Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Body in the Library

 The Body in the Library (1942) by Agatha Christie [read by Stephanie Cole]

What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one's house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean.

Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife Dolly wake up one fine morning to discover their usually well-ordered house in disarray (or at least their household staff to be dismayed). Mary, their maid, on her usual morning rounds had opened the curtains in the library, letting the sunshine in to reveal the body of a blonde woman on the hearth rug. The Bantrys have a difficult time believing that they didn't just dream that Mary came in and announced she'd found a body, but Dolly finally convinces Arthur to go and see. And then when it's proved that there really is a body in the library, the first thing to be done after ringing up the police is to get Miss Marple over as soon as possible to begin sleuthing like mad. Dolly very naturally wants to play detective--after all it's her very first dead body--but she knows that she won't be able to make heads or tails of it. Jane Marple will take care of that and Dolly can play Watson to Miss Marple's Sherlock Holmes. Inspector Slack thinks he gets everything in hand--obviously that film bloke, Basil Blake, with his wild parties and platinum blondes all over the place, must have done it. But Miss Marple knows there's more evil than what the energetic inspector suspects.

I've read this Miss Marple story several times, but after a couple of books that didn't strike my fancy quite they way I had hoped, I wanted something comfortable and familiar. So, I settled down and listened to an audiobook of the third entry in the Marple series. Stephanie Cole does an excellent job with the performance and gives a quite lively reading. It was most enjoyable to visit with Miss Marple, the Bantrys, Colonel Melchett, Sir Henry Clithering, and company again. For a more detailed review of the story, please see my previous review HERE★★★★ for the audio version.

First line: Mrs. Bantry was dreaming.

Last line: And Raymond returned to the ballroom.


Death = 5 (three airplane crash, one strangled; one drugged)

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Country Girls

 The Country Girls (1960) by Edna O'Brien [rec by Ivan Kreilkamp]

The girls in question are Caithleen "Kate" Brady and Bridget "Baba" Brennan. They live in a small, repressed village in Ireland. Kate is poor. Her mother works hard on the farm and her father spends most of his time drinking the money that is supposed to go towards bills. Baba's family is better off, her father is called "Doc" (but seems to be a veterinarian--he's called out to work on animals, anyway). When Kate is still young her mother drowns and she lives for a time with Baba's family. She is quite good at school and earns a scholarship to a convent school where Baba will also attend. But Baba is quite unhappy with the rules of the convent and is no scholar and convinces Kate that they need to get expelled so they can go off to Dublin and make their own way. Baba just wants to earn enough of a living to have have a good time, Kate is more romantic and wants to find someone to love and love her. The end of this first part of a trilogy of stories, finds Baba diagnosed with tuberculosis and off to a sanitarium and Kate still searching for love.

I can definitely see the importance of this novel--especially for the time it was written. It provides a snapshot of Ireland in the years following the second world war and it was one of the earliest to be so candid about sexual awakening from the viewpoint of young women. It is a rather bleak snapshot--particularly of Kate's home life at the beginning. Her mother and the household always dreaded when Mr. Brady would come home from one of his drunken bouts. They never knew whether he would just sleep it off, would beat them, or...this time...might kill one or all of them. The novel was not well-received by the Catholic establishment, particularly since it didn't exactly reflect well upon the institution and it was so frank. 

From a personal standpoint, I can't say that I'm terribly taken with the story. While I feel sorry for Kate, I don't admire her friendship with Baba. If you want to call it friendship--some folks might, but it's certainly not my idea of friendship. Friends don't put you down and call you names all the time. Friends don't steal your present for the teacher and make them believe it's theirs. Friends don't give a present that you gave them away to someone else--especially when they know how much the object meant to you. Real friends don't encourage you to do things that will get you in serious trouble. Given that Kate is starved for affection, I can see her wanting a friend of any sort--but the moment she met Cynthia at the convent and Cynthia was truly kind to her, I can't understand her continuing to stick with Baba. And don't even get me started on Kate's relationship with "Mr. Gentleman" (there's a misnomer if I ever heard one...). Gentleman, my foot. Married philanderer taking advantage of a young girl. Her dad may be a drunkard and abusive--but at least he did scare off "Mr. Gentleman" there at the end. Not that that totally redeems him. But good for Mr. Brady on that score. ★★

First line: I wakened quickly and sat up in the bed abruptly. 

Last line: It was almost certain that I wouldn't sleep that night.

Three Men in a Boat

 Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (1889) by Jerome K. Jerome

Our story finds the narrator, his friends George and William Samuel Harris (know forever after as "Harris") and his dog Montmorency feeling overworked, ill, and bored with life, in other words, in need of change. So, they decide to take nice, leisurely two-week boat trip up the Thames to Oxford. They will camp out and cook wholesome meals over the fire and have bracing early morning swims in the peaceful waters. What results is part guidebook, part travelogue, and almost entirely comedy. Jerome tells us about the lovely scenery, points out all the the sights to see (or not--as the case may be [see his eloquent defense of reasons not to gush over inscriptions on tombstones in picturesque graveyards]), and gives recommendations on places to stay (both indoors and out) along the way. 

He also regales the reader with humorous stories about his/their boating adventures and travels--both the present journey and journeys of the past. We learn that oil and cheese are two things one should never take on a boat journey. We learn of Montmorency's tendency to fight anything, from other dogs to cats (except for a certain black tom) to tea kettles. We learn that everything is hilarious--provided it's happening to George or Harris--and that everybody but "J" (our narrator) is avoiding doing their fair share of the work. We see that learning to play the banjo is an underappreciated task--poor George, how will he ever get proficient on the instrument if he's never allowed to practice? We hear the amazing tale of the trout that was caught by five men. And more...so much more.

Jerome has a more delightful stream-of-consciousness style than most authors I've read who practice such things. One story leads naturally to another and though he may wander far afield of where he started, there still seems to be a purpose to his wanderings. And the stories are funny and accompanied by the amusing illustrations of A. Frederics. What more could a vicarious traveler want? ★★ and 1/2/

First line: There were four of us--George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.

Last line: And Montmorency, standing on his hind legs, before the window, peering out into the night, gave a short bark of decided concurrence with the toast.

