhem. While the title isn't really accurate--none of theses commanders-in-chief actually take to the mean streets as gumshoes, there are a number of mysteries to be solved. We begin with a story by Edward D. Hoch that begins with a secret left by George Washington in a dying message that isn't solved until Honest Abe comes along. Rutherford B. Hayes helps a Pinkerton detective get to the bottom of a murder and arson in the deep south and a housemaid with aspirations for the stage helps President Grant jail members of the Whiskey Ring. Grover Cleveland plays detective while on his honeymoon and brings a murderer to justice while foiling a few railroad robber barons' plans to undermine the union.

This is a pretty uneven collection of stories. Not quite the book of gems I anticipated when told on the back cover:

Eleven award-winning world-class mystery writers have set aside their history books to creative these diabolically clever tales...

Quite a few of them aren't anything like clever; some are downright dull; and one didn't make any sense to me at all.

BUT...there are a few diamonds among the rhinestones. The Washington/Lincoln plot starts the collection off nicely. It was very nice to see Lincoln get the best of a traitor-wannabe. The story featuring Grover Cleveland is quite good with a tight little plot in short form. And the final two tales with Harry Truman and Gerald Ford really make plowing through the other stories worthwhile. Truman takes on a revenge killer who outwits the secret service and the Ford story reveals the "real" reason behind the former president's infamous clumsiness. It's quite satisfying to think that the KGB made such a huge mistake in the spying business.

Several of these stories are based on actual events (albeit playing fast an loose with the details) which gives us an interesting look at history. It's a shame that all of the stories weren't up to the standard of my favorites. ★★ and 1/2 for the collection.


Deaths = 15 (three shot; two hit on head; four stabbed; one drowned; one neck broken; one eaten by piranha; two poisoned; one natural)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

When Maidens Mourn

 When Maidens Mourn (2012) by C. S. Harris

If you haven't read the previous books in the series, then there are spoilers ahead. Spoilers about the life of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, that is. So...if you want to read the series and have the background story unfold for you, you might want to wait to read my review.

In book six, Devlin had finally persuaded Hero, the soon-to-be mother of his child, to marry him. Of course, Hero, being the strong-willed young woman she is, made the match for reasons of her own. Now the two are working on just what their marriage will be...and just how much they really mean to each other. They plan to escape the heat of London and spend their honeymoon in the country when Gabrielle Tennyson, one of Hero's friends, is found stabbed to death at an antiquary dig at Camlet Moat. Gabrielle firmly believed that Camlet Moat was the site of the original Camelot--the background source for the Arthur legends. 

Her work as an antiquary riled her male colleagues, but were they upset enough to resort to murder? Or is there a deeper plot afoot? When it is discovered that Gabrielle's two young nephews are also missing, it begins to look like there's more than scholarly jealous at work. Hero and Sebastian each take an interest in the case--sometimes working at cross-purposes and never fully confiding in each other. Especially when circumstances involve Hero's father, Lord Jarvis (sworn enemy to Devlin) or Sebastian needs to consult his former lover, Kat Boleyn, about French spies. But the information they gather will need to be pooled if they are to discover the killer before it's too late for the boys. They may also learn some uncomfortable secrets about Lord Jarvis and Sebastian's past along the way. 

Harris has given us another fine historical mystery. I've enjoyed watching the relationship between Hero and Sebastian grow and look forward to seeing where it goes next. The mystery aspect is really well done with a good range of suspects and red herrings to keep the reader occupied and looking for the culprit. I also liked the way she brought in Arthurian legend as well as the family of the (later) Poet Laureate of England, Alfred Lord Tennyson, though she did take some liberties with the number of family members. It was a nice change to get away from the more politically charged plotline and delve into one with a more literary background. A highly enjoyable read. ★★

Deaths = 5 (three shot; one stabbed; one hit on head)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The TBR 21 in '21 Challenge


Gilion at Rose City Reader has developed a TBR 21 in '21 Reading Challenge that will fit right in with my Mount TBR Challenge, I am signing up for another challenge (Surprise!). For full details, check out her blog at the link above. Basically--just read 21 books from your owned TBR stacks. Here we go...

1. When Maidens Mourn by C. S. Harris (1/20/21)

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

 The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (2020) by Garth Nix

Set in a slightly alternate 1980s Britain: Susan Arkshaw has never known her father...not even his name. Her mother, who had her 60s moments as a groupie for various bands, is very vague about that time of her life and mostly won't talk about it when she isn't vague. But Susan is determined to find out what she can using the little scraps she has. There's "Uncle" Frank who is some kind of crime lord in London. There are a few misspelled or misremembered names that her mother has let drop in her more expansive moments. There's the faded reading room ticket--with patron and library name too faint to read. And a silver cigarette case with what may or may not be a coat of arms.

