Tag Archives: mysteries

One: The loneliest number?

The number 1 (one) makes me think of lots of books or characters in books. Bridget Jones (singletons of the world unite!), Possession (number one in my books), mystery books (whodunnit is usually one person, although, sometimes the twist is that it is not one), and, of course, math books. Don’t worry, no math books here. I’m going to talk about two books that have the number ONE in the title.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. I’ve mentioned Thursday Next (the character) and Jasper Fford (the author) around here before, but not gone into much detail. Mostly, I’ve yelled for you to go find the books and start reading, what are you waiting for? The Thursday Next series is set in an alternative universe in which time travel exists, the Crimean War never stopped (vs our universe where it stopped and may now be beginning again), and one can have a pet dodo bird. In Thursday Next’s world, the book world can be visited by people from the real world. The trick is, sometimes people visit the book world and leave traces of themselves behind, thus contaminating the reading experience for others. Oh the great and philosophical possibilities of book clubs that discuss the Thursday Next series. Where to begin? Metaphysics? Hermeneutics? It is all fair game! In One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Thursday Next (real) is missing, and needs to be found by Thursday Next (book world). If this sounds complicated, it isn’t. Really. You just have to suspend your disbelief a tiny little bit. Honestly. You should try because Fforde has done a ffabulous job with this Thursday book. It even has a map. Look for NaNoWriMo on the map. It is there!

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters. See, I told you the number one makes me think of murder mysteries. In this case there are too many bodies. Who is the extra corpse, and how did that corpse become dead? All these things and more are investigated by the monk, Brother Cadfael. This is the second book in the Cadfael set. These books are old, as in published in the seventies, and they are set in the middle ages during a civil war in Britain over the succession to the throne, King Stephen vs. Empress Mathilda. Who? I hear you saying. There was a king called Stephen? Never heard of him or this Matilda woman. That’s why reading historical fiction is a good idea. You learn things. And sometimes there are too many bodies.

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Victory? Virtue? Veracity?

Here we are at the difficult end of the alphabet. I’ve dealt with U, now onto V. Various, vexatious V, the sign of victory. The v-authors in my books-read data base are not many, but there is one that stands out.

VVineis for Vine, Barbara Vine, a pseudonym of Ruth Rendell. Ruth Rendell writes mysteries; Barbara Vine writes psychological suspense. I found Vine’s books variously good — some I’ve noted as predictable. Others are full of twists and turns that have kept me guessing until the end. Most of them involve deep dark family or identity secrets. The family secrets thing has been known to keep me reading in the past. Barbara Vine — suspenseful reading for an extra-long winter.

 

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Sunday, Sunday

Time for another excursus, the weekly rabbit trail, a break from our alphabetic ways.

This week I read Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. This is a LOST book and I can see why it was referenced on that island-centric show. The murder takes place at a hotel on an island which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, which is underwater at high tide. The people at the hotel at the time of the murder all, of course, have previous, off-island lives, which play into the investigation. It is all very LOST-like in many ways. You should check it out.

I’ve also just finished re-reading Possession, Best Book Ever. The language play is phenomenal. Haven’t read it? You should. It is a literary read, there are poems, but that is part of the fun. Look at the language and the way Byatt plays with words. So Good.

Since I just closed Possession, I’m in that between-book haze where I’m still in the world of literary scholars and poets and unpublished manuscripts. I’m not quite in a place where I can even think of what I’m going to read next.

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M is smaller than you think

Micro, Mini, all small words. Mash, make it small. But

Moldis for Maron, Margaret Maron. Hey that’s two Ms!

Most of you haven’t heard of Margaret Maron. She writes mysteries (another m). Her main character is a judge called Deborah Knott. There are so many layers of meaning in that name and her profession that it boggles the mind. Just roll it around in your head for a while. Deborah works in rural North Carolina, not far from Raleigh-Durham. I like her. Maron paints a great picture of Deborah and her colleagues working in their particular setting, and sometimes away from their own patch. There are sometimes issues with the point-of-view in the writing, but that gets better after a while. I enjoy these. They are like M&Ms — crunchy chocolatey treats but for your brain. Brain candy!

 

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Mysteries in the Vortex

Here we are in another Polar Vortex. In honour of the cold, a list of 50 essential mysteries to read when you cannot possibly go outside has been posted over at Flavorwire. This list is an entertaining read, though it is heavy on USAian Noir, and light on the British mysteries I like. I have noted a few books from the list to hunt down.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lovely pile of books to get me through any vortices that might spin my way this week. I got both Atwood and Atkinson (MaddAddam, and Life after Life respectively) for Christmas. I’m also slowly making my way through a really interesting library book called Time’s Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination by Richard Morris. I first heard about the book on a podcast, and it is fascinating. The book won a prize for non-fiction books in the UK, and I am not surprised. It is quite good. It also riffs off on the philosophy/idea of time. I like it when a book does that.

What are you reading?

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A few more lists

In the spirit of the season of list making (Santa makes them, why shouldn’ t the rest of us?), three more lists that I found while lurking on the internet.

  1. Buzzfeed’s 14 greatest Science Fiction of 2013. Nice covers. Also Margaret Atwood is on the list along with Lois McMaster Bujold. I like both of those authors! Maybe I should try some of the others too. The one about the North Road looks interesting. You read any of these? Got any others to add?
  2. BookRiot’s Best of 2013 from different people. There are a lot of people contributing to this list, so it is long. Keep scrolling. Where else will you find Margaret Atwood, Chris Hadfield, and Alister McGrath on the same end-of-year list? Seriously. Keep scrolling.
  3. Finally, not limited to 2013, the ten best mysteries ever, as chosen by Thomas H. Cook. I’d never heard of Cook before reading this list. I’m intrigued by the list though. It may influence my reading in 2014. What are the ten best mysteries you’ve ever read? I’m appalled that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is not on Cook’s list. And I’m not sure that I’d classify The Quiet American as a mystery, though it does have mysterious elements. Check out Cook’s list. Make your own opinion.

