Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Book Challenge by Erin 16.0



First and foremost, have fun. Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it's an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome.
The challenge will run from JANUARY 1, 2022 to APRIL 31, 2022. No books started before 12 a.m. on January 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on April 30 will count. (We live in different time zones--follow according to your own time zone.)
Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine too.
Read one book for each category.
For full details see Erin's page on Facebook (link above).
My List:
*5 points: Freebie--any book at least 200 pages
Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes (336 pp) [1/2/22]
*10 points: Title's first word starts with "C" (not counting articles A,An, or The)
The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs (208 pp) [1/2/22]
*10 points: Book published in 2020 or 2021
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (270 pp) [1/23/22]
 *15 points: Book with one of the following in title: you, your, you're, you'll, you've
And Soon I'll Come to Kill You by Susan Kelly (213 pp) [1/23/22]

*20 points: Set on an island
The Green Island Mystery by Betsy Allen (205 pp) [1/24/22]

20 points: Book by an indigenous or First Nations author (helpful link: https:www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/indigenous-authors) 
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (454 pp) [1/8/22]

*25 points (selected by Nancy): Memoir, biography, or autobiography
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner with David Fisher (278 pp)

*30 points (selected by Vinay): Book with Ace, King, Queen, Jack, or Joker in title (plural or possessive okay, variants ("kingdom" or "hijack") not

*30 points (selected by Carly): Book of poetry or book written in verse
The Pocket Book of Popular Verse by Ted Maloney, ed (300 pp) [1/27/22]

*35 points (selected by Kara Jo): Book by Jane Austen, inspired by Austen, or an Austen retelling
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (291 pp) [1/15/22]

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Murder under the Mistletoe

 Murder under the Mistletoe by Jennifer Jordan

Barry and Dee Vaughan take a holiday in Italy where they get their first glimpse of Miranda Travers. A fashion model with even more good looks than your usual runway beauties and with men swarming like bees round a bee hive. She's got two men on a string as potential husbands and a few others who'd love to shove the top contenders out of the way--including Morgan Grant who, oddly enough, she's gives little encouragement to. Even Barry feels the effects of her charm.

The Vaughans return home and forget about Miranda Travers...until she shows up later that year at the same country hotel where Barry and Dee have decided to spend the Christmas holidays. Once again she has all the men dancing attendance and it looks like she's going to add another feather to her cap by luring young Gabriel Field away from Joyce Bradley (if only temporarily). She even creates a stir between the two young men in the antique business. Major Henry Gardner seems to have her measure, but even he isn't immune to a beautiful young woman. When her Italian beau (possible husband #2) sends her a rare statue as a Christmas gift, she longs to show it to someone. But when she's found dead on Boxing Day and the statue has disappeared, one has to wonder if she showed it to the wrong person. Was she killed for the art piece or for the way she toyed with men's hearts?

I feel like I should have liked this more than I did. After all, it's got an academic-type--Barry is a History teacher who writes mysteries on the side. Barry and Dee are likeable people with a nice little dog named Bella. And the country hotel at Christmas setting is a nice backdrop for a bit of murder and mayhem. There's a decent sprinkling of culprits...though not quite enough with strong enough motives. But it just doesn't click. I don't buy into Barry and Dee as amateur sleuths. Even the fact that Barry writes murder mysteries and this supposedly gives him insights into motives and whatnot doesn't really help. It takes for-ev-er to get to the murder. As the first line below indicates, we have to start off with a detour to Italy first. And, sure, it gives us a bit of background on our victim, but not anything that we couldn't have picked up one way or another at the hotel. I get the feeling that Jordan wasn't real keen on her amateur detectives either, after all, she published this one in 1989 and apparently abandoned the murder ship. The set up with Barry and Dee and their pet Inspector Ken Graves, makes one think that a series was intended. But I think it just as well that it didn't happen. ★★

First lines: It all started in Spring. In Italy--Florence, to be precise.

Always tell women what they want to hear, when there is no fear of them taking you up on it. (Barry Vaughan; p. 101)

Last line: "Woof," agreed Bella.


Deaths = one poisoned

Spence & the Holiday Murders

 Spence & the Holiday Murders (1977) by Michael Allen

This is the first book of three which Allen wrote about Superintendent Ben Spence and it's the last of the three that I was able to get my hands on. In fact, I believe I read the trilogy in reverse order. 

Spence's debut is made at Christmas time. Just three days prior to the holiday, Roger Parnell, a local businessman and playboy, is killed in his driveway. Someone caught him from behind with the proverbial blunt instrument before he could find the right key to unlock his front door. When the milkman first spotted him laid out in the drive, he thought Parnell had been celebrating a little early and a little too hard. But the blood beneath his head told a different story. 