Friday, February 24, 2023

It Walks by Night

 It Walks by Night (1930) by John Dickson Carr

Alexandre Laurent, a man who once tried to kill his ex-wife, has escaped from the asylum for the criminally insane where he was sent after the incident. Louise Laurent is engaged to marry Raoul Jourdain, a handsome successful sportsman. Laurent vows to kill Jourdain because he can't bear the thought of Louise married to another. M. Henri Bencolin, detective, is just as determined to prevent the murder. Following the wedding, the bride and groom go to Fenelli's, a place to see and be seen, a place to dance and drink and gamble, if one chooses. Bencolin and his young American friend, Jeff Marle, as well as Dr. Hugo Grafenstein, a psychoanalyst, also go to the club and install themselves in an alcove directly opposite the card room.

At 11:30 pm, Louise Jourdain is sitting with the trio when they see Raoul enter the card room. Bencolin neve takes his eyes off the door. Stationed outside the only other entrance to the room is one of Bencolin's officers. No one enters until a waiter goes to the card room with drinks. The startled man stumbles out immediately and Bencolin realizes at once that something dreadful has happened. When the three men enter the room, they find Jourdain's body in front of the divan and his head staring at them from the middle of the floor. The only window in the room is open, but the sill is dust-covered and shows that no one went in or out--and even if that were not true, the window is forty feet from the ground and the wall is sheer. How could Jourdain have been killed when no one else went in or out? That is the question that Bencolin must answer. 

Oh my. What melodrama. At one point, Carr brings up Jules Barbey D'Aurevilly, a French author of mysterious works from (as Carr implies) "an imperially purple imagination" with "a kind of grotesque smiling detachment." He's comparing the work of Barbey to a play written by one of the characters, but he could have been talking about his own book. Carr's first novel and the first in the Bencolin series has it all. Wild melodrama. Gothic overtones. The implication that there is something evil walking by night. An impossible crime. Horrible death scenes. Indebtedness to Poe for one of the reveals. It also has long drawn-out narrative. When Jeff is on his own with any other character (besides Bencolin), the scene seems to go on for-ev-er.

The only other Bencolin book I've reviewed here on the blog is The Lost Gallows. I was much more impressed with that one and didn't seem bothered by the more atmospheric tones. Maybe thirteen years makes a difference. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing right now. Either way, I didn't warm to Bencolin in this book and I can't say that I was terribly impressed by our narrator either. The plot itself was fairly good and I have to say I completely missed the solution. So, I guess Carr did his job in mystifying me. I may have to revisit this one at another time. ★★

First line: "...and not least foul among these night-monsters (which may be found even in our pleasant land of France) is a certain shape of evil hue which by day may not be recognized, inasmuch as it may be a man of favoured looks, or a fair and smiling woman; but by night becomes a misshapen beast with blood-bedabbled claws."

Last line: She had kept her appointments with three men; she would have murdered them all.


Deaths = 4 (two beheaded; one stabbed; one hit on head)

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Looking for a Jumbie

 Looking for a Jumbie (2021) by Tracey Baptiste

Naya's mother tells her that it's getting dark and it's time for bed, but Naya insists that she wants to stay out and find a jumbie. Jumbies are night creatures that come in a variety of types and wait to scare little boys and girls who don't go to bed as they should. But Naya still wants to find one and sneaks out of her window to go looking for a jumbie. She finds creatures in her journey and as each one matches a description of a particular type of jumbie, they explain their differences to Naya.

"Everyone's mouth is big when they yawn."

"...it's just good sense to wear something shiny when it's dark out" (says a creature wrapped in chains)

So Naya keeps searching for a scary one, but soon her search takes her back home where she belongs.

A lovely little picture book that uses Caribbean folklore to teach children that just because someone is different doesn't mean they're necessarily scary. Maybe what seems different isn't as different as you think (everyone's mouth is big when they yawn) or maybe there's a practical reason for the difference like wearing something shiny in the dark. But once you know them, they're not really scary after all. ★★★★


My Pocket Meditations for Self-Compassion (mini-review)

 My Pocket Meditations for Self Compassion (2020) by Courtney E. Ackerman

This slim volume contains 150 guided meditations to help guide the reader to self-acceptance and self-awareness. Meditations include everything from a focus on what you like about yourself as well as what you like least to exercises meant to teach you to accept yourself exactly as you are. Learning to love yourself with all your flaws is part of that acceptance. It is perfectly okay to want to work on changing those aspects about yourself that you wish were better--but, if something is not subject to change, then it is better to acknowledge that that particular aspect is part of what makes you the unique human being you are. Meditations focus on physical aspects as well as mental and emotional aspects. The goal: to lead those who are serious about the exercises to be more comfortable in their own skin and to live with self-awareness and kindness towards themselves and others.

Ideal for those who struggle with self-image and self-awareness who would like to become more accepting of who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are.   ★★

The Fear Sign

 The Fear Sign [Sweet Danger OR Kingdom of Death] (1933) by Margery Allingham

Albert Campion takes to a bit of thriller/adventurer antics in this fifth entry in Allingham's series. The tiny Balkan principality of Averna becomes a hot-spot when an earthquake opens up a coastline on the Adriatic. There's always been a bit of oil in Averna, but never a good way to get the oil anywhere. Now, it has a handy little place to load up boats with the liquid gold. The hereditary title to Averna belonged to the British family of Pontisbright...but the line is believed to have died out. Campion is called upon to represent British interests and poses as the Hereditary Paladin of Pontisbright and search for the proofs that the place belongs to Britain. There are three proofs that must be found--the crown of Averna, the charter from King Henry the fourth, and a missing receipt for purchase of the land.

But the British government isn't the only party interested in Averna. And Campion and his man Lugg--and loyal friends Eager-Wright, Farquharson, and Guffy Randall are in a race to find the proofs with some very shady and determined characters. They all wind up in the village where the Pontisbright Estate used to stand (it's since been demolished) looking for an inscription on a tree. Near the abandoned estate is an old mill which belongs to the Fittons. In the early 1800s a Fitton tried to claim the Pontisbright Estate--saying that his mother had been secretly married to the Pontisbright heir, but the claim failed for lack of evidence. If Campion can find one group of proofs, he may just find the other--but the ruffians on the other side may have something to say about that...

It had been quite some time since I read a Campion book by Allingham. She really has a way with characters. All of the good guys are quite distinct and their own special flavor. The villains of the piece do get a bit short shrifted...all except for the main villain. So, they don't seem quite as menacing as they might. But the opening scenes with Guffy and the hotel manager are absolutely delightful and well worth the price of admission. In fact, Guffy may just be my favorite character in the book. He is an interesting combination of ready-for-anything.... 

"It sounds mad," said Guffy. "But I'm with you, of course, if there's anything I can do."

and being shy about trying to get hold of one of the clues by false pretenses (posing as lay-members of the local church and trotting off with an old drum in the possession of a museum)...

