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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Beach Town

Beach Town - Mary Kay Andrews

I actually finished reading this two days ago, but I've recently become insanely obsessed with a silly game on my iPhone, and I've been ... distracted  Luckily, I remember enough about the book to clearly remember that for the most part it was ... ok.  Actually, probably not quite as good as ok, but the setting fed my optimism bias enough that I'll remember it as being an ok read.


The MC is a location manager for the film industry, tasked with finding the perfect "Old Florida" town: run down, palm tree laden, white beach bordered.  This mandate was arguably the most interesting part of the writing for me; as a Florida cracker myself, I actually remember "old Florida" and genuinely wish we could bring it back.  And I have to say, Andrews nailed "old Florida" in a way that's startling, especially given that Andrews is a Georgia girl.  Cypress Key (which I'm assuming is fictional), is described as just outside of Gainesville and Alachua, so definitely in the northern part of the state, but her description of it so closely mimics my own home town - right down to the old casino at the end of a pier and a decrepit boathouse at the base of the bridge, that I felt right at home.


The rest of the story though, was just plain average.  The romance didn't spark, the lack of reality in the timelines, and complete absence of the red tape involved in filming a movie; the complete cliche of the 'star' being an out of control coke head.  All of this just felt dialled in and lacked any of the complexity that I've found in Andrews' earlier work.  It was ok enough that I don't regret buying my copy used, but had I bought it new I would definitely have felt underwhelmed with Andrews' effort.

Booklikes-opoly 2019 - MbD's updates 6 and 7

RL has been hectic this week.  I'm heading home at the end of the month, and when I booked my ticket, I hit the wrong button and it was issued in MT's name.  Y'all, Qantas sucks; we called them - the priority line, mind you - for 4 DAYS and could not get a through to a human.  It took my Facebook shaming them, and then 3 hours of waiting for PM responses, before we got the damn thing fixed.  No circumstances exist where I want to spend 3 hours on Facebook.


BUT - yesterday was hectic for a much better reason: a friend's birthday took us out to the Yarra Valley.  To a chocolate factory.  For morning tea, of course.  We followed it up with a trip to the local dairy and a brilliant local produce shop heading home.


Photo from web, but make the sky blue and the tree saplings in the foreground mature, and that's the view from the chocolate factory.


I have been reading though, and after finishing up The Nine Tailors for square #2 Thursday night, I had just enough time to roll and pick a book to read in bed.  I rolled a 7:


 Victorian gaming commission on the premises and checking for loaded dice.



This put me on Space 9. Read a book that includes a visit to a museum, a concert, a library, or a park, or that the authors name begins with one of the letters in R-E-L-A-X.  I choose The Library of the Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick.  The MC works in a library and there are quite a few scenes that take place in the library.  This was a quick read, and I finished it last night.  


First thing this morning I rolled again, and got a 3:



This put me on square 11. Read a book set in a coastal/beach region that you love, or would love to visit, or a book that has a beach or ocean on the cover.  I have a Mary Kay Andrews on my TBR pile - 2 of them actually - so I'll use Beach Town - Mary Kay Andrews for this square.


Current Status (in spoiler tags b/c it's getting long): Total $56

Novelty card(s) in hand:  The Cat



5/20/19: Beginning balance, $20.00
5/22/19: Skinny-dipping, +$3.00
5/24/19: Cedar Valley, +$3.00
5/24/19: Garden Spells, +$3.00
5/25/19: A Lighthearted Quest, +$2.00 (dnf) (Memorial Day bonus roll #1)
5/25/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00
5/25/19: The Mystery of Cloomber, +$3.00 (Memorial Day bonus roll #2)
5/26/19: Grave Destiny, +$3.00

6/02/19: The Norse Myths, +3.00

6/02/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00

6/06/19: The Nine Tailors, +$3.00

6/07/19: The Library of the Lost and Found, +$3.00

(show spoiler)


The Library of the Lost and Found

The Library of the Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick

Meh.  It's not bad, just average in the statistical sense.  The story wasn't what I expected from the blurb; not because it was misleading, but rather because my inference of it was of a story altogether different. 


The story was never bad enough (or really, bad, though the writing wasn't strong enough to follow on the heels of Dorothy Sayers) to DNF it, but I didn't really care much about the main character, or anyone in her orbit.  I suspect this is supposed to be a tear jerker, but at no point did I feel even the slightest tug; my tear ducts remained unmoved and indifferent from beginning to end.  I also suspect it's plot twist is supposed to have packed an emotional punch, but honestly, this particular plot twist is practically a cliche at this point.


The MC's 85 year old grandmother is gay.  Whoopty doo.

(show spoiler)


As I said, it's not a bad book; it just wasn't really my jam.


It did, however, have a large number of scenes that take place in a library, and the MC volunteers at said library, so I got a monopoly square out of it, and of course another book off my TBR.