She decides to head to London for the summer to get a job before taking up her position at art school...and to hunt for more clues to her father. She's barely met Uncle Frank and hasn't even had a chance to question him when he's killed (turned to dust with a silver hatpin) by an attractive young man by the name of Merlin. She's all set to call the cops on the killer when a giant louse appears and he kills that too. And that's just the start of the weird crap that starts happening as she gets acquainted with Merlin and the other booksellers of London. 

You see, in this version of 1980s Britain, booksellers are the guardians (gatekeepers?) keeping the peace between the Old World of myth and legends filled with Sippers (sortof vampires) and Cauldron-born (zombie-like creatures that obey the will of their creator) and other magical entities. The booksellers have magical skills of their own--from the left-handed booksellers and their fighting skills to the right-handed booksellers with their knowledge and abilities to affect the minds of their enemies. And enemies there are a-plenty...and for some reason they seem to be out to get Susan. Merlin and his sister Vivien come to believe that Susan and her unknown father have something to do with the death of their mother and the three team up to take on the bad guys in this fantastical adventure.

This was a lot of fun to read. I don't read young adult books often, but when I have I've been very lucky in my choices. Booksellers is a lovely mash-up of action/adventure, fantasy, historical fiction, and a little bit of mystery. I read it straight through in one day and enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed anything in a long time. I loved all the literary references that came up (what else would you expect from a book about booksellers?) and I'm giving out bonus points for a reference to Lord Peter Wimsey:

Merlin produced a vintage leather cricket bag adorned with the cryptic gold monogram "PDBW," unstrapped it, and opened it up to receive the swords, replacing them in their scabbards before he put them carefully inside.

It's always a fun surprise to find a mention of Lord Peter in other books. Any Sayers fan should recognize those initials and know just what cricket has to do with Lord Peter. I don't know if Nix plans any more books in the booksellers world, but I would definitely be interested in future adventures if they are anything like as good as this one. ★★★★


Stories aren't always merely stories, you know. (Merlin; p. 76)

Books help us anchor our souls. Or re-anchor them. (Merlin; p. 162)

Monday, January 18, 2021

Death & the Dutch Uncle

 Death & the Dutch Uncle
(1968) by Patricia Moyes opens just after the murder of a small-time gambler and crook. The shooting occurred in the gents in the private bar at the Pink Parrot--a meeting place for various members of the British crime scene which has somehow managed to steer just to the right side of the law. Nothing can ever be proven against anybody--not against the owner nor the patrons. And, of course, true to form, nobody saw or heard anything when "Flutter" Byers lost his last gamble. Superintendent Tibbett is annoyed by the blank innocence that greets the investigation, but there is little to be done when a whole roomful of people all claim to have been unaware of what happened. It seems that Flutter's murder is destined to be an unsolved crime.

But a then dinner with a man who works as an interpreter for an organization (PIFL) that handles international disputes over boundaries and the like makes Tibbett realize that Flutter had gotten mixed up in a very high-stakes game indeed. It soon becomes apparent that someone has been killing off members of the committee which will decide the boundary line between two obscure African countries. And they have their sights on a final member who holds the deciding vote. What can be so important about a barren piece of land in Africa? Why does Tibbett have to go to Amsterdam to look for the solution to the case? And...will he be in time to save the man in the crosshairs?

This is a fun mystery that does take a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. There are a number of coincidences; Tibbett's taking Emmy along straight into danger is a bit much; and the gentleman from PIFL deserves a bigger dressing down than he gets for deliberately losing his police guardian. But--if you're looking for an escapist read and an enjoyable time following Henry Tibbett as he ferrets out exactly who's behind it all, then this is a quite decent afternoon's read--fast moving (especially after the action moves to the Netherlands) and interesting.  ★★


Deaths = 3 (one shot; one hit by vehicle; one poisoned)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Floating Admiral

 The Floating Admiral
(1931) by The Detection Club [Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Victor L. Whitechurch, G. D. H. & Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Ronald A. Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, & Anthony Berkeley] 

Admiral Penistone's body is found early one morning floating on the river. He has been stabbed to the heart and is adrift in the Vicar's boat. The previous evening he and his niece dined at the Vicar's, but they had used the Admiral's own boat to cross the river and return home. Why was the body found in the Vicar's boat? And where was he originally killed--for there are no blood stains at all in the bottom of the craft. Inspector Rudge is called in to discover whodunnit and why but runs across a myriad of half-truths, cover-ups, and missing witnesses. The Vicar obviously knows more than he's telling as do the niece and her fiance. Then it seems like everyone disappears on mysterious missions to London--the Vicar, the niece Elma, her fiance, and Sir Wilfred Denny, a neighbor who doesn't seem at first to have much to do with the crime at all. Who is the mysterious woman seen in the area on the night of murder and where has she gone? Why did Elma's French maid leave without collecting her final pay? Then there are the clues: an overcoat worn on a warm night, a second copy of a newspaper, a missing bit of the boat's mooring line, a secret file marked "X," and a missing weapon. Rudge has many (too many it seems to him) lines to follow and none of them seem to be leading anywhere definite. But he will get is man/woman in the end.