Guffy looked profoundly uncomfortable. A naturally law-abiding soul, he was appalled by the illegality of the project.

But he's still game to do what has to be done in the name of justice. In fact, all three of Campion's friends are willing to do whatever he needs them to do--even die in the name of Averna, if necessary. But, of course...it isn't. 

My one slight quibble with character is with Dr. Galley. I do think it was a bit much to have the near over-the-top thriller villains vying with the very over-the-top maniacal demon-summoning doctor. His little Ashtaroth ceremony did serve to bring another piece of the puzzle to light, but surely we could have managed that without the theatrics. But overall this was great fun and I enjoyed watching Campion and company get the better of the bad guys. ★★★★

First line: A small window in the sunlit, yellow side of the Hotel Beauregard, Mentone, opened slowly, and through it a hand appeared, which, after depositing a compact brown suit-case upon the sill, speedily vanished.

Guffy clutched at the desk for support, while the manager danced around him like an excited Pekingese.  (p. 15) 

"There is no pastime more calculated to instill into the young gentleman a Thorough Knowledge of Life and a Dignity of Manner than the exercise of polite conversation with his elders. That's on the first page of my etiquette book." (Albert Campion; p. 63)

Last line: Amanda was asleep


Deaths = 4 (three natural; one crushed by mill wheel)

Monday, February 20, 2023

Phi Beta Murder

 Phi Beta Murder (2010) by C. S. Challinor

Scottish barrister Rex Graves heads to Florida where his son, Campbell, is attending college. Their last phone conversation has led him to believe that something is bothering the young man and he's looking forward to some father-son time. Maybe Campbell will confide in his old man. But Rex has just arrived when something more serious crops up. The RA for Campbell's dorm is found dead behind a locked door--an apparent suicide. When Dixon Clark's parents learn that Rex was first on the scene (he broke in the door) and that he has a law background, they ask him to investigate. Initial conversations with Campbell and his friends lead him to believe that there is more to the death than meets the eye. But that means there is a murderer loose on campus and he fears his son may be in danger as well.

To make things even more complicated, Rex's ex-girlfriend, Moira, shows up. She tried to talk to Rex before he headed for the States, but he wasn't having any. She left him behind in Scotland to do charitable work in the middle east...and took up with another man out there. Now that that man has left her, Moira thinks they can just pick up where they left off. But Rex has moved on to another relationship and isn't interested. But Moira is ready to do what she has to in order to get Rex back...

Juggling an investigation and an insistant ex is difficult enough when one is at home, but handling matters in another country adds an extra element of challenge. Fortunately, Rex has experience in amateur investigations and his instincts lead him to conversations with the right people. Now he just has to find the evidence to back him up...

Challinor gives us an interesting twist on the locked room mystery and does a pretty good job with red herrings and clue placement. And I do appreciate a mystery with an academic bent to it. The plot itself is a good one, but I wasn't taken with the whole Moira side-story. I'm not a big fan of so much personal conflict in the lives of the lead detectives--which is probably why I prefer Golden Age mysteries. The conflict is always centered on the mystery, providing motives and red herrings. The detective is there to do just that--detect. It's nice for the detectives to have a bit of depth to their character but ongoing emotional drama doesn't generally add to a mystery for me (there are some exceptions), especially when it doesn't really add to the story. And I don't feel like Moira adds much here. ★★

First line: From Blackford Hill, the volcanic formation of Arthur's Seat resembled a pair of buttocks.

Last line: Campbell groaned dramatically and slumping in his seat, covered his ears.


Deaths = 3 (one car accident; one hanged; one cancer)

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Heart of the Sun

 Heart of the Sun (1997) by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski

The Enterprise is sent to help the Federation colony on Tyrtaeus II repair their planetary database after a computer virus attacks their computers. The Tyrtaeans are a very insular people--their ancestors left Earth in search of a planet where they could keep themselves to themselves and not have the influence of other cultures. They reluctantly joined the Federation when it became clear that their location near the Romulan Neutral Zone put them in greater danger than cultural influence. But they still aren't happy about their limited contact with others. 

When the Enterprise crew detects an artificial world hidden among the cometary ring of the Tyrtaean solar system and that world suddenly shifts out of orbit, sending it in a collision course with the system's sun, it becomes clear that the Tyrtaeans are going to need more help from the Federation crew. The craft won't respond to any attempts at communication and Captain Kirk and his crew must find a way to keep the craft from destroying itself and possibly causing damage to the system's sun--which could result in the destruction of the colony as well.

A fairly standard classic Trek plot. Sargent and Zebrowski do a pretty good job bringing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Lt. Kevin Riley to life--though there are places in the narrative and dialog where things didn't ring quite true. I also have to wonder...where the heck is Chekov? Does he have a case of Denebian flu? It's nice to see Riley get some page time (I always wished he'd shown up more in the episodes), but not a mention of our favorite Russian? The story is okay--but it sure drags for a little over half the book. Lots of talk and very little action. Once they start investigating the artificial world, things pick up nicely. The aliens aboard the world (craft?) are very interesting and I think the book would have been better served by more time spent with them. Still, it was nice to visit with the Enterprise crew again. 

First line: "Right here--" Commander Spock said as he pointed to the flashing dot on the sector display, "--in the cometary ring of this solar system, there is an object that does not belong."

Last line: And when he was finally asleep, Spock dreamed that he was awake and at his post.

Bats in the Belfry

 Bats in the Belfry (1937) by E. C. R. Lorac (Edith Caroline Rivett)

The thirteenth entry in  Lorac's Inspector Robert MacDonald series finds the Scotsman investigating the disappearance of two men: Bruce Attleson and a mysterious man by the name of Debrette. Attleson wowed the literary world with his first two novels, but his muse seems to have left him. Meanwhile, his wife Sybilla has been lighting up the London stage. She would like to leave him as well and believes she has cause to do so. She just needs the proof. But Attleson is a clever fellow who doesn't want to lose the comfy lifestyle his wife's success allows him, so he allows for no proof of his extracurricular activities. He thinks...

