Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Nameless Coffin (spoilerish)


 A Nameless Coffin
(1966) by Gwendoline Butler

During a particularly hot June, a rash of purse slashing and snatching breaks out on Inspector John Coffin's patch in London. The thief isn't consistent and a week may go by without an incident, but just when the police think he has stopped there is another outbreak. Meanwhile, in Murreinhead, Scotland, a similar slashing outbreak occurs--but this time it's coats. Coffin is convinced that something worse is brewing and he's proved right when Giles Almond, a clerk of the Murreinhead Court, is attacked and slashed across the stomach. Almond successfully fights off the assailant and isn't hurt too badly, but the same can't be said for the missing Murreinhead woman whose body is found in an old apartment building in London destined to be knocked down to make way for new flats. Why was the woman in London? What connects the two towns? And why is an old woman the next victim on the list?

***************Spoiler ahead. Read at your risk.************

It's been a while since I've read any of the Coffin books, but I don't remember the writing being so disjointed. The narrative jumps around from Coffin's point of view to that of Giles Almond primarily, but also among some of the other characters. The way it's handled is very jerky and the story just doesn't seem to flow properly. There is a lot of potential for an early look at a young psychopath and Coffin's investigation could have been so much more interesting if the narrative had just hung together properly. It's pretty obvious who the culprit is from a very early point in the narrative. I'm afraid my last read of 2022 has been a disappointing one--though I do like that cover--the reversed black and white, pen and ink style with the almost glow-in-the dark green really caught my eye (and would be the reason I picked it for my last category in the Vintage Scattergories Challenge). I had hoped for a much stronger outing with Inspector Coffin. ★★ and 1/2


First line: Agenda for the Burgh Court of Murreinhead, Angus, Tuesday, May 12th, 196--.

Last line: So perhaps this was the real ending to the case.

**********************

Deaths = 5 (three stabbed; one natural; one bomb)

The Triple Hoax


 The Triple Hoax (1979) Carolyn Keene

Nancy, Bess, and George go to New York City to investigate a swindle that has been perpetrated against one of Aunt Eloise Drew's friends. A man posing as a travel agent sold her tickets and hotel reservations to the tune of $3,000, but the tickets were phony and so were the reservations. They learn that Mrs. Richards had attended a magic show put on by a group called the Hoaxters and that part of the show involves asking audience members to come on stage to observe the tricks more closely. While up there, possessions such as wallets, purses, and the like are removed and not returned until the end of the show. Nancy is sure the Hoaxters are up to no good. It isn't long before she's proved right and finds herself on a cross-country trip to bring the con men (and women) to justice. The mystery involves fraud, a stolen ancient vial of poison, and a kidnapped child. But Nancy is quick to pick up the clues that lead to the villains' ultimate hide-out.

I know I enjoyed this one when I was young, but middle-age me wonders how on earth Nancy, Bess, and George (in their late teens) can just flit off to NYC and then Mexico City and then Los Angeles at the drop of the hat. There was an effort to make it realistic by having Mr. Fayne put up a bit of protest about cost when the girls want to take off to Mexico, but it didn't take long for George to jolly him into upping her allowance so she can go (what kind of allowance lets a person fly to NYC, let alone any of the other places?). The mystery itself was good. The plans of the con men actually made sense and reflected actual con jobs that have occurred in real life. So, I enjoyed the mystery and visiting with Nancy and friends again--Ned, Burt, and Dave show up for the grand finale in L.A. But I can't say that this one stands out as a favorite. ★★ for a middle-of-the-road ND mystery.

First line: "Dad! Aunt Eloise wants me to come to New York immediately to solve a mystery!" eighteen-year-old Nancy Drew called out excitedly.

Last line: As he presented it to her, there was loud applause, a standing ovation, and wild cheering from Nancy's many admirers.

****************

Deaths = one natural



Friday, December 30, 2022

Murder Impossible


 Murder Impossible (1990) by Jack Adrian & Robert Adey, eds.

As with so many short story collections, this is a mixed bag--ranging from brilliant solutions, to big let-downs (especially after the build-up in the introductions given by our editors) to just plain silly parodies. The best (those rated *****) are true impossible crimes with absolutely terrific solutions and, quite often, a nifty little twist at the end. My favorites are "Coffee Break," "Proof of Guilt," "Now You See Her," and "The Blind Spot." Of those that garnered four stars, Carr's "The House in Goblin Wood" is quite good with a rather macabre solution. Overall ★★ and 1/2 for whole collection.