One of the first (if not the very first) collaborative detective novels written round-robin style among a group of detective novelists. Fourteen members of the The Detective Club settled down to tackle the mystery story. Each wrote a chapter after being presented with previous chapters from their colleagues and they were tasked with adding to (or in the case of Anthony Berkeley, presenting the solution to) the story without knowing what solution their predecessor/s had in mind. To ensure fair play (no adding things just make it more difficult), each author beyond the initial "setting the stage" chapters were also required to present their own solution to the crime based on the information given so far--including their own chapter. 

I could tell while reading this that the club members had a great deal of fun with this. And it was great fun for this reader to watch them playing the game with each other. It understandably is not as smoothly written as it would have been had just one of them put the story together, but it works very well as a collaborative effort. Each author's style seeps in, but overall they manage to keep the tone and characters all of piece. I enjoyed this thoroughly when I first read it back in the 80s and I found it just as engaging reading it now. ★★★★

Deaths = 3 (two stabbed; one natural)

Friday, January 15, 2021

Sidney Chambers & the Shadow of Death

 Sidney Chambers & the Shadow of Death (2012) by James Runcie

In 1953 England Sidney Chambers is the vicar of Grantchester and the honorary canon of Ely Cathedral. He is also becoming a somewhat unwilling amateur detective. The first story in this collection of six interconnected short mysteries finds Chambers thrust into an investigation of the supposed suicide of a solicitor named Stephen Staunton. His mistress is quite certain that it was murder and after the funeral she asks Sidney to investigate. She may not like what he finds out. In the next story Chambers is invited to a New Year's Eve party where an anticipated engagement announcement is marred by the disappearance of the very expensive engagement ring. His sister's new boyfriend is a prime suspect, so she begs him to take a hand in determining the real culprit. This is followed by a tale in which Chambers' doctor is suspected of hastening the death of his fiancee's mother (and possibly starting a spree of mercy killings). Then Chambers and his good friend Inspector Keating visit a jazz club in London just in time to be right on the spot when the daughter of the club's owner is killed. Next up, a more thrillerish story about fraud in the art world and Chambers' good friend Amanda Kendall, junior curator at London's National Gallery, is put at risk. The last story in the collection is about the murder of "Caesar" (Lord Teversham) during the first night of a local production of Julius Caesar.

Not entirely what to make of this. First off, when I picked this up at our Friends of the Library used bookstore, I was expecting a novel, not six short, intertwined stories. (That was my mistake, not reading the blurb properly.) I got over that hurdle and settled down for a nice collection of short mysteries.  But...I spent a good portion of the book thinking, "If I didn't have this down for so many challenges, I think I'd quit now." Especially in the first half or so of the book. It wasn't that it was bad--the characters just didn't grab me and Sidney Chambers wasn't convincing me that he was an amateur detective (of sorts). The mystery plots aren't all that strong and the "detection" of the crimes isn't real straightforward. There's way more personal drama and moral conflict going on than mystery. Lots of inner reflection on the moral consequences and what laws (whether man's or God's) we can bend/break and it still be okay or even the right thing to do. But by the end of the book Chambers (and Runcie's style) seemed to be growing on me. I have others in the series on the TBR pile, so I'll probably give the next one a try to see if my interest grows. ★★


Deaths = 5 (one shot; two "natural" [though possibly helped along, not proven]; one strangled; one stabbed)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Crimson Snow

 Crimson Snow (2016) by Martin Edwards (ed)

Once again Martin Edwards has gathered together a delicious selection of holiday treats for the Golden Age mystery lover. We have Christmas ghosts, spurious Santas, mysterious strangers who leave no tracks in the snow-covered country-side, and criminous carolers...among other mysterious fare. Well-known authors such as Margery Allingham, Michael Gilbert, Julian Symons, Edgar Wallace, and Josephine Bell appear with those who may not be as familiar to mystery fans. All but two are seriously good mysteries and Josephine Bell closes the book out with a very dark and sad tale that brings home the plight of those who left alone on Christmas. There's even one story that offers a final challenge to the reader--with the answer at the end of the book. Can you figure out Cork's secret? Overall, an excellent collection for Christmas--or any time you're in the mood for a holiday mystery or twelve. ★★★★

A quick look at the stories enclosed.

"The Ghost's Touch" by Fergus Hume: In which a schemer is caught in his own ghostly trap.

"The Chopham Affair" by Edgar Wallace: a heartless blackmailer gets his just desserts from a very surprising source.

"The Man with the Sack" by Margery Allingham: Albert Campion puts a stop to a Christmas-time diamond theft.

"Christmas Eve" by S. C. Roberts: Sherlock Holmes and the puzzle of the purloined pearls.