But then this man Debrette starts harassing him and his friends believe it to be blackmail. Attleson and his friend Rockingham are both meant to travel to Paris and plan to stay at the same hotel. When Rockingham returns home, he tells their circle of friends that Attleson never arrived. He talks Robert Grenville, a journalist, into trying to hunt down Debrette and the trail leads to a run-down gothic tower with a belfry. Debrette disappears as well and Attleson's suitcase--passport and all--is found in the basement. The men decide that it's a case for Scotland Yard and the Yard decides that it's a case for Inspector MacDonald. When a headless and handless corpse is discovered plastered up in a niche in the tower, MacDonald must follow the meagre trail of clues to find out if it is Debrette or Attleson who was left behind--and who put him there? Did one of the men eliminate the other? Or did Sybilla's "friend" get tired of waiting for her to have grounds for divorce? Perhaps Grenville got tired of waiting for Attleson to give permission for his ward, Elizabeth Leigh, to marry him. Or maybe there's more money in the case than meets the eye and someone got greedy? 

You wouldn't think a book with a headless corpse would be fun, but this is. The opening scene following a funeral sets the tone and mysteries and spooky gothic towers notwithstanding, this is a fun read. We watch Robert Grenville (described as well-muscled under his coat) repeated get knocked over the head in his pursuit of Debrette--despite being told by Rockingham, his dear Elizabeth, and MacDonald that he'd better leave it alone. 

"If he hadn't had the world's thickest skull, he wouldn't be alive now."

And as MacDonald notes, if he hadn't had the world's thickest skull in another sense, he wouldn't have been bashed over the head so many times....And if he hadn't had the world's thickest skull (and be destined to survive his adventures) we wouldn't enjoy watching the fun so much. The number of people who go sneaking about the tower also makes for interesting complications and we're never sure--given a booby-trap Grenville lays for anyone trying to enter the tower--just how many people there are. 

Lorac does an excellent job providing motives for nearly all the main characters--even the butler may have done it!--so the solution, while unexpected, doesn't come out of nowhere. I will quibble about two people having the same motive, however. I do think that was a bit much--but I had so much fun revisiting London in the company of Inspector MacDonald that I will forgive her. 

First line: "As funerals go, it was quite a snappy effort."

Last line: "Send me some wedding cake later--and good luck to you!"


Deaths = 6 (one car accident; one gassed; two shot; one natural; one drowned)

All challenges fulfilled: Mount TBR,Vintage Mystery Challenge, Reading by the Numbers, Medical Examiner,Cloak & Dagger,52 Books in 52 Weeks,52 Book Club,Series Catch-Up,Stacking the Series,BC by Erin,TBR 23 in '23,Linz the Bookworm RC,Pick Your Poison,Mystery Reporter

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Jan 1996

 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine January 1996

I put this volume of the EQMM down on my To Be Found list about 20 years ago or so. The primary reason? Because I had heard that a story titled "Lord Peter's Last Case" would be found here. I scanned through piles of EQMM in used books stores and at our annual community book sale. I periodically went on the hunt on Ebay. Finally, this year, I found a copy for sale online and spent some of my Christmas money to bring it home. Was it worth the wait? Well, sortof. It's a fun little story with cameos by various vintage detectives, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I started my hunt for LPW's last case. I do think Murray gets the characters right and the flavor of the Golden Age definitely comes through. But I could have used a real, honest-to-goodness mystery. Nearly all of the stories are good solid tales of mystery...except for the fancy mice (see below).  for the entire issue.

"The Silent Night Before Christmas" by Gene DeWeese: Watson is initially called upon by an old army comrade to help him bring a recalcitrant young woman back home to her grandmother. But they are unable to convince the girl to go home. When next Jeremiah Scanshun comes to 221B Baker Street it is to tell Watson and Holmes that she is dead--apparently beaten to death by the man she was living with. Holmes doesn't think it's so simple. [two beaten to death]

"A House Is Not a Home" by Martin Edwards: A shady property developer tries to oust an elderly woman from her home of 55 years--first by offering too much money and then by trying to scare her off. But she doesn't scare easily and, though Harry Devlin is hard at work to get the hired toughs to leave her alone, she has her own way of dealing with the matter. [two shot]

"Hoops" by S. J. Rozan: When a young black basketball player and his pregnant girlfriend are found shot and the gun in the young man's hand, the cops are sure they've got a murder-suicide on their hands. But Charles Lomax's friend is sure he didn't kill himself or his girlfriend and he wants private detective Smith to prove it...and get justice for Lomax. But justice doesn't always come in the expected package. [two shot]

"The Carer" by Ruth Rendell: Angela works as a carer--housesitting for her neighbors when they're away, feeding their animals, watering their plants, and sometimes baby sitting. She also snoops. She feels like she's never had a life of her own, so she lives vicariously through the letters and other documents she finds while alone in the houses. But snoops sometimes find more than they bargained for....[one stabbed]

"The Problem of the Enormous Owl" by Edward D. Hoch: How does a man wind up with owl feathers on his shirt and a crushed chest in the middle of an empty field? Doc Sam Hawthorne and his friend Sheriff Lens will have to figure it out--otherwise people might believe Gordon Cole was attacked by a giant owl.[one chest crushed]

"The Mighty Hunter" by Peter Lovesy: The case of the fancy mice. I really have nothing more to say about this one. It's not really a mystery at all. [one natural]

"The Prosecutor of DuPrey" by David Vaughn": When one man disrupts the cause of justice in the case of a murdered woman, another appoints himself prosecutor, judge, and executioner. [one natural; one strangled; one stabbed]

"Death Takes the Funicular" by Gunnar Staalsen: A short, but nicely done impossible crime about a man who is stabbed while alone on a cable-car type train traveling up a mountainside.  [one died on the operating table; one stabbed]

"Lord Peter's Last Case" by Stephen Murray: Lord Peter's case is not what I was expecting. The great detectives of the Golden and Silver Age are dying to die. Their creators have thoughtlessly died without providing for their creations' peaceful passage from life--which means they are destined to hang about forever. Lord Peter and Bulldog Drummond come up with the ideal solution. Okay--so, I don't understand one thing--why do the characters continue to age after their authors stop writing stories about them and/or die? If Dorothy L. Sayers didn't make Lord Peter age beyond, oh--let's just say 50 (I'm not going to sit down and do the math). Then it seems to me he ought to perpetually be 50. I can't see why he's a doddering old man and Harriet has a wig, hearing aid, and, apparently, no teeth. [7 deaths =one bee sting; two drowned; two beaten; one spontaneous combustion; one heart attack]

"Intent to Kill" by Monica Quill: A man comes up with the perfect plan to get rid of his wife...but then finds himself involved in someone else's plot. It's hard to look innocent when you've had the intent to kill for such a long time. [one strangled]

"Where the Snow Lay Dinted" by Reginald Hill: Superintendent Dalziel and the mystery of the statue that walked and the disappearing Boxing Day breakfast.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