"The House in Goblin Wood" by John Dickson Carr: When Vicky Adams was small, she disappeared from a locked cottage and then magically reappeared. Now, twenty years later, it's happened again--right under the now of Sir Henry Merrivale. Is it just a trick or has something more sinister happened this time? (one stabbed) ****

"The Other Side" by Hake Talbot: Rogan Kinkaid and his friend Svetozar Vok (a magician) must prove that a charlatan priest has shot a young woman's guardian through a solid wall--leaving no bullet hole. (one shot) ***

"The Courtyard of the Fly" by Vincent Cornier: A mystery concerning a huge fly that manages to steal a rope of pearls weighing a quarter of a pound. Constable Hamilton--first on the spot--spends years trying to get to unravel the puzzle of how the deed was done.****

"Coffee Break" by Arthur Porges: History and Philosophy of Science Professor Emeritus Ulysses Price Middlebie works with Sergeant Black to plumb the mystery of Cyrus Denning's apparent suicide. He seems to have poisoned himself with cyanide inside his locked cabin turned laboratory. Not only was the cabin locked, but the window was nailed shut and the door under observation during the crucial period. If it was murder, how was it done? (one poisoned) *****

"Bullion!" by W.  Hope Hodgson: Gold bullion safely stashed in chests within a locked room on ship bound for London from Melbourne manages to disappear. Strange deaths by "just sickening and going off" and mysterious late-night whisperings haunt the ship. The second mate realizes just in time what it all means. (two poisoned) *** 1/2

"Proof of Guilt" by Bill Pronzini: George Dillon has a meeting with a lawyer named Adam Chillingham. The two go into Chillingham's office, there is a shot fired, and Dillon, when the clerk comes to the locked door, opens the door and calmly tells the clerk that Chillingham has been shot--supposedly while leaning out the window. When it's discovered that Chillingham, executor of Dillon's father's estate, had embezzled a large portion of the money, it seems clear that Dillon must have killed him. But how? There's no gun in the room--nor anywhere outside the room. (one shot; one heart attack) *****

"An Absence of Air" by Jacques Futrelle: Miss Violet Danbury is dead in her hotel room--to all appearances she committed suicide by poison. Except there is no poison found at the autopsy. What is found is an absence of any air in her lungs as if something had sucked all the air out of her. But what could do that? The Thinking Machine, Professor Van Dusen will find out. But not until after a longshoreman is found dead in the same manner. (three suffocated) ****

"The Impossible Theft" by John F. Suter: A man bets his old schoolmate, who collects rare letters and memoranda by famous historical figures, that he can remove one of the items from the man's strong room within 15 minutes of being left alone in the room. If he wins the collector must donate $50,000 to a hospital in need. With all the safeguards, it seems impossible.... ***

"It's a Dog's Life" by John Lutz: Private detective Morgan has a four-legged side-kick by the name of Sam. When Carl Creel is killed and the gun goes goes missing, Sam is the one who finds the weapon which had seemingly vanished into thin air. (one shot) ***

"The Death of Cyrus Pettigrew" by Sax Rohmer: Dr. Saxham and our narrator investigate the mysterious poisoning of Cyrus Pettigrew. Pettigrew and his niece were locked in a first-class train compartment--no one else entered and the man was found poisoned with puncture wounds in his arm. The police suspect the niece who stands to inherit a tidy sum. But how did she do it? No instrument was found in the compartment. (two poisoned) ***

"Ghost in the Gallery" by Joseph Commings: Linda Carewe has had enough of her odious husband and dumps some grains of arsenic in his milk. But...she always said he was the Devil and maybe he made a pact with the demon because she and her lover Borden Argyll start seeing what they think is Carewe's ghost. When it appears that the ghost has killed Argyll's model (he's an artist), they ask Senator Banner to investigate. (one hit on head; one hanged) *** 1/2

"The Missing Romney" by Edgar Wallace: Four Square Jane, a somewhat latter-day Robin Hood, manages to steal a famous painting from a closely guarded display room--all in order to get a sizeable donation for a children's hospital. ***

"The House of Screams" by Gerald Findler: A man rents a county place in England in order to get away from it all and to write his book in peace and quiet. But apparently a ghost has other ideas and after spending a sleepless night listening to horrific screams, he discovers skeletal remains in locked room in the attic. (one natural; one poisoned) ***

"The Impossible Murder" by Edward D. Hoch: Captain Leopold must discover how a dead man could drive a car in a traffic jam and whether his murder has anything to do with his father's death 30 years ago. (one strangled; one shot) *** 1/2

"A Nineteenth Century Debacle" by George Locke: A Holmes pastiche about a man who seems to have been killed twice--at the exact same moment. This one fell a little flat for me--pun jolly well intended. (one fell from height) *