Spence is breaking in a new Detective Inspector and as they begin the investigation Inspector Laurel learns that Spence isn't a man to hurry things along and he's definitely not going to jump to any conclusions. Interviews always take place twice--because you never know what a witness/suspect might remember or let drop in a second round of questioning. They soon learn that while Parnell was an attractive, smooth single man with wads of money at his disposal, he was also a bit of conman....staying just barely on the right side of the law. Not to mention a bit of a cad and a peeping tom too boot. He made plays for the young women at the nearby school (but only those of legal age...) and was the love 'em and leave 'em type. He also managed a second mortgage scheme that put his clients in deep trouble over late payments as well as an iffy bathroom remodel business. There are plenty of people who might have taken offense at the way he handled women and business. But was anyone upset enough to kill?

This was an interesting police procedural which is a window on the past. There are a lot reminders of behaviors that were perhaps not acceptable then, but blinked at. The plot and narration reminded me a great deal of Dragnet at its best. It is bare bones detection ("Just the facts, Ma'am") and yet the characters are interesting. I particularly enjoyed watching the way Spence worked with the new man and the way he carried out his interviews. Allen did a fine job spreading the suspicion around so we had plenty of potential suspects in the mix. What keeps this from being a full four star book was the explanation of the motive and the actions of the killer that night. I realize that people kill for all kinds of motives that may seem inadequate to others, but generally speaking the motive at least seems to fit the character of the culprit (if the author gives adequate information on said character). I certainly can imagine the guilty party killing and I can even imagine them killing Parnell...just not for the reason given and not carrying it out as explained. ★★ and 1/2

First line: If Roger Parnell had known that he was going to be murdered in two and a half hours time he would undoubtedly have paid more attention to the stripper who was featured in the ten o'clock cabaret at Big Fat Nelly's nightclub.

Last line: "Well," she said. "Perhaps you're right."


Deaths = 2 (one hit on head; one overdose)

Friday, November 26, 2021

Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks


Lilac by Stephen Darbishire

hosted by Robyn

I'm ready for year eight! The rules are simple. Just read one book per week for a total 52 books in the year. I generally have no problem reading at least one book per week...so this is one of my slam dunk challenges. I will list my books below as I read them. If you'd like to join in, just click the link above. Robyn offers other challenges as well--including a perpetual Agatha Christie challenge and a book bingo among others.

1. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie (1/1/22)
2. Easy to Kill by Agatha Christie (1/7/22)
3. Best Thinking Machine Detective Stories by Jacques Futrelle (1/16/22)
4. Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure by Michael J. Dodge (1/22/22)

2022 Monthly Motif Challenge


Kim & Tanya have posted their 2022 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge. 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 (New to You): The Ruby Raven ~Michael Dahl (1/19/22)
February (Girl Power):
March (Buzzed About Books): 
April (Books to Screen): The Lodger ~Marie Belloc Lowndes (1927 & 1944 films)
May (Book Lovers Unite): Murder in the Stacks ~Marion Havighurst [in a library]
June (Support PRIDE thru Books): The Galactic Whirlpool ~David Gerrold
July (Summer Lovin'--romance or something light): Pride of the Peacock ~Victoria Holt
August (Quick Lit--under 200 pages): Mystery of the Hidden Hand ~Phyllis A. Whitney
September (Title Play-pun, joke, play on words in title): Read & Buried ~Erica Chase
October (Murder or Magic): Welcome Death ~Glyn Daniel
November (Books in Translation): Borkman's Point ~Hรคkan Nesser OR The Man from Beijing ~Henning Mankell
December (The Fire is So Delightful): The Saint Plays with Fire ~Leslie Charteris

2022 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge


I'm back for another round of the Monthly Key Word Challenge, hosted by Kim and Tanya at Girlxoxo. I encourage you to join us as we read books for the monthly prompts. Just click the link to head to their page for details. I'll add a few possible titles and update as I go.