 Marple: Twelve New Mysteries (2022) by various (no editor noted)

A dozen new stories about Miss Jane Marple written by some of the leading mystery writers of today. We follow her from the familiar places of St. Mary Mead (Gossington Hall and the vicarage) to London and to New York City and a cruise to Hong Kong. Everywhere she goes there's sure to be hints of murder. I've mentioned before that short story collections tend to be a mixed bag--and this one is no different. Nearly all of the stories get the tone and feel of the Christie mysteries right, but not all are able to achieve Christie's way of hiding clues in plain sight. One of the authors just plain hides the clues--there's no way the reader will know exactly what Miss Marple saw and all about the relationship between two of the characters--two characters who are barely mentioned. And I'm not sold on the ending of the last story. However, it is an entertaining collection and well worth a look even if every story isn't up to Christie's standard. My favorites are "The Unravelling" by Natalie Haynes, "Miss Marple's Christmas" by Ruth Ware, "The Open Mind" by Naomi Alderman, and "The Mystery of the Acid Soil" by Kate Mosse. "The Jade Empress" by Jean Kwok comes close to the top tier.  and 1/4.

"Evil in Small Places" by Lucy Foley: Miss Marple visits a former schoolmate and finds herself on the spot when the church's new choir director is murdered. Helpful hint in ROT13* Vs lbh cyna gb zheqre fbzrbar, QBA'G vaivgr Zvff Znecyr gb or n ubhfrthrfg gung jrrxraq. Vg jba'g raq jryy sbe lbh. [one poisoned; one stabbed]

"The Second Murder at the Vicarage" by Val McDermid: The Clements thought it was bad enough to have had that first murder at the vicarage. But the vicar comes home to find their former housemaid hit over the head with a heavy frying pan and no explanation why she was back in the house. Inspector Slack is on the case, but Jane Marple will solve it. SPOILER in ROT13*: Iny ZpQrezvq nccneragyl guvaxf Zvff Znecyr vf Fureybpx Ubyzrf. Ubyqvat pyhrf pybfr gb ure purfg naq tvivat n fhecevfr raqvat. Gurer'f abguvat gb fhttrfg gur eryngvbafuvc orgjrra gjb punenpgref (jub ner, ol gur jnl, oneryl zragvbarq) naq jr'er fhccbfrq gb or zvaq ernqref naq xabj cerpvfryl jung xvaq bs obbx Zvff Znecyr fcvrq ba gung obbxfurys. Vs jr'er tbvat gb qb Znecyr zlfgrevrf, gura Tbyqra Ntr snve cynl fubhyq or va cynl. Ernqref znl unir zvff gur pyhrf Puevfgvr jnirf haqre bhe abfrf, ohg gurl ner gurer. [one poisoned; one hit on head]

"Miss Marple Takes Manhattan" by Alyssa Cole: When Raymond West's novel is turned into a Broadway play, he invites his Aunt Jane to join him on the trip to America for the opening. Of course, wherever Miss Marple goes, murder is sure to follow...or is it? Slight Spoiler in ROT13: Guvf bar vf n ovg bs n purng--gurer vf ab zheqre. Whfg gur nccrnenapr bs bar...

"The Unravelling" by Natalie Haynes: An older man by the name of Martin arrives in the village and takes a job minding pigs for a farmer. After an altercation with Mr. Weaver, owner of the haberdashery, Martin is found the next morning with an arrow through the heart. Since he was new to the area and Weaver is the only one known to have had an argument with him, naturally the local police figure he's the killer. But Jane Marple knows better. Good clues in this one--hidden in plain sight just as Christie would have done.[one stabbed]

"Miss Marple's Christmas" by Ruth Ware: Miss Marple, Raymond West, and his wife Joan are invited to the Bantry's for a "real, old-fashioned" Christmas. Also in attendance are Major & Mrs. Dashwood and their nephew, whom Colonel Bantry somehow managed to invite while at a shooting party. During the festivities, Mrs. Dashwood's pearl necklace disappears. Leave it to Miss Marple to solve the mystery of the missing pearls. Another with good clues--if you know your vintage mysteries.

"The Open Mind" by Naomi Alderman: Murder at the high table at St. Bede's College, Oxford. Miss Marple attends as a guest of one of the honorary fellows of the College and finds the solution to the murdered Master. One thing I would like to know--has Jane Marple found the fountain of youth or how old is she anyway? She's described as fairly old when she first appears in 1927. By the 1970s she's got be over a hundred.[one poisoned]

"The Jade Empress by Jean Kwok: Miss Marple is once again traveling courtesy of her very generous nephew Raymond West. This time she's sailing for Hong Kong and solving murders along the way. [one poisoned, one stabbed]

"A Deadly Wedding Day" by Dreda Say Mitchell: It's up to Miss Marple to discover who poisoned the unwelcome guest at the wedding of the niece of one of her old friends. [one poisoned]

"Murder at the Villa Rosa" by Elly Griffiths:  A crime novelist plots to kill off his irritating detective while his fellow guests at the Villa Rose tell him about strange deaths they know about. Spoiler in ROT13:  Nabgure purng (gur svefg vf erirnyrq va bar bs gur fcbvyref)...ab erny zheqref fbyirq ol Zvff Znecyr va guvf bar. [three natural; one poisoned]

"The Murdering Sort" by Karen M. McManus: Miss Marple helps her great, great niece solve the murder of the elderly man who was planning on changing his will. There's always one of those around somewhere in these Golden Age mysteries.... [one poisoned]

"The Mystery of the Acid Soil" by Kate Mosse: When Miss Marple visits an old friend, she gets interested in the disappearance of a young woman...only to discover that there have been two murders done. [two poisoned]

"The Disappearance" by Leigh Bardugo: Dolly Bantry calls on Miss Marple one more time. This time she wants her to find a missing fiance. Spoiler in ROT13: Lbh pna'g gryy zr gung Zvff Znecyr jbhyq pbaqbar zheqre...V qba'g pner jung gur cebibpngvba. Naq, orfvqrf, pbhyqa'g Qbyyl cyrnq frys-qrsrafr? [one drowned; one hit on head]

First line (1st story): "I wonder, sometimes, if there isn't a concentration of evil in small places."

Last line (last story): They kept their backs to the new beds, brimming with red asters, their green stalks bending gently in the summer breeze, their red petals the colour of blood.