"A Razor in Fleet Street" by John Dickson Carr: Bill Leslie, American, and his British wife visit London together for the first time. Bill has romantic expectations of England--from foggy streets to street music to Scotland Yard inspectors with bowler hats. And England seems to have rolled out all the nostalgic bits just for him. But when he winds up mixed up in a murder and meets a real (bowler-hatted) inspector...it's not quite so romantic anymore. (one stabbed) *** 1/2

"Dinner at Garibaldi's" by Leonard Pruyn: How could a man who dined three times a day at a gourmet restaurant die of malnutrition? (one starved to death) **

"The Hanging Rope" by Joel Townsely Rogers: Tuxedo Johnny, a former cop who worked for old Dan McCue and Big Bat O'Brien of homicide are trying to figure out how McCue's killer (who also knocked off Kitty Kane in the same apartment) managed to get out of a locked apartment with Johnny and another ex-cop right there and the janitor for the building camped out at the bottom of the fire escape. (one hit on head; one throat cut; one blood poisoning; one drowned; one fell from height) * [I just don't seem to get on with Rogers. There are lots of folks who think his The Red Right Hand is all that and I....didn't. This short novella reads very weirdly (and I think the effect is on purpose) and the killer seemed to have a neon "It's me!" glow around them every time they were on the page. So...the "awe-inspiring twist" that Jack Adrian describes in his intro to the piece wasn't.]

"Now You See Her" by Jeffrey Wallman: A woman reports a man in the neighboring building as a Peeping Tom. He sits with his binoculars trained on her window all the time--never seems to move Two detectives come and keep him under observations...meanwhile, the woman's closest friend has disappeared and the detectives are convinced her husband did her in. But what did he do with the body? (one strangled) ***** This story had the surprise ending that Rogers's tale didn't.

"The Blind Spot" by Barry Perowne (Philip Atkey): Mr. James Annixter, playwright, devises the perfect locked room murder plot for the play he's writing, but forgets the solution when in a drunken stupor he gets hit by a taxi. He spends his time after recovery looking for the man in the bar...the only other person who knows the solution. When he finds him, the man claims he's never seen James before in his life. (two stabbed) ***** Another with an absolutely terrific ending.

"Chapter the Last: Merriman Explains" by Alex Atkinson: Pure parody of Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr) and the style of mysteries in his Merrivale books. *** Fun, but not really a mystery.

First line (1st story): IN Pall Mall, that hot July afternoon three years before the war, an open saloon car was drawn up to the kerb just opposite the Senior Conservatives' Club.

Last line (last story): As I groped my way down the back stairs, I reflected sadly that this would probably go down in history as Merriman's Last Case.

My Life in Books: End of 2022

(Not the books read this year)

Before I do my more official (stat-oriented) year-end wrap-up, I thought I'd go ahead and do one with a bit more whimsy to it. Besides, there's still a day and a half to go and I'm hoping to finish one and a half more books to finish off my last reading challenge, so I can't do the official wrap-up yet.

Here's what reading on the Block looked like using titles to fill in the prompts.....

Describe myself: (a) Witness for the Prosecution (by Agatha Christie)

How do I feel: Read & Buried (by Erika Chase)

Describe where I currently live: Where Two Ways Met (by Grace Livingston Hill)

If I could go anywhere, where I would go: (to) The Old English Peep Show by Peter Dickinson

My favorite form of transportation: Midnight Sailing (by Lawrence G. Blcohman)

My best friend(s) is/are (the): Fadeaway Girl (by Martha Grimes)

My friends and I are: The Ghost Finders (by Adam McOmber)

What's the weather like: The Mist in the Mirror (by Susan Hill)

Favorite Time of Day: Home by Nightfall (by Charles Finch)

What is life to me: Brand Spanking New Day (by Berkeley Breathed)

My fear: Flying Too High (by Kerry Greenwood)

What is the best advice I have to give: Always Lock Your Bedroom Door (by Roy Winsor)

Thought for the day: The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions (by Kerry Greenwood)

How I would like to die: Slow Dancing with the Angel of Death by (Helen Chappell)

My soul's present condition: Be Holding (by Ross Gay)

One time at band/summer camp, I: (rode) The Pale Horse (by Agatha Christie)

Weekends at my house are: (all about reading) Eight Perfect Murders (by Peter Swanson)

My neighbor is: The Man in the Moonlight (by Helen McCloy)

My ex was: (an example of) Striding Folly (by Dorothy L. Sayers)

My superhero secret identity is: The Black Hand (by Will Thomas)

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because: I am The Devil in Music (by Kate Ross)

I’d win a gold medal in: The Murder Game (by Steve Allen --or at least at a game of reading mysteries)

I’d pay good money for: The Attenbury Emeralds (by Jill Paton Walsh)

If I were president, I would: [ask] What Just Happened (by Charles Finch_

When I don’t have good books: [there is] A Scream in Soho (by John G. Brandon)

Loud talkers at the movies should: [suffer] The Curse of the Fleers (by Basil Copper)

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Mystery Reporter's Challenge

 


Mystery Reporter's Challenge 2023 is sponsored by Ellie in The Challenge Factory on Goodreads.