"Death in December" by Victor Gunn: When Chief Inspector Bill "Ironsides" Cromwell accepts his sergeant's invitation to spend Christmas at Cloon Castle, his family's country seat, he's gloomily anticipating a stay with silly party games, chitchat with people he doesn't know, and other social inconveniences. He immediately perks up when a mysterious figure crosses the drive between them and the castle--leaving behind no footprints. And there's soon more ghostly and murderous incidents to investigate. A fitting Christmas present for savvy detective.

"Murder at Christmas" by Christopher Bush: Ludovic Travers spends a week with his colleague for Christmas and golfing. While there he becomes involved in the murder of a swindler whose body is found in the woods.

"Off the Tiles" by Ianthe Jerrold: In the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an artist falls to her death from the tiled roof. Some say it was suicide; some say it was a deadly accident--Inspector James Quy soon knows it is neither.

"Mr. Cork's Secret" by MacDonald Hastings: Montague Cork's insurance company underwrites a policy covering a fabulous ruby and diamond collection known by the unappealing (to me anyway) name of Alouette's Worms without his input. He's uneasy about the transaction and follows the jewels to the Paradise Hotel...where he becomes embroiled in murder and robbery.

"The Santa Claus Club" by Julian Symons: The wealthy business bigwig Lord Acrise receives a death threat which tells him that he will die at the annual Santa Claus Club dinner where all the members (all wealthy) dress up as old Saint Nick and hold a raffle in support of charity. He asks private investigator Francis Quarles to attend as his guest and quasi-bodyguard, but murder strikes despite the detective's presence.

"Deep and Crisp and Even" by Michael Gilbert: Sergeant Petrella trails a suspicious character encountered when he (Petrella) took part in a round of Christmas caroling. Just who is the man who gave drinks to the carolers in Mr. Hazel's house? [Just my two cents...I like Michael Gilbert a lot. This story? Not so very much.]

"The Carol Singers" by Josephine Bell: The death of an elderly woman on Christmas Eve results in a long investigation to bring the crime home to the villain/s of the piece. 


Deaths = 10 ) four shot; one drowned; one stabbed; one strangled; one fell from height; one poisoned; one natural)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Reading Challenge Prize Winners!

Well...last week ended in quite an uproar in the way of news events and I lost track of the fact that I had challenge prizes to hand out. So I'm going to condense my announcements into one.

First up for the Vintage Mystery Extravaganza...this was pretty easy for the Random Number Generator. Christina from You Book Me All Night Long wrote up a very nice wrap-up post and was the my only responder. Thanks for checking in Christina! I've sent you an email.

Next up, is the Mount TBR and Calendar of Crime Challenges . In 2020, I had the largest climbing crew ever--193 of us out there scaling the TBR mountain scape. Ten climbers checked in for the final wrap-up and I've fed the info into the Generator and our winner is commenter #5 Susan at Avid Series Reader. Congratulations, Susan! Susan is also our Calendar of Crime Queen as the only responder to that wrap-up and winner of the "My Calendar's Book" prize as social butterfly--for reporting the most books read on the criminal calendar! An email is coming your way too.

And finally--The Virtual Mount TBR Challenge. In 2020, there were 34 of us trekking up the holodeck mountainsides. Three of those climbers checked in on the wrap-up post. The Generator has thought carefully and decided to choose commenter #1 Jean at Howling Frog Books. Congratulations, Jean! Keep your eyes peeled for your email.

Thanks so much to everyone who joined me for challenges this year. I hope you all had fun and that the world's events didn't intrude too much on your reading time. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Red Fairy Book

 The Red Fairy Book (1890) by Andrew Lang (ed) is the second in Lang's series of "color" fairy tale collections. Lang was a Scots poet, novelist, and literary critic who began collecting these tales in the late nineteenth century in order to conserve "the old stories that have pleased so many generations." The stories include well-known classics such as "Jack and the Beanstalk," "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," "The Golden Goose," and "Rapunzel" as well tales that I had never heard of--like "The Death of Koschei the Deathless" and "The Nettle Spinner." There are also several variations of the Cinderella story that I'd not seen before. His stories transport us to a magical land full enchanted forests and isolated castles where trolls, giants, and fairies can be found. 

As a child growing up, I loved those magical worlds. My grandma had given me Lang's first book of fairy tales, The Blue Fairy Book, and I loved it. I reread it more times than I could count. I had no idea then that there was a whole rainbow of other fairy tale books that I might have read as well. So, in 2015, when I found The Yellow Fairy Book at our Friends of the Library used book store, I was super excited. Except--it wasn't exactly Lang's book. Some dude by the name of Brian Alderson had edited Lang's edited book. And I found it rather disappointing (to see why--check out my review by clicking the title.) So...when I found a vintage copy of The Red Fairy Book at our annual community book sale a few years later, I snatched it up, hoping that this time the reading experience would be much closer to what I had when reading The Blue Fairy Book.