January: Last, Kingdom, Girl, Dark, When, Winter, Light Window: Fade-Away Girl ~Martha Grimes (1/2/22)
February: Midnight, Never, Into, Sun, Love, Good, Spell, Search: Midnight Sailing ~Lawrence G. Blochman; Something About Midnight ~D. B. Olsen; Never Cross a Vampire ~Stuart Kaminsky; Journey Into Fear ~Eric Ambler; Plunder of the Sun ~David Dodge
March: End, Fall, Loud, Queen, Woods, Nine, Beautiful, Crown: Friends Till the End ~Gloria Dank:: Home by Nightfall ~Charles Finch; Fall Over Cliff ~Josephine Bell; Queen's Full ~Ellery Queen; The Beauty Queen Killer ~John Creasey; Wycliffe & the Guild of Nine ~W. J. Burley
April: Race, Now, Chose, While, Stop, Burn, Red, One: Now Dead Is Any Man ~Pierre Audemars; He Chose the Nails ~Max Lucado; While the Clock Ticked ~Franklin W. Dickson; While Murder Waits ~John Estevan; The Sunburned Corpse ~Adam Knight; Murder in Bright Red ~Frances Crane
May: Thorn, Catch, Black, Under, City, Cloud, Sing, Legacy: Thorns ~Robert Silverberg; Nobody Wore Black ~Delano Ames; Murder Down Under ~Arthur W. Upfield; The Singing Sands ~Josephine Tey; Legacy ~Michael Jan Friedman
June: Sea, You, Hate, Perfect, Shade, Until, Beach, Little: The Man from the Sea ~Michael Innes; Death Beside the Sea ~Marion Babson; And Soon I'll Come to Kill You ~Susan Kelly; The Perfect Murder Case ~Christopher Bush; Dead Little Rich Girl ~Norbert Davis
July: Star, Next, Infinity, Iron, Word, People, Rise, Clear: Star Trek 1 ~James Blish; The Six Iron Spiders ~Phoebe Atwood Taylor; Crossword Mystery ~E. R. Punshon; The Word Is Murder ~Anthony Horowitz; The Terrible People ~Edgar Wallace
August: Breath, Case, Hundred, Day, Happy, Language, Stay, Lie: Breath of Suspicion ~Elizabeth Ferrars; 100 Best Detective Stories ~Thwing; Ten Days' Wonder ~Ellery Queen; Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best ~Berkeley Breathed; The Case of the Unhappy Angels ~Geoffrey Homes
September: Bright, Here, Out, Life, Strange, Rule, Story, Salt: The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits: Murder Mysteries from the Age of Bright Young Things ~Mike Ashley; The Bright Road to Fear ~Richard Martin Stern; Here Is Your War ~Ernie Pyle; The Philadelphia Murder Story ~Leslie Ford
October: House, Bone, Haunt, Body, Blood, Witch, Murder, Mystery: The Mystery at Orchard House ~Joan Coggin; Secrets of the Tomb: Skull & Bones, the Ivy League & the Hidden Paths to Power; Smallbone Deceased ~Michael Gilbery; The Haunting of Torre Abbey ~Carole Bugge; Cold Blood ~Leo Bruce; The Witches' Bridge ~Barbee Oliver Carlton
November: Many, Boy, River, Fever, Down, Gold, Jade, Hill: Too Many Clients ~Rex Stout; The Ugly Little Boy ~Asimov & Silverberg; The Fabulous Riverboat ~Philip Jose Farmer; Down Among the Dead Men ~Stewart Sterling; The Golden Man ~Richard Lockridge; The Golden Box ~Frances Crane; 
December: Still, Cabin Cafe, Night, Lake, By, Holiday, Fire: Still as Death ~Sarah Stewart Taylor; The Patient in Cabin C ~Mignon G. Eberhart; The Case of Cabin 13 ~Sam McCarver; Murder by the Tale ~Dell Shannon; Holmes for the Holidays ~Greenberg (ed); Mad Hatter's Holiday ~Peter Lovesey; The Saint Plays with Fire ~Leslie Charteris

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Murder at Feathers & Flair

 Murder at Feathers & Flair (2018) by Lee Strauss

Lady Ginger Gold has opened a new dress shop in Regent Street called Feathers & Flair and plans to kick things off with a gala event. She'll have designer dresses for the well-to-do as well as well-made clothing in the off-the-rack section for those who can't afford a frock from Paris. She's also arranged for a well-known Parisian designer to give a debut viewing of some of his latest models. Everything is set for a breath-taking evening. 

There is a terrific turnout with everyone from a former German princess to a Russian duchess attending--along with the elite of British society. The event goes well, several purchases and orders are processed, the guests leave for home, and Ginger is breathing a sigh of relief when her shop manager discovers the Grand Duchess Olga Pavlova Orlova lying dead behind the curtain leading to the backrooms. Not only has the Grand Duchess been murdered, but the fantastic blue diamond necklace which had been on display around her neck is gone. Was the lady killed for the Blue Desire, a jewel which carries (as so many of these fabulous gems do) a history of bad luck for its owners? Or is there something else behind the Russian's demise? When a coded message is found hidden in the Grand Duchess's shawl, it begins to look like the lady has been playing in the spying game.

Ginger dives into sleuthing once again--this time with two investigations vying for her attention. Her sister-in-law, Felicia has asked her to look into the disappearance of Angus Green, an actor in the repertory theater group which Felicia has joined. Felicia and Angus were in the middle of a play run with two more performances left. Others think that Angus was just a flighty young man and took off for his own purposes, but Felicity does not believe that he would let his fellow actors down. She's convinced something awful has happened to him. When another actor in the group disappears as well, it begins to look like something is rotten in the acting circle. Ginger is going to have her hands full and a lot to think about...and then, of course, there is the complications in her personal life.