My post in the challenge: HERE

Who? What? When? Where? Why?\
How--In a cozy chair with a hot cup of cocoa and a box of bonbons!

I'll be going for the Columnist level (2 books from each basic category) and hoping to complete them all.

Cub Reporter: 5 books (one from each category) Complete 1/30/23
Columnist: 10 books (two from each)
News Anchor: 15 books (three from each)
Editor: 20 books (four from each)
Newspaper Mogul: 25 books (all five from each)

Bonus Category:
Pulitzer Prize Winner = Newspaper Mogul plus bonus categories (30 books)

Extra Bonus Category
Nobel Prize for Literature = Pulitzer plus final bonus category (31 books)

WHO
Protagonist is starting a new business/career: Swing Low, Swing Death by R. T. Campbell (1/17/23)
Side Character is a dead person (ghost, vampire, zombie, etc.):
Animal Character who talks to the protagnoist:
Villain is introduced by Chapter 2: The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson (1/7/23)
Character who exercises regularly:

WHAT
Color in the title: The Crimson Clue by George Harmon Coxe (1/30/23)
Dessert in the title:
Title is at least six words:
Title starts with any letter in your last name:
Title is a play on words:

WHERE:
Set in New England State:
Set on an island:
Set in a state that starts with a vowel:
Set on a farm: Mysterious Invitation by Bernice Bloom (1/26/23)
Set on foreign soil (NOT USA/England): The Dante Game by Jane Langton [Italy] (1/13/23)


WHEN
1800s or earlier:
1900s: The Angry Heart by Leslie Edgley (1/21/23)
During a celebration:
During winter:
During a holiday:

WHY
Money/Greed:
Jealousy:
Revenge:
"Love": Beauty Marks the Spot by Kelley Roos (1/7/23)
To keep a secret/cover up: A Gentleman's Murder by Christopher Huang (1/22/23)

BONUS--PULITZER PRIZE
WHO--Protagonist has/works with unusual pet/animals:
WHAT--Exactly one word title:
WHERE--Set in a big city
WHEN--During a storm:
WHY--Accidental death:

EXTRA BONUS--NOBEL PRIZE
Horoscope: Pick a horoscope from the 24th of any month and read a book related to the horoscope.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Sweet Poison


 Sweet Poison (1970) by Douglas Clark

Fay Partridge wasn't much liked at the Throstlecombe Holiday Camp in Devon. She had been a "no better than she should be" second wife to the late Claud Partridge. Some called her no better than a tart. She was self-absorbed and in it for the money and good times. Claud and his first wife and their two daughters had built the Holiday Camp up from nothing to a thriving business. The daughters expected to inherit when daddy passed on, but his bumbling attempt at a self-made will left the earnings from the camp to Fay Partridge for her lifetime. And she planned to live as long as possible and squeeze out every penny she could. So the daughters and their husbands weren't exactly fond of their step-mama. Mr. Compton, the manager of the Holiday Camp, also resented the way the second Mrs. Partridge ran the business (or tried to run it into the ground, as he saw it). She interfered with his management in ways that Claud and his first wife never did. She thwarted him at every turn...and elbowed the girls out of their rightful inheritance. And the local doctors (a husband and wife team) had cause to dislike Fay as well. She cancelled their contract as chief medicos for the camp, which put an end to a nice, guaranteed stipend.

Somebody decided that it might be better if she didn't live as long as she had planned--and most likely it was one of these seven. Though only in her thirties, she died suddenly from toxic necrosis of the liver...most unusual in someone her age. And her two prized poodles succumbed to the same ailment that same day. Apparently all three were poisoned, but the difficulty is to prove it. The post-mortem and examinations of the dogs reveal none of the standard signs of poisoning of any sort. The doctors are stumped and so are the local police. 

So, Detective Chief Inspector George Masters, Inspector Bill Green, and the team from Scotland Yard head to Devon to investigate. Masters has quite the reputation for unraveling the thorniest problems and he'll need everyone's help in gathering the clues that point to what kind of poison, how it was delivered, and by whom. Bill Green will get to spend time interviewing the rather comely Dr. Meg Meeth and Sergeants Brant and Hill will get to dress up as cowboys and mingle among the guests at a fancy dress ball all in the line of duty--gathering up evidence for their Chief. Masters takes an inordinate personal interest in some perfumed decorations in Fay's rooms never thinking that they might lead him to part of the solution (this isn't necessarily the spoiler you might think it is).