*To decode: Copy and paste coded portion into decoder found at the link.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Lioness

 The Lioness (2022) by Chris Bohjalian (rec by Aubrey Nye Hamilton for the 12 Challenge)

It's 1964 and Katie Barstow is the current reigning queen of Hollywood. Her films are box office gold--even when she does a controversial film with Terrance Dutton, a black man, as her leading man. The steamy love scene was left on the cutting room floor because the American public wasn't quite ready for that kind of romance, but the implications were there (and a number weren't ready for even the implication...). When Katie marries David Hill, her brother's best friend from their early days in New York, there is all the glamor of a Hollywood wedding followed by a Paris honeymoon. But the celebration is extend to an African safari with her brother Billy and his wife Margie, her best friend and fellow actress Carmen Tedesco and her husband screenwriter Felix Demeter, Terrance Dutton, Katie's publicist Reggie Stout, and her agent Peter Merrick. 

After three idyllic days of photo safari adventures by day and evenings with their civilized canvas baths and gin & tonics with ice from the portable, kerosene-powered ice makers, their civilized adventure comes to an end. The American entourage is taken hostage by violent Russian mercenaries who have no qualms about killing anyone--from the elderly African guide who tries to save them to those who just seem to irritate the trigger-happy kidnappers. They realize they're being used as pawns in a much bigger game--after all Russia is trying to gain a foothold on the continent and has been backing some of the uprisings in neighboring countries. But what exactly do these men want and will the lives of their hostages be valued enough to ensure they get it? Between the dangers of the four-legged wild animals of the Serengeti and the two-legged human predators, how many of Katie Barstow's party--if any--will survive?

An absolutely beautifully written bloodbath. So many unnecessary violent deaths--so many. Generally speaking this type of book is not my type of book. I'm a Golden Age, every murder is a puzzle and "there's a discernable meaning/motive for each death" kind of girl. Not much into Russian terrorists and killing just because someone asked one question too many (some of the time, just one question is too many). BUT Bohjalian can write. Man, can he write. I was sucked right in from the beginning and even the high body count couldn't keep me from turning the pages to find out what happened next. I'm no expert on Africa of the 1960s, but the historical research seems solid and information about the time is introduced in such a way that it never felt like an info dump. The narrative also makes clear that Bohjalian participated in an African safari himself--the scenery and animals come vividly to life on the page. He also manages the multiple points of view superbly. Each chapter focuses on one of nine characters, giving the reader a panoramic view of the story to match the vast countryside. Overall, an outstanding experience. Thanks to Aubrey for recommending this for the 12 Challenge. 

Spoiler!! Do not read if you have not read the book:

My only quibble with the book: I was really upset that neither Terrance nor Reggie survived. Honest-to-goodness after letting them get that close, did we really have to kill them off too?

First line: Oh, I can't speak for the dead.

Blame, I can tell you firsthand, is every bit as subjective as truth. (p. 3)

Lying, he understood, was a reflex of his, and he supposed this was what made him a writer. (p. 72)

Last lines: And it was only yesterday, wasn't it? Wasn't it?


Deaths = 19 (one heart attack; twelve shot; one car accident; one killed by leopard; one fell from height; two bled to death; one snakebite)

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Murder R.F.D.

 Murder R.F.D.
(1978) by Leslie Stephan

Poison pen notes kick off the mystery in Stephan's book. The first arrive at Rocky Meadows, the re-christened Bartlett farm where George and Emily Atkins are trying to make a go of farming. The middle-couple moved from Summit, New Jersey to fulfill George's dream of the simple life of organic farming. Because they didn't have enough money to start fresh all by themselves, they have taken on partners--Philip and Bunny Westover and also brought in the Blackburns, Jim and Maureen. 

Things aren't going so well even before the poison pen campaign. The crops don't seem to grow, despite all the hard work of George, Emily, and Jim Blackburn and the piglets they thought to raise and sell for meat seem to be sickening. Philip contributes nothing to the enterprise except a bit of starting capital--choosing to spend his time with the bottle instead of a tractor. Bunny provides even more of the working capital, but also contributes little else. 

Then Emily begins receiving nasty letters that accuse the little cooperative of being a place of orgies and worse. She knew the locals were standoffish, but thought it was because they were outsiders who hadn't been around long enough to be accepted. She didn't think anyone hated them that much. Then letters begin arriving at the police station


and Sergeant Dave Putnam is sent out to investigate. Emily doesn't feel like sharing her letters and the residents at the farm present a united front (There's nothing wrong here, officer.) A second note arrives


And still nothing is found. But when Philip's car is vandalized with white paint, they can't pretend that nothing's wrong any longer. Emily's letters are produced and George reveals that there has been other incidents that he hadn't told anyone about--missing tools and trees that were slashed. Sergeant Putnam and Chief Henderson believe at first that it must be teenagers run amok, but then they find evidence of a plan behind the notes and vandalism. They have to rethink their theories though when Bunny Westover is found dead early one morning.

The night before, her poodle hadn't come home and she had stayed up late waiting for the beloved dog. She had promised faithfully that she wouldn't go back outside after the others went to bed, but she was found out in the yard with her head bashed in. The State Police are called in because the local men have no experience with murder. But Putnam can't keep from thinking about the case--and making little investigations of his own. Certain clues lead him to believe that Bunny wasn't killed where she was found and his connections with the very Miss Marple-like Bea Lambert gives him a lot of background and gossip that the State boys aren't going to get. When some of his findings lead the Troopers to make an arrest, he should feel satisfied. And yet...something about the solution just doesn't sit right. 

Stephan makes an effort at giving the reader a twisty mystery, trying to focus the reader's attention on the suspect initially arrested. But I (like Putnam) wasn't convinced and my attention was on the correct culprit from the beginning, so the surprise ending wasn't near the surprise our author wanted it to be. I did enjoy Putnam and his relationship with his Chief and with Bea Lambert. And I especially appreciated the echoes of Miss Marple, though Miss Lambert isn't nearly as prominent. I actually would have liked to see more of her. She's written as a very shrewd lady with great insights into human nature and I think putting her in a more centralized position would be a good move. It appears that there are more books by Stephan with Putnam--I hope Bea Lambert figures more prominently.  and 1/2

First line: Emily Atkins was digging potatoes at the end of the long garden beside the house, methodically turning up forkfuls of the stony, light brown soil.