Her previous investigations put her in close contact with the very personable and handsome Inspector Reed. Reed has been separated from his wife (due to her romantic indiscretions) and has given Ginger to understand that a divorce is in the offing. So...why did he show up at the dress shop gala with his wife? It seems that Emelia Reed has begged forgiveness and asked for a second chance. Reed is torn and Ginger is faced with the fact that she loves a man who still very much belongs to another. It puts a strain on their detective co-op. But the duo do find a way to work together and eventually bring the culprit to justice.

I think this was Strauss's best effort at mystifying me. Even though she plainly displayed two clues that should have told me who was responsible, I managed to disregard them. Well, not entirely, I did pay attention to one clue...for about two seconds. It didn't seem to lead anywhere so I promptly forgot about it. I could blame it on listening to an audio version (I don't seem to take things in quite so well if I don't actually read the words), but I don't think that's the reason. I just didn't hang on to it and put it together with the other clue. One interesting note on this installment...it's a cliffhanger. The missing actor storyline doesn't get resolved and we're left with a tantalizing episode at the end that leads into the next book. ★★★★

First line: "You're a thief!"

Last line: Ginger grabbed at the string of beads around her neck. "Oh, mercy."


Deaths = two neck broken

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Death in High Heels

 Death in High Heels (1941) by Christianna Brand

Brand's debut mystery takes place in a posh dress shop where Mr. Frank Bevan, proprietor and manager, is getting ready to shake things up. Everyone is sure that he is going to send Miss Doon (his especial favorite) off to manage the sales floor of a new branch in Deauville. But at the last minute, those honors go to Miss Gregory, Bevan's secretary and right-hand girl. Miss Doon was set to go to lunch with Bevan to celebrate her promotion--but winds up having lunch in the staff room instead. Hours later, Miss Doon is dead from oxalic poisoning--some crystals were apparently sprinkled on her portion of curried rabbit.

Where did the oxalic acid come from, you might ask. Well, Mrs. Rachel Gay and Mrs. Victoria David had gone to the chemist's to get a small quantity to use to clean straw hats. The stuff gets spilled twice and a number of the staff have an opportunity to get their hands on some of it. When Inspector Charlesworth comes to investigate the suspicious death, he finds that some had opportunity to get the poison, but no opportunity to use it on the food. And some had plenty of opportunity to use it, but no opportunity to get hold of it. And among those who had both there are few motives for doing away with Miss Doon. Then another near-poisoning happens and Charlesworth is baffled. Another inspector is brought in to help clear the muddle and then....Charlesworth has a flash of insight while interviewing one of the suspects. Has he finally solved it? 

Honestly, I found this quite exasperating. Throughout 90-some percent of the book Inspector Charlesworth is a most unpromising detective. There are points of interest that absolutely escape him and I can't believe it took 162 pages (and another inspector pointing it out) for him to confront the idea that maybe the intended victim wasn't really the person that died. I'm not saying that's the solution--maybe it is and maybe it isn't--but it was an obvious thing to consider as soon as everyone had told the story of that last fatal luncheon. It also never occurred to him to go talk to the chemist who supplied the oxalic acid. And, then, of course, there's his weakness for lovely young women and the fact that he "just knows" that Victoria David couldn't have murdered and attempted to murder anybody. Fingerprints on a glass? Pooh-pooh. There must be an explanation. Or maybe we can just pretend they aren't there. Again, I'm not saying she really is guilty (or that she really isn't), but I don't care for watching the detective tie himself into pretzels to avoid considering her a legitimate suspect.

And then there's the pacing. This thing dragged...and dragged.We went through the evidence several times and went through convoluted discussions of who might have and who didn't and who could have and who possibly couldn't have and it twisted my thoughts into pretzel shapes. The best of the book was when Charlesworth was interacting with Sergeant Bedd (and Bedd is able to one-up him on a few points) and the scenes in the dress shop environment. I could tell that Brand had worked in a dress shop--the attention to detail really gives the reader a sense of the atmosphere of a high-class shop. I was also surprised by the ending--I had considered the culprit, but then got so sidetracked by the various solutions Charlesworth proposed and his mental gymnastics in avoiding fitting Victoria up as the villain of the piece that I lost sight of that particular solution. ★★ and 3/4--not quite a three-star read.

First line: Irene was always the first to arrive.

Last lines: "I beg your pardon, sir. The racing yacht?"


Deaths = one poisoned

Sunday, November 21, 2021

My Reader's Block Challenges for 2022


Just a reminder that all the new Reader's Block challenges for 2022 are posted and ready to go. If you're looking for a challenge to join, then please check out those I have on offer. Click on the links to view  the details for each one. I'd love to have you join me for one...or a few...or all of them!

Mount TBR for those who accumulate books and need incentive to read from their own stacks.

The Virtual Mount TBR Challenge for those who read masses of books from the library or other non-owned sources.