Another enjoyable plot from Douglas Clark. He excelled at interesting murder methods and I'm quite sure that this one was even more interesting at the time it was written. Simply because the method was a fairly new innovation (can't get detailed here or it will spoil things) that we take for granted nowadays. I vaguely remember commercials making a big deal of the innovation back in the 70s. So, I'm sure readers at the time would have been even more surprised at the reveal. One thing that confused me was Masters' hang-up on the word "dessert"--especially since the man knows what phrases mean in various dialects around England (and displays the ability in this very story). I recognized what our victim was referring to immediately, though I didn't quite make the connections Masters did once he finally came round to the right connotation.

This is the fourth in the series and Masters and Green still aren't completely comfortable with one another, but we can see the development of the mutual respect that will prevail in later books. Green is pleasantly surprised to receive a "well done" over a particularly helpful bit of detecting. And Masters is really beginning to appreciate his inspector's differing viewpoint. Clark provides a good view of the teamwork that goes into a successful police investigation.  ★★  and 1/2.

First lines: The first Thursday in July. A growing rain falling.

Last line: "I think you're right. Your sergeants say you usually are."

******************

Deaths = 5 (three natural; one shot; one poisoned)


Monday, December 26, 2022

Christmas at the Block

 Christmas is almost over here at the Block. We've opened all the wrapped presents under the tree....but I do have some Christmas cash to spend. I'm not quite sure how soon I'll get the Christmas cash presents delivered so we'll display any bookish purchases in all their glory at a later date. For now let's see what the Santas in my life have added to the Hankins Library...

Up first (in order of opening), a Secret Santa gift from Lisa LaPlante at work--a collection of book-themed Golden Age short stories reprinted by the British Library Crime Classics:



Next Secret Santa gifts from Michelle's True Book Addict Bookish Secret Santa exchange. A lovely Golden Age mystery reprint and an Agatha Christie jigsaw puzzle as well as a light-up, musical "Nutcracker" card from Lucy Pollard Gott.



From my own personal Santas--husband and son--I received three pulp-era, digest-sized mysteries, a collection of Zebra Puzzlers (mysteries designed so readers have clues in both the text and in illustrations which should allow them to solve the mystery before the big reveal) and five Unicorn Mystery Book Club editions with four stories each.

These two are from Kyle




And, finally, from my Golden Age Detective Secret Santa (aka the other Brad), a Christmas-themed Joan Coggin, a Carter Dickson with Christmas Red in the title, an Inspector West mystery by John Creasey, and a trio of pulp-era, digest-sized books (including a Mapback!).



The Ultimate Reader's Block Challenge Wrap-Up



 Last year, I decided that rather than post wrap-up links for each challenge, I would have a one-stop shopping plan. If you participated in any of the Reader's Block challenges, then you may submit your wrap-up posts here. The linky will be open until Friday, January 6th. At that time I will pick random winners* from all the challenges to select a prize from the prize vault. If you have participated in more than one challenge, you are welcome to submit a separate wrap-up post for each challenge and earn yourself an entry for every challenge. (*Number of winners will depend on where winners are from--I don't want to exclude my friends from outside the US, but shipping costs won't allow me to do many of those.)


Please list your name in the following manner (especially if you've got more than one entry): 

Name (challenge name) [example-- Bev@My Reader's Block (Vintage Scattergories)]

If you don't blog and don't have an URL to link up, you may post your wrap-ups in comments below (one comment per challenge) and I'll add you into the drawing. I will keep my eye on the entries and enter everyone onto a spread sheet in the order I see the entries appear. That order will determine the number for the random number generator to select.


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Candle Shop Mystery


 The Candle Shop Mystery (1967) by Eileen Hill

During Christmas break Robin, her brother Kevin, and friends Mindy & Michael visit an old Spanish neighborhood in Los Angeles at the behest of Mindy's friend Pilar. Something strange is going on at the local candle shop--long owned by Senor Garcia and now operated on his behalf by the Lodato family. At first the family was very friendly and open, but now they have banished Senor Garcia from his own backroom and act very suspicious and afraid. Pilar is sure that the son, Ramon, wants to confide in her but he's too afraid. When she visits Mindy and hears stories about the mysteries that Robin has solved in the past, she asks her new friends to come to Olvera Street and help find out what's wrong at the candle shop. There is a small fire in the shop and a mysterious man with a pin-striped suit hanging around--not to mention his friend with the eyepatch. When Robin finds a shard of pottery in the ashes from the fire, she's more than half-way to finding the solution.