"You see what's happening to me, Dave? The complications in this thing are beginning to twist my mind. I'm verging into fantasy. I'm suffering from intellectual vertigo." (Chief Henderson; p. 173)

"People interest me. David. I've put a lot of time and effort into studying people--what's called my nosiness--and I like to believe that, except in certain areas where my experience is physically limited, I do have a fair knowledge of human nature. Certain themes, you know, occur over and over again. The players change. but greed and vanity and pride, they're always with us." (Bea Lambert [being very Miss Marple-ish]; p. 226)

Last line: "I don't think." she said solemnly. "that I've ever had such a busy week."


Deaths = 6 (two natural; two accident; one drowned; one hit on head

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Garden of Deadly Delights

 Garden of Deadly Delights (1996) by Cynthia Manson (ed)

Manson has put together a bouquet of nineteen deadly blossoms taken from the gardens of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock (or at least from their mystery magazines). We get classic authors like Agatha Christie & G. K. Chesterton and Eudora Welty, Nathaniel Hawthorne & Lord Dunsany. Mixed among these well-known names are quite a few that I didn't recognize. And, as with all anthologies, some of the mix works and others don't. I could have done without Lord Dunsany's "Three Men in a Garden" and neither Eudora Welty's "A Curtain of Green" nor "The Ghost in the Garden" by Dan Crawford strike me as mysteries. Although...it is a bit of a mystery at the end of the Welty story whether a death has occurred at the end or not. But, taken as a whole, A very enjoyable collection.  

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" by Agatha Christie:  "How Does Your Garden Grow?": Poirot receives a letter from a woman needing someone with discretion. She dies before being able to meet with him to explain. And he goes to investigate--he finds the nursery rhyme in the title very informative. Similar beginning to Dumb Witness and notable for the appearance of Miss Lemon. [one poisoned]

"The Cop Who Loved Flowers" by Henry Slesar: Captain Flammer's love of flowers leads him to the proof that will convict the man who killed the woman the captain loved. A woman who loved flowers too. [one shot]

"Garden of Evil" by Carol Cail: What if plants were sentient--would they take revenge on those who prune and cut and eat them? [5 deaths = one fell from height; one natural; one strangled; one rabies; one shot]

"Clubbed to Death" by Donald Olsen: A man retires early so he and his wife can travel like they always dreamed. But he finds she's too tied to her clubs to make time for travel. What's a man to do? [one poisoned]

"The Garden of Smoke" by G. K. Chesterton: Inspector Traill of Scotland Yard discloses the solution to how a woman was killed with her own rose. [two poisoned]

"The Price of Tomatoes" by William Bunce: A man used to winning the prize for tomatoes each year at the garden show is disgruntled when his new neighbor begins taking first place. He'll do anything to come in first again. Anything. [one stabbed]

"Early Retirement" by Frances Usher: A man forced into an early retirement on a very small income comes up with a plan to fund the garden of his dreams. He soon finds another little hobby to help keep his garden blooming splendidly. But what if his wife thinks he's spending too much time on his little hobbies? [5 deaths =one heart attack; four strangled]

"Venus Fly-Trap" by Ruth Rendell: Two old "friends"* wind up with flats in the same building. Merle has hers made up like a little hothouse--plants everywhere, including a venus flytrap. Unfortunately, there's more than death than just flies at the end of this one. (*I honestly don't know why Daphne wants to associate with Merle again) [one strangled]

"The Puzzle Garden" by Edward D. Hoch: The Garden of the Apostles holds a secret--treasure buried before the communists took over. It also holds death..[one heart attack; two stabbed]

"One Last Picture" by Sherita Saffer Campbell: An old rival's grandson comes to visit Sadie Mae. He wants to take a picture of her to take back to his grandma. Sadie insists he take the picture before they sit down and have a nice glass of lemonade... [not clear if anyone drinks it]

"A Curtain of Green" by Eudora Welty: When Mrs. Larkin's husband is taken from her (through a freak accident--a tree crushing him in his car), she takes to her garden. She plants and weeds and plants until the yard becomes jungle-like and she seems lose herself in the curtain of green.  [one accident]

"The Scent of Murder" by Frances & Richard Lockridge: Ronnie Beede, a killer, has escaped the psychiatric ward of an upstate hospital, killing two on his into Captain Heimrich's territory. A housewife is killed while her husband is over the hill in their garden. It looks like Beede has claimed another victim. [one shot]

"Three Men in a Garden" by Lord Dunsany: The mystery of the murder in an Irish garden--and the real mystery to me is why it's been included in this collection. There's no mystery--we know who did what. But we never learn the "why" behind the initial set-up. [one shot]

"The Ronnie" by K. D. Wentworth: In the future, there are things called VegeTots--a bit more than pets and somewhat less than children. They are animated vegetables with a life of their own. When Ronnie's owner is threatened by her abusive husband, the VegeTot takes matters into is own leaves. [one natural; one suffocated]

"The Ghost in the Garden" by Dan Crawford: Not strictly a mystery--there is ghost haunting the ancient garden at the palace in Merodale. The townspeople, though very hungry and knowing that fruit trees grow there, are afraid to enter because of the ghost. Then a magician comes along who can break the spell.

"Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne: A medical researcher grows a garden made up entirely of poisonous plants. He trains is daughter in the care of of the deadly flowers and vegetation and she becomes immune to their effects. In fact, she begins to take on the characteristics of the plants...even her breath can be deadly. Can the young man who sees her and falls in love with her save her from her deadly destiny? [one poisoned]

"Parrots in My Garden" by Dorothy B. Davis: A woman is let go from her job just a week before her husband tells her he's leaving her for another (younger) woman. Eileen decides she's not going to take the matter lying down... [two shot]

"The Azalea War" by Wyc Toole: What begins as a feud between neighbors over a row of azalea bushes, a German shepherd, and a property line ends in deadly tragedy. [three shot]

"The Mushroom Fanciers" by Lawrence Treat: When a well-to-do family's butler puts together a tell-all book that gets the attention of the Attorney General, the butler begins to fear for his life...with good cause. [one stabbed]

First line (1st story): Hercule Poirot arranged his letters in a neat pile in front of him.

Last line (last story): We miss Ella and her mushrooms.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Here Come the Dead

 Here Come the Dead (1945) by Robert Portner Koehler (Pecos Appleby #2)

I looked over the clues I had, and, really, they were kind of staggerin', just to look at a list of them like that. A knife sheath planted behind a picture. An initialed handkerchief dropped at the scene of the crime. A shot fired from an upstairs window. Burned documents. A knife buried at midnight. All I needed was a lipstick-stained cigarette, or a broken cuff-link, to make it all sound like a dime novel. (Pecos Appleby; pp. 152-3)

Pecos Appleby, special investigator with the New Mexico State Police, drops in at San Ysidro to watch the annual corn dance and visit his friend Greta Myron. Greta owns a dude ranch and has brought her guests into town to experience the Native American rituals to bring on rain and honor the spirits of the dead. One more spirit is added to the number when Devoe Fulton, one of the dude ranch guests, is found stabbed to death at the end of the first half of the ceremonies. As Pecos begins to investigate, his attention is drawn to two of the guests who have told obvious lies, but as his investigation progresses he realizes that all six of the guests have been lying. And they all have connections to Fulton and his brother Spencer.