The Vintage Scattergories Challenge is for those who like their mysteries with a bit of age on them. Two levels are available: Golden (Pre-1960) and Silver (1960-1989 inclusive). Read mysteries that fit various Scattergory categories.

Calendar of Crime: Read mysteries from any era that fit various calendar-related prompts.

Reading by the Numbers: 2022 will debut this challenge whose main goal is to log all your books. No pre-set challenge levels. You decide your goal for the year and then just keep track of the books you read. I put it together primarily so I'd have a handy place on the blog to track everything I read in one place.

The Color Coded and Read It Again, Sam challenges are both housed at the same page. In the first, readers choose books on color names in the titles or cover colors and the second is for those who enjoy rereading old favorites. 

Which Reminds Me

 Which Reminds Me (1989) by Tony Randall & Michael Mindlin

Tony Randall of The Odd Couple fame (among others) goes on a story-telling spree. There. Review done. Oh, I suppose I ought to say a bit more. So, Tony gives us little snippets of everything from life in the theatre to TV and film. He tells naughty stories about producers, directors, writers, fellow actors, and critics. He gives us behind-the-scene views of his most famous TV show appearances, The Odd Couple and Mr. Peepers. There are stories about practical jokes and mistaken identity. If could have happened in Hollywood, then it probably did and Tony lets us know.

I read this once before (in the 90s, I think--though I didn't note the date) and thought it amusing. I remembered Tony as a good storyteller. So, when I saw this at the Historical Society's community garage sale a few years ago, I decided to pick it up for a reread. I'll just say that this hasn't aged well. Most of the stories aren't nearly as funny as I remembered and some reflect views that aren't appropriate. Tony's style (or Mindlin's writing or however this pans out between the two) is too rambling. He just plunges from one story to the next with little to connect them into a nice, flowing commentary. I think it was supposed to represent the idea of the title--telling one story which reminds him of another story which leads to another story....and so on ad infinitum. Which perhaps works better conversationally than it does on paper. 

There are things to like about the book--especially his stories about his early years onstage and his work with Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple--but not enough to make it a really good read. I gave it a strong three-star review before, but now I'd give it ★★ and 1/2 at most.

First line: There are, they tell me, more amusing anecdotes and jokes about show business than about any other.

Last line: [from a section on epitaphs] Here lies Porky Pig T-T-That's All F-Folks

Friday, November 19, 2021

Death of an Obnoxious Tourist

 Death of an Obnoxious Tourist (2006) by Maria Hudgins

The first in a series of cozy mysteries featuring Dotsy (Dorothy) Lamb, a professor of Ancient History, who quite honestly seems like the furthest thing from an academic. And this debut novel has very little to do with the academic world at all. Dotsy and her best friend Lettie are on a group tour to Italy. They plan to take in the sights--the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa--just like any tourist as well as stopping to take in archeological museums along the way. Also in the group are the Bauer sisters, Beth, Amy, and Meg. Beth is a friend of Lettie's and Meg is more like one of the evil stepsisters in Cinderella than part of a loving trio. In fact, Meg seems to go out of her way to insult every one of her fellow travelers.

When Meg is found stabbed to death with a souvenir knife just bought by Beth, Lettie's friend is an immediate suspect--until Marco Quattrocchi, the carabinieri officer in charge of the case, arrests a local gypsy who had stolen Beth's wallet and hotel room key and was found to have been in the hotel. Dotsy is convinced that both the gypsy and Beth are innocent. But who else could have wanted to kill Meg Bauer. As it winds up--practically everybody in their tour group. There's Shirley Hostetter who was forced to leave her nursing job because of Nurse Meg Bauer. There's Wilma Kelly whose activist activities have crossed Meg's path. There's Paul Vogel who always seems to be sneaking around and asking the most awkward questions. There's Gianni, an Italian local, whose blue Fiat is in the wrong place at the right time. 

Then a second Bauer sister, Amy, falls to her death on one of the tour outings and it begins to look like someone has it in for the Bauer family. Dotsy spies a piece of paper in Amy's pocket with some mysterious references on it. But the paper disappears before Amy's body arrives at the hospital. If Dotsy and Marco Quattrochi can decipher the meaning of the words, they may just find a killer.

This first Dotsy Lamb book is my second encounter with the Hudgins series. I'm glad I read Death in an Ivory Tower first. It had an academic setting and Hudgins is much more in control of her cast of characters and mystery plot. The Italian background in this one is very nice and we get an excellent sense of place, but there are too many characters and not enough information about and/or interaction with most of them. It's difficult to take some of the tour members seriously as suspects when we have so little to go on and the attempts to use them as red herrings really didn't work well. The other annoying thing was after setting up a romantic relationship between Dotsy and Marco, Hudgins has him get angry at her amateur sleuthing and things get all uncomfortable between them. Then when she has a diabetic episode towards the end of the book, he comes charging into room like a knight-in-shining armor to make sure she's okay....and then nothing. The villain is caught and Marco just fades out. It's pretty unsatisfying.