My first Robin Kane story. She's made in the standard girl detective mode and a little bit younger than Nancy Drew. Somewhere between Nancy and Trixie Belden--Mindy's father is wealthy enough to purchase a hydroplane of his own and the story opens with Robin helping her mother make curtains. I get a bit of a Trixie/Honey vibe with a charming mystery from the late '60s. Not an intricate plot, but fun and with a little bit of danger/action--just enough to make it adventurous for young readers, but not too violent. It also provides a look at some Spanish/Mexican Christmas traditions that lets us see how others celebrate the season. It was a nice low-key read for the holiday season. ★★ 

First Line: Robin Kane, sitting cross-legged on the window seat in her bedroom, was struggling to sew a hem in the new curtains she and her mother were making

Last Line: The sounds of happy voices followed Robin and the others as they left Olvera Street, sounds they would remember for a long time to come.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

 


I've been anxiously awaiting the new Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge for 2023. I first found Gregory's challenge in 2020 and have enjoyed the prompts that he devises.  As I have in the past, I'm going to commit to a Baker's Dozen (13 books). I'll probably do more, but my commitment will be met at 13.

Standards
~A classic
~A mystery
~A historical fiction book
~A thriller

Lost & Found
~Book about a missing person: Mysterious Invitation by Bernice Bloom (1/27/23)
~Book about a civilization that no longer exists
~Book about self-discovery
~Book you find on your TBR list

Hobbies
~Book about a hobby you do or would like to do
~Cozy mystery with hobby-related pun title
~Memoir/Biography about someone with unusual hobby
~Book from your "collection": The Crimson Clue by George Harmon Coxe (1/30/23)

Who Wrote That
~Twofer: two books by same author using different names (counts as two books)
~Author you have always wanted to read
~By a local author

Series or Not
~Read (or reread) the first book in a series: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
~The Second book in a series: The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson (1/7/23)
~Any book from a series: Swing Low, Swing Death by R. T. Campbell (1/17/23)
~A standalone book

Cuddly & Cute
~Book by an author you'd like to hug
~Book with a toy on the cover
~Book that makes you think of warm fires & cozy beds
~Book with a pair of slippers on the cover

Regarding the Moon
~Book with word "tide" in the title
~Book with a moon on the cover
~Book about a werewolf
~Book with word in title that rhymes with "moon" or "moony"

The Number Four
~Book published in a year that includes a 4: Beauty Marks the Spot by Kelley Roos [1948] (1/7/23)
~Book about a cult
~Book by author whose name (first or last) is only four letters: The Dante Game by Jane Langton (1/13/23)
~Book with a four-word title

Preparing for the Robot Uprising
~Book with word "machine" or "mechanic" in title
~book about rocket science
~Book with robot/cyborg/AI character
~Steampunk Book

Road Trips
~Book with name of a street or highway in title
~Book with luggage on the front cover
~Travel Memoir
~Book with car/truck/bus on cover

Initial Impressions
~Choose a book because of its cover
~Book by author with initials in their name
~Book that your initial reaction is I know I'll love this"
~Book you expect will expand your initial knowledge of a subject

Weather or Not
~Book with picture of foggy street on cover
~Book with word "chill" in the title
~Nonfiction book about a natural disaster/weather event
~Book set in winter

Not As It Seems
~Fiction book with real person as protagonist
~Book with animal on the cover that is not about that animal
~Book with title that begins "how to" that is not a "how to" book
~Book written by an author using a pseudonym of the opposite gender

Take a Flying Leap
~Book with a person jumping on cover
~Book you want to dive into
~Memoir/Biography of a "daredevil"
~Book about taking chances

Sparkles & Glitter
~Book with a gem in the title
~Book whose cover makes you think of a middle school girl
~Memoir by someone who might use glitter regularly
~Book with gold writing on cover: The Becket Factor by Michael David Anthony (1/9/23)

Matching
~Book with a cover that matches your shirt (on day you start it): A Gentleman's Murder by Christopher Huang (1/22/23)
~Book about marriage
~Book about twins: 
~Book with something that can be lit by a match on the cover

Love Them Critters
~Book by an author who has a pet listed in their bio
~Book with the word "lion," "elephant," or "mouse" in the title
~Book with a house pet on the cover
~Book you would wrestle from the jaws of a tiger to read

Shakespeare Inspired
~Romeo & Juliet: Book with a balcony on the cover
~Midsummer Night's Dream: Book about fairies
~Sonnets: A Book of Poetry
~Macbeth: Book set in Scotland

