Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Third Quarter Reading on the Block


Since I started out behind on reporting on my reading this year, I've decided to stick with my quarterly reading round-up. It's hard to believe that three quarters of the reading year have passed already. In previous years I have done a monthly round-up with statistics and handed out a Pick of the Month (POM) Award to the best mystery read. Let's take a look at the overall stats for the quarter and then we'll see who the big winners for each month are for mystery fiction and hand out those sparkly P.O.M.

Total Books Read for the Quarter: 59 (up 2 over the half-time results results)
  ~I'm still a bit behind my pace for last year. By the end of September 2022, I had read 187 books. This year I'm sitting on 164--and not as many from my own stacks as I'd like. 
Total Pages: 15,740
Average Rating: 3.68 stars
Top Rating: 5 stars
Percentage by Female Authors: 59%
Percentage by Male Authors: 41%
Percentage by both Female & Male Authors: 0%
Percentage by US Authors: 67%
Percentage by Non-US/Non-British Authors: 3%
Percentage Mystery: 81%
Percentage Fiction: 92%
Percentage Written 2000+: 47%
Percentage Rereads: 34%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% (it's easy when you do as many challenges as I do)
Number of Challenges Complete: 24 (65%)

Mysteries Read
The Final Appointment by Marcia Blair (3 stars)
The Private Wound by Nicholas Blake (3 stars)
Beverly Gray on a Treasure Hunt by Clair Blank (3 stars)
 Psycho by Robert Bloch (4 stars)
Slay Bells by Eunice Mays Boyd (7/7/23)
The Frightened Pigeon by Richard Burke (3.5 stars)
Juggernaut by Alice Campbell (2.5 stars)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (4 stars)
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (4 stars)
Nemesis by Agatha Christie (4 stars)
Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie (4 stars)
The Case Against Paul Raeburn by John Creasey (4 stars)
The Figure in the Dusk by John Creasey (4 stars)
Depart This Life by E. X. Ferrars (2.25 stars)
What Darkness Brings by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
What Remains of Heaven by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
What the Devil Knows by C. S. Harris (5 stars)
When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris (4.5 stars)
When Maidens Mourn by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
Where Shadows Dance by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
Where the Dead Lie by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris (4.5 stars)
Who Cries for the Lost by C. S. Harris (5 stars)
Who Slays the Wicked by C. S. Harris (4.5 stars)
Who Speaks for the Damned by C. S. Harris (4.5 stars)
Why Kill the Innocent by C. S. Harris (5 stars)
Why Kings Confess by C. S. Harris (4 stars)
Hemlock Hollow by Culley Holderfield (4 stars)
The Widening Stain by W. Bolingbroke Johnson [Morris Bishop] (4 stars)
In the Shadow of Agatha Christie by Leslie S. Klinger (3 stars)
Ashes to Ashes by Emma Lathen (3.5 stars)
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis (4 stars)
The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell (3 stars)
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier) (2.5 stars)
Who Is Simon Warwick? by Patricia Moyes (4.5 stars)
Borkmann's Point by Hakan Nesser (3 stars)
Holding by Graham Norton (3.5 stars)
The Alarm of the Black Cat by D. B. Olsen/Dolores Hitchens (2.5 stars)
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman (4 stars)
The Body in the Cast by Katherine Hall Page (3 stars)
The Man in the Cellar by Palle Rosenkrantz (3.5 stars)
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers (3.5 stars)
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (5 stars)
Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott (2 stars)
The Bell in the Fog by John Stephen Strange (3.5 stars)
See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy (3 stars)
The Mystery of the Yellow Hands by Jake & Luke Thoene (3 stars)
The World's Best One Hundred Detective Stories by Eugene Thwing, ed (2 stars)

So far I've been able to stick to my no repeat/reread winners policy. I'll keep to it if I can, but if doing so means I'll be awarding a POM to book that earned three stars or less then I may have to break policy. If that policy were not in place, then our clear winners would be Sayers in July and C. S. Harris in August and September. Let's see who else provided good reads this summer. In July, both John Creasey and Lange Lewis provided four-star treats. Creasey's The Figure in the Dusk is a highly suspenseful entry in the Inspector West series--full of action and a more thrillerish atmosphere. A very good--and slightly unusual--addition the inspector's cases. And Lewis's The Birthday Murder has a good puzzle plot  and the clues are very subtle, so subtle that I didn't catch them. Lewis does a good job of spreading the suspicion around even without concrete motives to hang that suspicion on. I kept changing my mind about who really snuck into the kitchen and grabbed the ant poison but never did come up with the right answer.  Very enjoyable--and very appropriate. I started this book on my birthday. Fortunately, no fatalities at my house. I think, in honor of my birthday month, I really must award the July P.O.M. To The Birthday Murder.

August's selection of mysteries brought us two more new four-star winners. The Widening Stain by W. Bolingbroke Johnson (Morris Bishop) is a delightful send-up of academic life in the 1940s. It comes complete with debonair Professor Parry and his just-barely-printable (at the time) limericks. And lots of funny repartee between the professors and between Gilda and Parry. Given when the book was written there are, of course, many references that are dated--and possibly mildly offensive, especially to women. But Gilda is a woman who knows her own mind and though romance may be in the air, the outcome may not be quite what readers expect. The plot is serviceable, but not brilliant nor is Gilda's detective work. There is just a tad too much thinking about who might have done what and little actual sleuthing going on. If the plotting and detection had been more solid, this would easily have garnered five stars. What carries the book for me are the characters and the verbal play--as well as the academic setting. Johnson/Bishop certainly knew what he was doing when it came to setting the academic scene and I do love me an academic mystery. The other book is one that I never thought I'd read and if I didn't participate in a couple of challenges that push me out of my comfort zone I probably still wouldn't have. Psycho by Robert Bloch is more thrillerish/horror than my norm, but there is definitely a mystery there. And--if Psycho weren't so firmly embedded in pop culture, I'm sure the ending would have surprised me more. It was an interesting and absorbing read. Bloch is a master and we get great insight into the characters of Norman and Mary--less so with the others, though the detective is also interesting even though he's not on the page much. An excellent examination of Norman's psychology and the motivations behind the events at the Bates Motel that fateful night.... 

But...it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the blog regularly to find that August's P.O.M. goes to...The Widening Stain. As I said, I love me an academic mystery--especially when it's so entertaining.

And now for the September Award. September gave us the only new 4.5 star winner of the quarter. I almost always enjoy Patricia Moyes's Inspector Henry Tibbett mysteries, but Who Is Simon Warwick? is, I believe, the best one I've read to date. The solution was quite interesting--and a first for me in the field. If I've read another with a similar solution, then it's fallen through my sieve-like memory. An interesting premise and I appreciated how Emmy Tibbett got involved and managed, in certain ways, to save the day. A quick read with plenty of action once the initial groundwork was laid. 

Here's hoping for a strong final quarter!

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