That said, I do like Dotsy and Lettie and knowing that the fifth installment is a good one will ensure that I at least read the other series book I have sitting on the TBR stacks. I also like the fact that Dotsy doesn't outdo the police or assume that she can take on the bad guys alone. She's just an inquisitive woman who has a knack for finding things out. ★★ and 1/2.

First lines: "Strip search?" Lettie slapped a cold quivering hand on my arm. "Please, Dotsy, talk to them."

The Italian love of traffic rules is wonderful to behold. Rules are meant to be broken. If there were no traffic laws to break, driving would be no fun. (p. 192)

Last line: "And I also know how to pick a pickpocket's pocket.


Deaths = 2 (one stabbed; one fell from height)

Monday, November 15, 2021

50 Books A Year Reading Challenge


Emily @ The Nerdy Bookworm is also hosting a near-book-a-week challenge. It is a low-pressure, "you don't have to complete all the prompts" challenge. Since I'm already doing one book-a-week challenge, I'm going to set myself a personal goal of 20 prompts. I may do more--but I'm pretty sure I won't do all of them. I'll post some tentative picks and update as I go. Click on the link if you'd like to join in.

1. 2022 New Release
2. Reese Witherspoon BOTM pick: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
3. Romance book with enemies to lovers trope
4. A Memoir: I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
5. Book based on TV series or movie adaptation: Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure by Michael J. Dodge (1/22/22)
6. Book that was recommended to you: The Guest List by Lucy Foley
7. Thriller:
8. Book with two or more authors: The Price of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath (1/4/22)
9. Graphic novel
10. Hyped book that everyone is talking about: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson [lots of my online friends read/talked about this in 2021] (1/23/22)
11. Book on TBR list a very long time: Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge (on TBR since about 1977--came in a batch of books from my grandma and I just never got round to reading it)
12. Goodread's 2021 Winner or Nominee
13. Book with less than 200 pages: What, Me, Mr. Mosley? by John Greenwood [153 pp] (1/17/22)
14. An audiobook: Dave Barry Turns 50 by Dave Barry 
15. New to you author: The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips
16. 2022 Bestseller
17. Book that makes you think & contemplate life
18. Highly-anticipated read: When Blood Lies by C. S. Harris
19. Summer vibes/summer read
21. Book with a cover that caught your eye
22. Book by an auto-buy author of yours: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1/9/22)
23. Physical book on your bookshelf: Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes (1/2/22)
24. NY Times Nonfiction Bestseller: An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter
25. A Holiday Romance
26. Book that gives you fall and/or creepy vibes
27. Office romance novel
28. YA book: The Ruby Raven by Michael Dahl (1/19/22)
29. Book with a summer romance
30. Book with friends to lovers trope
31. Book with paranormal elements
32. Book with pink on the cover: Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie (1/21/22)
33. Book that has a cover you love
34. Book written in text messages, emails, or other form of text
35. Book that as mental health aspects to it: And Soon I'll Come to Kill You by Susan Kelly (1/23/22)
36. Book with a place in the title (imaginary or real): Deathblow Hill by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1/21/22)
37. Coming of age story with characters in school
38. Dual timeline book
39. Book about family: Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie (1/1/22) [and a very dysfunctional family it is, too]
40. Romance with a single parent in it
41. Book bought from a bookstore
42. Contemporary novel
43. YA Romance
44. Funny book
45. Book with an animal in it: 
46. Book you meant to read last year but didn't: A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon
47. Book with winter scene on cover
48. A classic
49. Any book from a series: The Case of the Famished Parson by John Bellairs [Inspector Littlejohn #15] (1/2/22)
50. Free space/any book: Bodies from the Library by Tony Medawar [ed] (1/13/22)

Alphabet Soup Author Edition Challenge


The Alphabet Soup Challenge--Author Edition is a companion challenge for Lori's Alphabet Soup Challenge. The goal is to read books by authors whose first or last name will allow us to read one book for every letter of the alphabet. If you'd like to join in, please click on the link above for full details. X is going to be a tricky one--especially if I'm trying to read primarily from my own shelves. So--my declared personal goal is 13 books (half the alphabet). I will try to do all 26, but if I meet 13, I can count the challenge complete on my challenge tracker page.
A: The Green Island Mystery by Betsy Allen (1/24/22)
B: The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs (1/2/22)
C: Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie (1/1/22)
D: The Ruby Raven by Michael Dahl (1/19/22)
F: Best "Thinking Machine" Detective Stories by Jacques Futrelle (1/16/22)
G: Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes (1/2/22)
J: Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (1/15/22)
K: And Soon I'll Come to Kill You by Susan Kelly (1/23/22)
M: The Price of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath (1/4/22)
R: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (1/8/22)
S: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (1/23/22)
T: Deathblow Hill by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1/21/22)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The 52 Book Club Reading Challenge