There are a number of selfish and mean characters in these stories--from the usual evil stepmothers to disgruntled fathers and kings. There are also good-hearted, kind princesses and princes and children who are willing to withstand the hardships flung at them by others. Sometimes, they don't even really notice that someone is being mean to them:

As King Grumpy was not used to being contradicted in anything, he was very much displeased with his son, and ordered that he should be imprisoned in the tower that was kept on purpose for rebellious Princes, but had not been used for about two hundred years, because there had not been any. The Prince thought all the rooms looked strangely old-fashioned, with their antique furniture, but as there was a good library he was pleased, for he was very fond of reading....

Hey, if I had to be imprisoned and there was a good library handy, I might not mind too much either. 

The stories here are definitely more like what I remember of The Blue Fairy Book and I have to say that I did enjoy this older edition of The Red Fairy Book more than the updated Yellow--but I can't say I'm as enchanted with it as I was when I was young. There's something about being a child and reading fairy tales that just can't be reclaimed in my fifties. When I was a child I would have blazed through this book, now it took me several days to finish. An enjoyable read, nonetheless, and I'm very glad to have found another of the color fairy editions. ★★★★

Reporter's Challenge 2021


Mystery Reporter's Challenge 2021
Sponsored by Ellie in The Challenge Factory on Goodreads
My posts on Goodreads
The challenge runs from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.

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

Cub reporter: 5 books (1 from each category) [1/22/21]
Columnist: 10 books (2 from each category)
News Anchor: 15 books (3 from each category)
Editor: 20 books (4 from each category) 
Newspaper Mogul: 25 books (5 from each category) 

BONUS CATEGORY: Pulitzer Prize Winner
(Newspaper Mogul plus Bonus Category) = 30 books 

Nobel Prize for Literature (Newspaper Mogul + Pulitizer + Extra Bonus) = 31 books

I'm back for another round! I'm going to go for News Anchor as my official goal this year and hope to do them all again.

Protagonist is in the legal profession: Mr. President, Private Eye by Martin H. Greenberg & Francis M. Nevins (eds) [several of these presidents were also lawyers] (1/22/21)
Protagonist works with animals:
Protagonist is a librarian:
Protagonist is starting a new business or job:
Protagonist is a senior citizen:

Book has paranormal element: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (1/18/21)
Alliteration in title: Dead as a Dodo by Jane Langton (1/24/21)
Title is a pun:
A number in the title:
Collaboration (written by more than one author): Death of a Millionaire by G.D.H. & Margaret Cole (1/4/21)

Set in Florida:
Set in a city starting with the letter "B":
Set in a New England State:
Set in a state beginning with the letter "I":
Set on foreign soil (NOT America or England): Death & the Dutch Uncle by Patricia Moyes [Netherlands] (1/18/21)

Set in the 1800s: When Maidens Mourn by C. S. Harris [1812] (1/20/21)
Set in the 1900s: Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal (1/2/21)
Set during Spring:
Set during Winter: Crimson Snow by Martin Edwards (ed) [all set around Christmas time] (1/12/21)
Set during a holiday season:

To keep a secret/cover up: The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club (1/17/21)

WHO: Protagonist married at least 3 times:
WHAT: Protagonist's last name starts with your first or last intial:
WHERE: Set in country village/small town: Sidney Chambers & the Shadow of Death by James Runcie (1/13/21)
WHEN: Set in decade you (or family member) was born
WHY: Accidental death

Horoscope: Pick a date that has special meaning for you & read your 2021 horoscope for that date. Read a book that relates to that horoscope.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Death of a Millionaire

Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

 Death of a Millionaire (1925) by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole

Hugh Radlett had become one of the richest men in the United States through mining concerns. He retired from the mining business (quite young) and, after a separation from his wife--in which he settled plenty of money on her and their daughter--he disappeared. Nothing was heard of him for years until he turned up in London to arrange for new mining commissions with the Soviet Government. He met briefly with his contact in England, Lord Ealing, and arranged for a business breakfast at his hotel the next day.

When Lord Ealing arrives for his appointment, Radlett's hotel room is found ransacked with bloodstains on the bed and wall, but no millionaire--dead or alive. The body is nowhere to be found and Radlett's secretary, a Russian named Rosenbaum, is missing along with a very heavy trunk. An man found tied up in a cupboard, claims to be a witness of the murder and to have actually seen Radlett's lifeless body. What really happened in that hotel room? Is Radlett really dead? If so, what's become of the his body and why would the murderer drag it all over London in a trunk? And just who really is the murderer, anyway?

Superintendent Wilson and Inspector Blaikie will be led on quite a scavenger hunt--from London, Paris, Warsaw, Russian, and back again--before they get even close to answer. And they'll have to sift through witness that include Lord Ealing, the former Home Secretary, Norah Culpepper (a girl with nerves of steel) and her father the unfortunate eyewitness, and the dead man partner, the very charming and likeable Jack Pasquett. At one point it seems as though Wilson will be beaten, but he can't bear to leave a mystery unsolved and he's finally able to solve this one to his own satisfaction.