Spencer Fulton was also murdered and Devoe was tried and acquitted of his death. Since his acquittal, Devoe has vowed to find the killer and clear his name. Pecos believes that Devoe gathered all of these people together so he could determine which had killed his brother. It appears that he was getting close--too close for someone's comfort. But with everyone having a possible motive and everyone having an opportunity, will Pecos be able to pin the murder on the villain?

Pecos Appleby is a good, solid detective. His boss would prefer that he grab a likely suspect and get the job done, but Pecos wants to make sure all angles are covered before making an arrest. This exasperates the old-school Chief Brainard who (much like O'Malley in the Lockridge books) thinks the obvious suspect is automatically the guilty party. This adventure is particularly galling to Brainard because everybody has a motive and pretty much everybody had an opportunity and there are clues all over the place that point to various people. It's amusing to watch Pecos deal with his superior--especially when it's obvious that his methods of detection have been highly successful.

There is a great deal of similarity to a certain Agatha Christie mystery--but if Koehler had that particular novel in mind, then he took it and gave it a nifty little twist. [spoiler in ROT13 code*] Va Zheqre ba gur Bevrag Rkcerff, rirelbar qvq qb vg--rkprcg sbe gur Pbhagrff. Naq rssbegf ner znqr gb xrrc ure bhg bs vg. Pyhrf ner yrsg gb vzcyvpngr rirelbar ryfr juvyr gurfr nccnerag fgenatref tvir rnpu bgure fbyvq nyvovf. Urer, vg nccrnef gung rirelbar pbhyq unir qbar vg--naq gurl qryvorengryl rasbepr gung nccrnenapr va beqre gb cebgrpg Zef. Gungpure, jubz gurl nyy oryvrir qvq xvyy Qribr. Ohg tvira gung gurl guvax fur jnf cebibxrq, gurl ner jvyyvat gb zhqql gur jngref naq cerirag ure neerfg. Nf na nqqrq gjvfg....fur qvqa'g qb vg. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the twist and found the mystery entertaining. I completely missed the biggest clue even though it was mentioned numerous times. A nice compact mystery with an unexpected ending. 

*To decode, click this link: ROT13. Copy and paste coded portion into the decoder.

First line: Sunlight on the dried adobe of the plaza was almost blinding to Alice Corbett as she stood leaning against a wall, shading her eyes.

Last line: "Well, they started one, didn't they?" Pecos said with a grin.


Deaths =4 (one stabbed; one shot; two natural)

All challenges fulfilled: Vintage Scavenger Hunt,Mount TBR,Reading by the Numbers,Medical Examiner,Monthly Key Word,Alphabet Soup,Alphabet Soup Authors,Cloak & Dagger,52 Books in 52 Weeks,TBR 23 in '23,Linz the Bookworm RC,Pick Your Poison,Mystery Reporter

Friday, February 3, 2023

Wings Above the Diamantina

 Wings Above the Diamantina (1936) by Arthur W. Upfield

Elizabeth Nettlefold and her father John make a startling discovery while out on a tour of inspection of the land her father manages as a cattle breeder. Resting on the dry lake bed of Emu lake is a shiny red monoplane. There are no footprints leading away from the plane and at first it appears that the plane must have landed itself. On closer inspection, they find a young woman strapped into the front cockpit (away from the controls). She is unconscious and they have no success in bringing her to. Their first thought is to get her back to the house and call a doctor. Then Mr. Nettlefold plans to return with the local police sergeant to investigate further.

When the doctor arrives the woman opens her eyes but she cannot move and cannot speak. He's not sure whether she has had some awful shock or if she has been poisoned, but he does the best he can for her immediately and will call in a specialist to help with the diagnosis. Elizabeth Nettlefold volunteers to act as nurse. Recently she has been bored with life on the cattle station and she feels like caring for the unknown woman has given her a new purpose in life. 

Her father and Sergeant Cox set out for the plane early the next only to discover that the aircraft has been demolished by fire. Cox is dismayed to learn that the Nettlefolds didn't think to check the plane for the young woman's belongings--now they may never know who she is. The sergeant knows his limits and immediately calls for assistance from Brisbane. And they send their best man for unusual crimes in the back country--Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. But with so few clues, Bony will have his work cut out for him if he's to discover the woman's identity and that of her attempted murderer before the villain can finish the job.

Upfield, as per usual, gives the reader a fine sense of place (and my edition even includes a nice map so we can orient ourselves as necessary. He regularly has characters discussing distances which lets us know just how far away the important locales are from one another and he also gives great descriptions of the Australian landscape. Bony manages to keep his unbroken record of solved mysteries--though it is a close thing for a while. I will say that I was a bit surprised that the solution to the young woman's paralysis didn't occur to him sooner. I was pretty certain I knew (in general--not specifically) what the cause was and was proved right. There are subtle clues that will allow the observant reader to get there as well. 

Even with that point, this stands up as a pretty good mystery. I did think it just a bit long in the middle--Bony takes an awful long time in reaching the "aha" moment. And there was no way we were going to know the woman's identity before Bony tells us in the grand finale. But it is entertaining to watch Bony at work even when we might think he's being a little slow on the uptake. 

First line: Because the day was still and cool and invigorating, Elizabeth elected to accompany her father on a tour of the fifteen square miles of country called Coolibah.

"Believe me, I know what boredom is," he said, quietly cutting in. "There is only one thing worse than boredom, and that is memory. Boredom can be banished, but memory cannot be obliterated." (Dr. Knowles; p. 46)

Last line: "My worst policeman," he said. "My best detective!"


Deaths = five natural; two car accident

All challenges fulfilled: Vintage Scavenger Hunt,Mount TBR,Reading by the Numbers,Medical Examiner,Alphabet Soup Authors,Cloak & Dagger,Stacking the Series,Monthly Key Word,BC by Erin,52 Book Club,Series Catch-Up,TBR 23 in '23,Linz the Bookworm RC,Pick Your Poison,Mystery Reporter,

Thursday, February 2, 2023