I'm back for another round of Liz's reading challenge at The 52 Book Club. Hers is a low-key challenge, so there is no pressure to fulfill all 52 categories I'm setting a personal goal of 20. I may read more that fit the categories, but at 20 I can claim my challenge goal fulfilled. In 2021 I managed to pull off all 52--so who know, maybe I'll get there again. I'll list some tentative selections below and update as needed.
1. A 2nd-person narrative: Star Trek: Voyage to Adventure by Michael Dodge [choose your own adventure-style book] (1/22/22)
2. Featuring a library/bookstore: Murder in the Stacks by Marion Havighurst
3. Title Starts with an "E": Easy to Kill (Murder Is Easy) by Agatha Christie
4. Title starts with an "F": Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes (1/2/22)
5. Chapters have titles: The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs (1/2/22)
6. Household object on cover: An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch
7. Non-fiction bestseller: An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter {library; NY Times 2001 list} OR The Book of Virtues  by William Bennett {NY Times 1994}
8. Involving the art world: One Man Show by Michael Innes
9. A book that sparks joy: Paperbacks, USA by Piet Schreuders (all of my books spark joy--but a book about books? That's a bonus)
10. Based on a real person: The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes [Jack the Ripper]
11. Book with less than 2022 Goodread ratings: Deathblow Hill by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1/21/22)
12: Set on at least two continents: The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
13: Includes a club: This Club Frowns on Murder by Albert Borowitz
14: Character with superhuman ability: The Price of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath (1/4/22)
15: A five-syllable title: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (1/23/22)
16: Book you've seen someone reading in a public place: Leonard by William Shatner (picture of Frieda Tweehuysen [from FB group])
17. Book picked based on its spine: Bullets for Macbeth by Marvin Kaye
18. Jane Austen-inspired: Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (1/15/22)
19. Book with alternate title: Take Two at Bedtime (aka Deadly Duo) by Margery Allingham
20: Related to the word "gold": The Golden Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge OR The Golden Box by Frances Crane
21: Published by Simon & Schuster: The Ruby Raven by Michael Dahl [imprint] (1/19/22)
22: Unlikely detective: The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
23: Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name: Experiment with Death by E. X. Ferrars
24. Addresses a specific topic: Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen
25. Wealthy character: The Millionaire Baby by Anna Katharine Green
26. Has an "Author's Note": The Dancing Dodo by John Gardner
27. Includes a map: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (1/8/22)
28. Award-winning book from your country: Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross (Gargoyle Award for Best Historical Mystery 1994)  OR see "award-winner" shelf on GoodReads
29. Over 500 pages long: Reliquary by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Bantam edition = 507 pages) 
30. Audio book narrated by author: Dave Barry Turns 50 read by Dave Barry
31. Technology-themed: The Nine Billion Names of God ~Arthur C. Clarke
32. Book that intimidates you: The Forest by Edward Rutherford
33. Bilingual character: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie 
34. Author's photo on back cover: Sidney Chambers & the Perils of the Night ~James Runcie
35. From the villain's perspective: Moriarty by John Gardner
36. Recommended by a favorite author: Death Among the Sunbathers by E. R. Punshon (rec by Dorothy L. Sayers in her crime reviews)
37. Set in a rural area: Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge
38. Don't judge a book by its cover!: What Me, Mr. Mosley? by John Greenwood [weirdest cover I own] (1/17/22)
39. Middle-grade novel: The Body in the Fog by Cora Harrison
40. Book with photographs inside: The Castle Island Case by F. Van Wyck Mason
41. Involves a second chance: Trixie Belden & the Black Jacket Mystery by Kathryn Kenny
42. An indie read: He'd Rather by Dead by George Bellairs (Agora Books)
43. Author who's published in more than one genre: Four Days' Wonder by A. A. Milne
44. An anthology: Bodies from the Library 2 by Tony Medawar [ed] (1/13/22)
45. Book with illustrated people on cover: Luck Be a Lady, Don't Die by Robert J. Randisi
46. Job title in the title: Death & the Professor by E. & M. A. Radford
47. Read during month of November: Down Among the Dead Men by Stewart Sterling ORStreaked with Crimson by Charles J. Dutton OR Death Warmed Up by Marian Babson
48. Redo a 2021 prompt with a different genre (#2 Featuring legal profession--used nonfiction memoir by RBG): This Little Measure by Sara Woods
49. Book title starts with same letter as first your name: Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld
50. Person of color as main character: Tears of the Singers by Melinda Snodgrass (features Uhura)
51. Word "game" in title: The Murder Game by Steve Allen
52. Published in 2022: When Blood Lies by C. S. Harris

Friday, November 12, 2021

The American Gun Mystery

 The American Gun Mystery (1933) by Ellery Queen

It's rodeo time in the Big Apple. Wild Bill Grant has brought his cowboys and horses, sharpshooters and bronco busters to town and they're all set to give New York a taste of the wild and woolly west. As an added bonus, real life cowboy and former Western movie star, Buck Horne is on tap to appear. But the show has barely begun before there is bloodshed. As Buck leads a posse of 40 cowboys on a wild ride around the arena, someone takes a bead on the lead rider and Buck falls to the ground, dead. He's been shot straight through the heart and then trampled by the horses in the gang that followed him.