 This was my first mystery by G.D.H. and Margaret Cole and it was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about how minor or major events can affect the fickle ways of share prices. We get heaping helpings of the Coles' views on politics, big business, and the social strata of the 1920s. And it took longer to get to the good parts of the mystery than I would have likes. On the other hand, there are some laugh out loud moments--the bit about the fleet of specially-hired airplanes heading to France each following the other, for instance:

The first was one of your men, Inspector Blaikie. The second was a Mr. Wharton, then came another of your men, Detective-Sergeant Slocombe. The fourth was Lord Ealing. He left half an hour ago, with Sergeant Merrilees close behind him.

The solution was quite a neat one too--especially when one keeps in mind that it's a very early example the type. The last few chapters are gold. I do wish the entire book had been equally engaging. ★★

First line: Perhaps you know Sugden's Hotel in St. James Square.

Last lines: "It's only that I'm not civilized, and you are. Upon my word, Arthur, I'd do it again!" [redacted because spoilers] laughed in Arthur Wharton's face.


Deaths = one [it'd be a spoiler if I told you how, though]

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Princess Elizabeth's Spy

 Princess Elizabeth's Spy (2012) by Susan Elia MacNeal

This is the second book in the series and continues to follow the war-time adventures of Maggie Hope. Since first working as a typist for Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Maggie has wanted to break into the ranks of intelligence work. We open with Maggie trying to pass the physical tests that will enable her to be a full-fledged member of the spy network after passing the intelligence tests with flying colors. She's disappointed when the powers-that-be determine that her abilities aren't up to the job--to put it bluntly, they don't think she'd survive encounters with the enemy. 

She's sent back to London where Churchill comes up with a job that he believes she will be perfect for--maths tutor for Princess Elizabeth. Maggie is insulted--they've agreed that she's got the brains for spy-work and they're sending her to babysit. But it turns out it's a much more dangerous job than teaching algebra to the young princess. There's a Nazi plot afoot that would see King George VI dead and Princess Elizabeth kidnapped and it appears that there's a spy at work within Windsor Castle. Maggie's real mission will be to unearth the spy and foil the Nazis before any of the royal family are harmed. It becomes even more urgent when one of the ladies-in-waiting is murdered--was she the intended victim or did the murderer miss the target?

I keep thinking that I'm going to like this series more than I actually do when reading it. I mean--I thought it so much that I've bought up every book in the series that has become available through our Friends of the Library used bookstore. I like Maggie very much. She's a feisty heroine who's certain she can keep up with the boys and certainly puts a few of them in their place (I love how she deals with her handler, ladies' man and very full of himself, Archie Nevins). The characters are probably the most appealing part of this series and I'll probably keep reading to see how things develop with them. When I reviewed the first book (Mr. Churchill's Secretary), I said that I looked forward to Maggie finding her feet and getting settled in her work. I guess I'm still looking forward to that...because I don't feel that the series has "settled" yet. There's not anything in particular I can put my finger on, but it hasn't made it out of the realm of "decent historical mystery"--I hope it will in future installments. ★★

First line (Prologue): The midday summer sun in Lisbon was dazzling and harsh.

First line (Chapter 1): Bletchley was a small, seemingly inconsequential railway town about fifty miles northwest of London.

Last line: "Elise Hess. I'll be taking care of you while you stay with us."


Deaths = 3 (one shot;  one beheaded with wire; one drowned)

All Challenges fulfilled: Mount TBR,Medical Examiner,Beachcomber,52 Book Club,Calendar of Crime,Monthly Key Word,Alphabet Soup,Alphabet Soup Authors,BC by Erin,Cloak & Dagger,Historical Fiction,Pick Your Poison,52 Books in 52 Weeks,European Reading,What's in a Name

Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Calendar of Crime Challengers


Calendar of Crime Challengers
Bev @ My Reader's Block
Chalmation @ GoodReads
Cheryl @ CMash Reads
Paula @GoodReads
Allison P @ GoodReads
Mary @ GoodReads
DesiRae J
Sara J @ GoodReads
Sunshine @ GoodReads
Sharon A-B @ GoodReads
Lexi @ GoodReads
Juli B
Erika M @ GoodReads
Joanna Y
@literarybelleoftheball @ GoodReads
Traci @ Title Surfing With Traci
Kirsten P
Mylene @ Goodreads
Laura @ Reading Books Again
Munia @ Goodreads
Gretchen @ Clearwater Daybook
Lois R @ LibraryThing
Joy @ Joy in Lit and Life
Jennifer T @ GoodReads
Chelsey @ GoodReads
Carol @ Carol's Notebook
Rekha @ The Book Decoder
Courtney H @ GoodReads
Avid Series Reader @ Avid Series Reader
Lori Ann M-L
Rachel @ GoodReads
Cinzia @ quatrropassisullenuvole
Joy @ A Little Reading
Bobbey @ GoodReads
Carol V @ GoodReads
Kim O @GoodReads
Rachel @ From Ink to Page
Annapoorni T S @ GoodReads
Nidhi @ GoodReads