Bucket List
~Book with an elderly protagonist
~Book you definitely want to read before you die
~Book with a beach on the cover
~Book about a place you want to visit

Spirits
~Book about alcoholic beverages
~Book about ghosts
~Book you hope will soothe your soul
~Book with a super cheerful person the cover

Museums
~Natural History: Book with dinosaurs in it
~Art: Book with a well-known painting on the cover
~Children's: Book with a protagonist 12 yrs old or younger: Madeline & the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans (1/30/23)
~Maritime: Book about ships or sailing

Dinner Time!
~Book with a restaurant on cover
~Book you'd skip a dinner date for
~Book off a "Sizzling Summer Reads" list
~Book you've been waiting to gobble up

The Darkness Around Us
~Book that employs dark humor: Hopeland (aka Skippy Dies part one) by Paul Murray (1/19/23)
~A "noir" book
~Book set someplace that has a "long night" during winter
~Book about finding hope when life is challenging

Ain't That Sweet
~Nonfiction book about sugar
~Book with an adorable cover
~Book with "ain't" or "sweet" in the title
~Book set in a bakery or sweet shop

Music
~Book with an instrument in the title
~Book with a title that is a song name: The Angry Heart by Leslie Edgley (1/21/23) [song by Rob Thomsett, 2017]
~Book with musical notes on the cover
~Memoir by singer or musician

Wild Cards
~Book set in the 1800s
~Book you can read in a day: Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (1/1/23)
~Book you wish you'd written
~Book translated from a different language


Linz the Bookworm & Tress 2023 Reading Challenge

 


Linz the Bookworm and Tress @The Logophile co-sponsor a 2023 Reading Challenge that works on a tiered-level format. There are five levels for a total of 60 books if all levels are completed. I plan on opting in for the first level: Book of the Month Club. After that, I may read more books for the challenge--just to see how many categories I can fill--but my personal commitment will be met at Level 1. I've filled in possible choices.

Level 1: Book of the Month Club
1. Book recommended to you on social media or by a friend: The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian
2. Book under 300 pages: The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson (1/7/23)
3. Book with a female main character: Mysterious Invitation by Bernice Bloom (1/27/23)
4. Book by author whose name is Samantha, Sam or a variant: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Web Weaver by Sam Siciliano
5. Book by author from your home state: The Angry Heart by Leslie Edgley [grew up in East Chicago, IN] (1/21/23)
6. Book you meant to read for last year's challenge: Sidney Chambers & the Perils of the Night by James Runcie
7. Book with a basic shape on the cover: The Becket Factor by Michael David Anthony [circle-shaped window on church] (1/9/23)
8. Book from Project Gutenberg, the library, or another nonprofit source: A Gentleman's Murder by Christopher Huang (1/22/23)
9. Book about a hobby you enjoy or want to pick up: Packing my Library by Alberto Manguel
10. Book that starts with the first letter of your name: Beauty Marks the Spot by Kelley Roos (1/7/23)
11. Next book in a series you haven't read in a while: A Regimental Murder by Ashley Gardner
12. Free space! Pick any book: Swing Low, Swing Death by R. T. Campbell (1/17/23)
Level 2 Casual Reader Club
13. Book by Mary Faulner (or one of her aliases):
14. Book of short stories or a novella:
15. Book that involves a lot of traveling: 
16. Book published in 1998 (25 yrs ago): Warped Factors by Walter Koenig
17. Book with a yellow cover:
18. Reread a book you have recommended to someone else: The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson
19. Book by Dean Koontz:
20. Book with one-word title: Bunk by Kevin Young
21. Book 1 in a trilogy: The Q Continuum: Q-Space by Greg Cox
22. Book 2 in a trilogy: The Q Continuum: Q-Zone by Greg Cox
23. Book 3 in a trilogy: The Q Continuum: Q-Strike by Greg Cox
24. Free space! Pick any book: Hopeland (aka Skippy Dies part one) by Paul Murray (1/19/23)
Level 3 Dedicated Reader Club
25. Book that takes place somewhere you'd like to live:
26. Book recommended by https://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/
27. Book with a neon-colored cover: Madeline & the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans (1/30/23)
28. Book by author who shares first or last name with one of your friends:
29. Book that has under 1,000 reviews/ratings on website/app: The Dante Game by Jane Langton (1/13/23)
30. A middle-grade book (8-12 age range): Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien (1/1/23)
31. Read a book with word "Time" in title:
32. Read a book about a famous criminal(s):
33. Read a movie novelization book (movie to book, not book to movie):
34. Read a fiction or nonfiction book that motivates you to be a better version of yourself: My Pocket Meditations for Self-Compassion by Courtney Ackerman
35. A self-published book:
36. Free Space! Pick any book: The Crimson Clue by George Harmon Coxe (1/30/23)
Level 4 Speed Reader Club
37, Book that is over 600 pages
38. Book from List Challenge's Rory Gilmore Challenge:
39. Book by author named David/Dave:
40. A "Dark Academia" novel:
41. Book with title that starts with letter "V":
42. Book set in Asia or an Asian-inspired culture:
43. Book with a cat on the cover:
44. Folklore book or book based on Folklore:
45. Book where main character is a dancer:
46. Book by new author:
47. Book that involves a conspiracy:
48. Free Space! Pick any book
Level 5 Overachiever Club
49. Read one of the New York Public Library's Best Books of 2022 (any category):
50. Book where main character is a Villain or Anti-hero:
51. Book that is punny and/or alliterative: Danger at the Drawbridge by Mildred A. Wirt
52. A "Found Family" Story:
53. Book that has letter Q in title:
54. Book that has an illustrated cover:
55. Book that takes place in at least two different decades:
56. Book about an entrepreneur (real or fictional):
57: Book that takes place in Alaska
58. Book with word "Justice" in title:
59. Book involving Dinosaurs:
60. Free Space! Pick any book