Inspector Queen and his detective son Ellery are in the stands and the Inspector's quick thinking closes down the arena before anyone can leave. Now all they have to do is find the gun. The police force shows up in droves, manages to search every person in the arena as well as every inch of the Colosseum and yet no gun is found. After no progress is made, the Commissioner (under pressure from various sources) declares the venue open for business and Wild Bill starts up his rodeo again. With the same result--his lead cowboy, One-Arm Woody, takes Buck's place at the head of the 40-man posse and sets off around the  arena. And falls dead in the same spot from another gunshot. 

On the spot each time was a camera crew filming the event for the newsreels. Ellery gets hold of the complete film (including portions cut from the film to make the newsreel more compact) and spots the clue that tells him who did it and where the gun was stashed after the first murder. He then challenges the reader to use the clues to find the same answer.

This is not one of the best Queen novels. The setting is clever--a Western rodeo in the middle of New York City. Populating the Big Apple with cowboys and ranch hands and bronco busters and contrasting that with the city slickers, hard-bitten journalists, and steely-eyed members of Inspector Queen's police force works well. What doesn't work well is the mystery itself. Supposedly, we have all the clues we need to reach the same conclusion as Ellery. Well--if you count vague little references, I suppose so. But, quite frankly, the hiding place for the gun is ridiculous and I doubt that anyone having actually noticed the brief little notation that (spoiler in apparent blank space--highlight if curious) the horse refused to drink any water after the shooting really came up with that solution. Add the fact that Ellery is really quite insufferable in this episode--announcing after the first murder that he knows who did it....except he doesn't know who did it. His poor father must have been ready to boot him from the case. I know I was. ★★

First line: "To me," said Ellery Queen, "a wheel is not a wheel unless it turns."

Last line: A silence appropriately enough, that was Buck Horne's epitaph.


Deaths = three shot

Christmas Spirit Challenge & Readathon


Michelle at Seasons of Reading is once again sponsoring her Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. In short, the challenge runs from November 22, 2021 through January 6, 2022. The books read must be Christmassy in nature--novels, short story collections, books of poems, etc.
Three ways to participate:
1. Challenge: Pick a level
      ~Candy Cane: read 1 book
      ~Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
      ~Christmas Tree: read 5-6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)
2. Readathon: read as much (or as little as you want)
3. Participate in both!

Additional levels for watching Christmas movies and reading children's books with your kids--but you must complete one of the main reading levels to fulfill the challenge.

For more details and to join up, follow the link above.

As usual, I am joining at the Mistletoe level for Christmas books and will jump into the Readathon this year as well since I can also count non-Christmas books for that:

1. Spence & the Holiday Murders by Michael Allen (11/27/21) [Christmas] 
2. Murder under the Mistletoe by Jennifer Jordan (11/27/21) [Christmas]
3. Silent Nights by Martin Edwards, ed (12/1/21) [Christmas]
4. The Christmas Card Crime by Martin Edwards, ed (12/5/21) [Christmas]
Mistletoe Level Complete! 
5. Death in High Heels by Christianna Brand (11/23/24) [Readathon]
6. Murder at Feathers & Flair by Lee Strauss (11/24/21) [Readathon]
7. Murder at the Mortuary by Lee Strauss (12/6/21) [Readathon]
8. Still Life with Murder by P. B. Ryan (12/8/21) [Readathon]
9. A Surprise for Christmas by Martin Edwards (12/16/21) [Christmas]
10. Murder in the French Room by Helen Joan Hultman (12/18/21) [Readathon]
11. Murder at Kensington Gardens by Lee Strauss (12/18/21) [Readathon]
12. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (12/20/21) [Readathon]
13. Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner (12/22/21) [Readathon]
14. In the Crypt with a Candlestick by Daisy Waugh (12/24/21) [Christmas-ish--finale takes place at Christmastime and the last death occurs when the victim falls over the balcony and nearly lands on the Christmas tree]
15. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens [read by Patrick Stewart] (12/25/21) [Christmas]
16. Spare Time for Murder by John Gale (12/27/21) [Readathon]
17. The Death at Yew Corner by Robert Forrest (12/29/21) [Readathon]
18. The Clocks by Agatha Christie (12/30/21) [Readathon]