Virtual Mount TBR Climbing Crew


Virtual Mount TBR Climbing Crew
Bev @ My Reader's Block [Rum Doodle]
Pamela G [Mt. Munch]
Jami M [Rum Doodle]
Claire N @ Mochas and Books [Mt. Crumpit]
Randi C @ GoodReads [Mt. Munch]
Krisit M [Mt. Seleya]
JenProvo [Mt. Mindolluin]
Erika M [Stormness Head]
Traci @ Title Surfing With Traci [Mt. Munch]
Mady S [White Plume Mountain]
Lexi @  lexi_rose_reads on Tumblr [White Plume Mountain]
Laura @ [Rum Doodle]
Deanie @ GoodReads [Mt. Olympus]
Brittany W @ mama_blogger_for_books on Instagram [Rum Doodle]
Beverly W [Rum Doodle]
Deborah [Stormness Head]
Melissa A [Mt. Crumpit]
Jennifer M [Rum Doole]
Jean @ Howling Frog [Mt. Crumpit]
Mary H @ GoodReads [Mt. Mindolluin]
Juulna @ juuls on Tumblr [Mt. Crumpit]
Maphead [Rum Doodle]
Mark @ Carstairs Considers [Mt. Crumpit]
Beth @ This Tangled Skein [Mt. Crumpit]
Rachel @ From Ink to Page [Rum Doodle]
Debora W @ deborahaweber on Instagram [Rum Doodle]
Rachel R @ Second Time Around Homestead [Stormness Head]
Sara U [Mt. Munch]
E. M. @ Bookish Ramblings [Mt. Crumpit]
Angel @ The Itinerant Librarian [Rum Doodle]
Neeru @ A Hot Cup of Pleasure [White Plume Mountain]
Juulna @ Juulna's 2021 Reading Challenges [Stormness Head]