Hey the week is more than half over! And it is only two weeks to Christmas.

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Literary Dinner Parties

I ran out of questions I thought were interesting on the Big List I was working through, so I made up my own — and I asked my reading friends on fb which literary character(s) they’d invite for dinner, and what they’d serve. I’ve got three Literary Dinners in mind — only one would fit into my apartment at the moment. I’d have to find other space for the other two.

Dinner for me and three guests at my apartment:

Guests: Harriet Vane (Lady Peter Wimsey), Ginny Weasley Potter, and Bridget Jones.

Menu: Turkey Curry and Chocolate Mousse for afters.

The Friends of Narnia Dinner:

Guests: Digory, Polly, Peter, Susan (I’d invite her, though she might refuse), Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill

Menu: Beef Stew, red wine, with fruit sorbet and cheese for afters. No Turkish Delight allowed.

The Detective Club:

Guests: Peter Wimsey, Adam Dalgliesh, Alan Banks, Fiona Cameron, Rev. Clare Fergusson, and Amelia Peabody

Menu: Mystery Something. Possibly a Mystery Dinner with food that looks like something else. Mashed Potato sundae anyone?

Who would you invite for your dinner party? What would you serve?

 

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Cuckoo and other mysteries

This post is by request. Yes, I did read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling and here is the review/reflection on that book and some other mysteries I’ve been reading.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a very nice mystery, featuring a private detective with an interesting past, his trusty and newly-arrived sidekick (Robin), and some questionable clients. Our Hero investigates a suitably twisted plot and, of course, solves it. I do hope this is not the end of the series. Rowling has something going on here. She gave us seven Potter books, why not seven Strike books? It would provide a nice set pattern. In The Cuckoo’s Calling Rowling seems to have found a good post-Potter place to land for the moment. Of course now she’s got that World of Potter movie that she’s doing the screenplay for, but I hope she doesn’t give up on Cormoran Strike and his detective agency. If you haven’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling or are uncertain about giving it the time of day, I do recommend it. It is a fun read.

I’ve also been re-reading the Lord Peter Wimsey set of books by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve not read the set from beginning to end for some time, as in since I collected the set lo these many years ago. (Hint on how long: I bought some new and one of these says $3.95 on the cover.) I frequently read selected parts of this set (Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon) but not the whole. I am really enjoying them. Bunter is great. So are all the other characters in the books. Miss Climpson, who recurs at intervals, is fantastic. She is a high-church spinster who investigates when Lord Peter needs her to infiltrate situations that call for her special skills. She also runs a “typing agency” which is a front for a bunch of women who rush about investigating fraud and other crimes.

Your local library may not have easy access to The Cuckoo’s Calling just yet (waiting list anyone?) but I’m sure that Dorothy L. Sayers books can be found there. Give Lord Peter Wimsey a read. He is very entertaining.

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Sad News Amelia Peabody Fans

Sadly, Barbara Mertz, who wrote under the pen names Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters died last Thursday. I just tuned in to the news today. Sorry if you are hearing it from me for the first time.
I read both Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters books. As Elizabeth Peters, Mertz wrote the Amelia Peabody series. I like Peabody for the first five books or so, but then I didn’t read any more. Crocodile on the Sandbank hooked me on the series and the author, but the series didn’t keep me interested. I’m not sure why. I’m still a big fan of Crocodile though — my copy has survived many library purges. My Aunt Nan introduced me to Peters and was the one who told me that Michaels and Peters were the same person. I think the first Peters book I read was a Vicky Bliss mystery, The Camelot Caper. It was from Aunt Nan’s shelves. Nan told me to move on to Crocodile which was MUCH better in her opinion (emphasis hers).
My favourite Barbara Michaels book, the only one to survive repeated library purges, is Houses of Stone. The copy I have I bought new when the book came out in paperback in 1994. It is about a female academic discovering a woman writer of the nineteenth century. Hmm, wonder why I like it. Note, however, that this book survived library purges BEFORE I became an academic working on women writers of the nineteenth century. Maybe this book subconsciously influenced my academic work? Who knows.
Thus I was sad today when I read that Barbara Mertz died last week. She left a literary legacy that is undervalued.

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Spy Fiction!

Hey! I found a new spy fiction author that I like! It is another backlist to read through. Good times.

Stella Rimington is the former head of MI5, so she writes insider spy fiction. This is spy fiction with a female lead, not lame female supporting characters. There are seven (7) books in the Liz Carlyle series so far. I’m half-way through number one and I’m totally hooked.

How did I find out about this stellar series? The Books and Culture podcast. The what? The Books and Culture podcast. I listen to podcasts while doing dishes. The B&C podcast is about 10 minutes per week, so two or three get me through dishes and dinner prep. John Wilson, the editor of Books and Culture, talks to his sidekick Stan about some books of the week. John reads widely. On the podcast he doesn’t only talk about the kind of books that Books and Culture reviews. He also talks about mystery series and spy thrillers. I like this. I’ve taken notes. Stella Rimington is the first author I’ve tried because John recommended the Liz Carlyle series. I like the set. I’ll be trying more of John’s fiction recommendations. Hamish Macbeth anyone? Oh look! There are 29 books in that series.

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