The Hanover Square Affair


 The Hanover Square Affair (2003) by Ashley Gardner (Jennifer Ashley)

Captain Gabriel Lacey, late of His Majesty's Cavalry, has returned from the Napoleonic Wars with a ruined leg and bouts of melancholy. He's on half-pay because of a matter of honor--a matter that put him at odds with his commanding officer, who was also his closest friend. He feels himself to in a city of strangers with no friends and no purpose. But when an older man is shot and injured by a group of cavalrymen quelling a riot outside fashionable house in Hanover Square, Lacey can't resist getting involved. He discovers that the man was creating the disturbance outside of Mr. Horne's home because he believes the Parliament member to have abducted and ruined his only daughter Jane. Lacey takes the man home, dresses his wound, and vows to find the Thornton's daughter.

His search takes him from the Hanover Square to the backroom of brothels and from the gentle countryside to a home for fallen women. He learns of other young women who have gone missing, but can find no clue to Jane's whereabouts. Then Horne is murdered in his own home and the last person to have seen him is one Mr. Denis--a man who it is said can obtain anything for anyone...at a price. And a man who has friends in high places. Lacey finds himself deep in danger, but a new friendship with a man about town comes just in the nick of time.

When I first read this almost 20 years ago, I said that this was a good start to a new historical mystery series. And I thought it good enough to go ahead and buy the second in the series as well. But then I never read that second book--or any that followed. A challenge that I'm thinking about signing up for in 2023 had a prompt to "read the next book in a series you haven't read in a while"--the perfect time to read the second book in the Captain Lacey series, I thought. And then I thought I better go back and reread this first book just to remind myself what had already happened. Now, I'm not so sure that this was a good idea.

Reading this book twenty years later, I'm trying to figure out what struck me so positively about The Hanover Square Affair. Honestly, Captain Lacey is not a very sympathetic lead character. I am sorry about what happened to him the war, but he seems to have been saddled with a multitude of issues to get over. He's on the outs with his best friend--a best friend/commanding officer that managed to ruin his career and nearly get him killed. He's got a damaged leg. He's living on half wages. His wife ran off on him, taking their daughter with him. He seems (to me) to be in love with his ex-best friend's wife (though he never says so). He's got a nearly ungovernable temper. He has bouts of extreme melancholia. I'm glad that Mr. Grenville decides to befriend him just so the man can have a little bit of good in his life. 

He's not exactly the world's best detective either. His temper leads him to suspect people without evidence. Sure, some of them are really nasty pieces of work and deserve to go to jail for something--but that doesn't mean they did what Lacey thinks they did. And even if they did, he needs to find some evidence and not just go around accusing people. Granted, he does do a fair job of thinking things through once he gets his hands on some clues. But he goes off half-cocked more often than not. The mystery itself is a fairly good one and I do like the friendship that is beginning between Lacey and Grenville. I also like the time period, though I think C.S. Harris does a better job of evoking it in her Sebastian St. Cyr series.

I am going to go ahead and give Lacey another shot in A Regimental Murder and I hope that he develops as a detective...and that he can work through some of these issues that he has. I also hope that more is made of the friendship with Grenville. They could make a very good team. ★★ and 1/2 stars for this reading.

First line: Sharp as a whip-crack, a shot echoed through the mists in Hanover Square.

Last line: "Even if he will not," she whispered, "I will."

Deaths = 6 (one stabbed; one influenza; three more illness; one beaten)