Mount TBR Climbing Crew


Mount TBR Climbing Crew
Bev @ My Reader's Block [Mount Everest]
Cheryl @ CMash Loves to Read [Pike's Peak]
Heather @ Young at Heart Reader [El Toro]
Felicia M @ GoodReads [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Christine [Mt. Vancouver]
Jami M [Pike's Peak]
Carolyn D @ GoodReads [Pike's Peak]
Emily M [Pike's Peak]
Kat @ kat.louise94 on Instagram [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Sunshine @ GoodReads [Mt. Vancouver]
Louise C @ midweekpurple_reads on Instagram [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Emily [Mt. Ararat]
Sharon A-B @ GoodReads [Mount Everest]
Katharine B [Mt. Vancouver]
Moira A [Mt. Ararat]
Randi C @ Goodreads [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Patrice S [Pike's Peak]
Cathy @ GoodReads [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Sarah L @ GoodReads [El Toro]
Alexia S [Mount Blanc]
Donna D [Mt. Ararat]
Sue C @ Carey Family [Mt. Ararat]
Emma B [Mt. Ararat]
Emma W. [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Gloria G @ GoodReads [Mt. Ararat]
Taryn @ Goodreads [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Lee [Pike's Peak]
Jordan R [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Emily M [Pike's Peak]
Arpita D @ look_whos_reading on Instagram [Mount Blanc]
Linda [Mt. Vancouver]
Hayley [El Toro]
Jemima P @ Jemima Pett [Mt. Vancouver]
Traci @ Title Surfing With Traci [Pike's Peak]
Alexandra [Pike's Peak]
Samantha J @ ms.smojo on Instagram [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
V. Padmajha @ Me and My Bookshelf! [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Erin S [Pike's Peak]
Laura @ [Pike's Peak]
Lexi @ lexi_rose_reads on Tumblr [Mt. Vancouver]
Beverly W [Pike's Peak]
Sarah B @ sebrittainclark on Litsy [Pike's Peak]
Jules [Mount Blanc]
Kim [Pike's Peak]
Pernille Anette @ pernilleanette on Instagram [Mt. Vancouver]
Nichola [Pike's Peak]
Shawna S @ darncutebookreviewgirl on Instagram [Mt. Vancouver]
Tracee G @ I'm Shelf-Ish [Mount Blanc]
Courtney W [Mt. Ararat]
Laurie @ Relevant Obscurity [Mount Blanc]
Deanie @ GoodReads [Mount Olympus]
Liliana @ Lili Lost in a Book [Mt. Ararat[
Hayley M [Mount Blanc]
Celeste M [Mt. Vancouver]
Brittany W @ mama_blogger_for_books on Instagram [Pike's Peak]
Antonia [Mount Blanc]
Merin @ GoodReads [Pike's Peak]
Callie [Mt. Vancouver]
Jennifer L-S @ jenniferls1326 on Instagram [Pike's Peak]
Christina B [El Toro]
Courtney S @ courtney_sylvester on Instagram [Pike's Peak]
Melanie W [Mount Blanc]
Mary B [Mt. Vancouver]
Caleb [Mount Olympus]
Elissa I @ moma2mygirlies on Instragram [Mt. Vancouver]
Avid Series Reader @ Avid Series Reader [Mount Blanc]
Christy K @ GoodReads [Pike's Peak]
Kelly G @ kelly_a_bookworm on Instagram [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Kate @ Books Are My Favourite and Best [Mt. Ararat]
Brittany G [Mt. Ararat]
Kendall R [Mt. Ararat]
Tyleach W-P [Pike's Peak]
Tahlia [Mount Blanc]
Amy D [Pike's Peak]
Dorothy [Pike's Peak]
Lori @ Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book [Mt. Vancouver]
Kyla G @ GoodReads [Mount Everest]
Namrata G @ Red Pillows [Pike's Peak]
Jean @ Howling Frog [Mount Blanc]
Cristilyn S [Mt. Vancouver]
Christina [Mt. Vancouver]
Holly O [Mt. Vancouver]
Jenny B-K [Mount Blanc]
Ashley F @ Undirected Reading [Mount Blanc]
Faye G @ GoodReads [Pike's Peak]
Deborah L [Mount Blanc]
Kelly [Mount Blanc]
Elizabeth H [Mount Blanc]
Bailey N [Pike's Peak]
Kim [Pike's Peak]
Mary H @ GoodReads [Mt. Vancouver]
Nick @ One Catholic Life [Mount Blanc]
Taylor R [Mount Blanc]
Vonnie @ Bonnie's Reading Corner [Pike's Peak]
Haley @ Clio's Daughters [Mount Blanc]
Kate @ dreamwidth [Mt. Ararat]
Whitney L @ what_whits_reading on Instagram [Mount Blanc]
Beth M @ bibliobeth on Instagram [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Kelly C @ GoodReads [Mt. Ararat]
Krissy [Mt. Vancouver]
Meghan @ White Jenna Dreamwidth [Pike's Peak]
Maribel N [Pike's Peak]
Heather @ Based on a True Story [Pike's Peak]
Olivia H @ GoodReads [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Zoe [Mount Everest]
Julia [Pike's Peak]
Gilion @ Rose City Reader [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Redatt @ dreamwidth [Pike's Peak]
Amie [Mount Everest]
Bea [Mt. Vancouver]
Mark @ Carstairs Considers [Pike's Peak]
Michaela [Mount Blanc]
Adrea @ The Overstuffed Bookshelf [Mount Blanc]
April @ GoodReads [Mount Blanc]
Danielle C @ on Instagram [Mt. Vancouver]
Kaitlin R @ GoodReads [Mount Blanc]
Beth @ This Tangled Skein [Mount Blanc]
Deborah W @ deborahaweber on Instagram [Mount Blanc]
Rachel @ From Ink to Paper [Pike's Peak]
Victoria B @ GoodReads [Mt. Ararat]
Abigail [Pike's Peak]
Sarah Q [Mt. Vancouver]
Mervi @ Mervi's Book Reviews [Mount Blanc]
Sarah B C @ sebrittainclark on Litsy [Pike's Peak]
Laura @ lauradeardoff.wixsite [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Athena M [Mt. Vancouver]
Sheryl [Pike's Peak]
Scott N [Mount Everest]
Debra M [Mount Blanc]
Kelly C on Facebook [Mount Blanc]
Shawn C [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Holly R [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Gina @ Book Dragon's Lair [Pike's Peak]
Mandy @ latenightsareforreading on Instagram [Mt. Vancouver]
Sylvia on Instagram [Mount Blanc]
Jamie [Mt. Vancouver]
Eileen E [Pike's Peak]
Margaret @ Books Please [Mt. Vancouver]
Angel @ The Itinerant Librarian [Pike's Peak]
Isaac B [Pike's Peak]
Lisa of Hopwell [Pike's Peak]
Iliana @ Bookgirl's Nightstand [Mount Blanc]
Jorie @ Jorie, the Joyful Tweeter on Twitter [El Toro]
Barbara H @ Stray Thoughts [Mt. Vancouver]
Jenny B-K  [Mount Blanc]
Emily L @ GoodReads [Mount Blanc]
Gilda @ gilda_elise on Live Journal [Mt. Ararat]
Patty N on Instagram [Mt. Vancouver]
Sue J @ Book by Book [Mt. Ararat]
Amanda M [Mt. Kilimanjaro]
Erin [Pike's Peak]
Stacey @ Travel the World [Pike's Peak]
Nikki [Pike's Peak]
Alexis D @ GoodReads [Mt. Vancouver]
Allie P @ Babble of the Books [Pike's Peak]
Malin @ Malin's Blog of Books [Mt. Vancouver]
Athira @ Reading on a Rainy Day [Pike's Peak]