The Nine Tailors (Lord Peter Whimsey)

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

This was one of the few remaining Whimsey books I had left to read; not being English by birth, and ignorant of the art behind bell ringing, I'd naturally thought this was a mystery about tailors; you know, those that produce clothing.  I was set straight a few of years ago, and became determined to read it, because a mystery about bell ringing sounded a LOT more interesting.


Nine Tailors was both what I did and didn't expect.  From what I'd picked up about bell ringing by osmosis, I knew it was going to be one of the more esoteric mysteries, so I was going to have to depend a lot on context, or spend a lot of time googling.  But I didn't expect the almost thriller-ish pacing towards the end, especially as the rest of the book was almost languid in it's exploration of the murder of the stranger in the tower.


In a genre where Cabot Cover Syndrome abounds, with a dozen murders in a small town/village occurring within months is the norm, it's refreshing to pick up a golden age mystery where – time passes –.  Indeed, it's 6 months or so before the readers are given a partial solution, and it's almost a year to the day before the true nature of the killing is understood.  


If the esoteric nature of the plot aren't a barrier for the mystery lover, there's an outstanding mystery to be had.  Several classic elements are here: coded messages, riddles, cold crimes, treasure, and intrigue in graveyards.  It's not strictly a perfect mystery - the cold crime in question starts out with three men clearly involved, but later in the book that third man is discarded; this totally left me confused later in the book, forcing me to go back and re-read earlier sections to get back on track.


Ultimately, I figured out both identity and cause of death well before Whimsey, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story - indeed, Sayers, in all her mastery, created a fair play mystery where I, as a reader, was actively trying to figure it out, and I had the clues I needed to do it.  But even more than this, Sayers created a story where I was invested in the village of Fenchurch St. Paul; I needed to know about the fate of the village and villagers more than I needed to know whether or not I was right.  When Whimsey figured out how the man died, and I learned whether I was right or not, it was, as I believe Sayers intended, rather anticlimactic and merely a footnote in light of the events that came before.


I didn't go with a higher rating because I think I'm going to need to re-read this one in order to appreciate the work as a whole.   There's a feeling that there's a complexity to the writing and story telling that I missed the first time around; I was too focused on the trees to fully appreciate the majesty of the forest.  But even so, it's a book I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who appreciates fine writing and an excellent mystery.

Reading progress update: I've read 203 out of 237 pages.

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

Sorry about the back to back updates, but though I'm less certain than I was about my last bet (which I won), I feel like it's worth noting:


I think he died by 9+ hours of being locked up with the ringing bells.

(show spoiler)

Reading progress update: I've read 177 out of 237 pages.

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

Also, for the record, I'm going all in and saying:


Deacon is the dead man.

(show spoiler)

Reading progress update: I've read 169 out of 237 pages.

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

After a LOT of interruptions, I'm finally able to get back to this mystery.


I had to go back and double check, but yes, there it was, on page 37:


Everybody's trying to figure out: Cranton or Deacon?  Deacon or Cranton?  But everybody is (so far) forgetting there was a third man involved.  At least, according to Sayers' narrative on page 37.

Reading progress update: I've listened 390 out of 600 minutes.

Mythos - Stephen Fry

All I have to say so far is this:


Fry may be doing his own thing with the Greek myths, and that might not set well with the purists, but I doubt very much any Greek scholar could have made the dialogue between Psyche's sister's more memorable, or hilarious.


Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying this one so far.

Reading progress update: I've read 62 out of 237 pages.

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers

If blopoly was paid out based on text size, this little 237 page mystery would be a $5 read. Good thing I'm near-sighted.


I haven't yet broken down and googled the bell ringing terminology, but I'm near breaking point; I just breaking my reading rhythm.


The dead body has just now been found, with the Reverend just sitting down to write a letter we all know is to Lord Peter Whimsey to come and save the day.


I love how the passage of time does not have to be forensically accounted for to readers of classic crime, and does anybody do dialogue, especially hilarious and realistic patter, better than Sayers?  I'm feeling arrogant, so I'm going to say not.  She was a master at the pattering monologues that sustain themselves, and amuse the reader, long after mere mortal writers would have floundered.

Booklikes-opoly 2019 - MbD's update #5

I've completed The Norse Myths (208 pages = $3.00), and it's time to roll again:


I rolled a 7:



And landed on space #2 -  Who? Read a mystery or detective story or a book with the word "who" in the title. (after passing GO!).  As you can see, this proved to be a mildly contentious roll, as Easter-cat didn't feel the need to share.  (This is not convenient anthropomorphism either - the hostility is very real, and very much the status quo round here at the house of the spoiled cats.)


For this square, I'm going to read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the two remaining Whimsey/mysteries I've left to read from Sayers.




Current Status:

Novelty card(s) in hand:  The Cat


5/20/19: Beginning balance, $20.00
5/22/19: Skinny-dipping, +$3.00
5/24/19: Cedar Valley, +$3.00
5/24/19: Garden Spells, +$3.00
5/25/19: A Lighthearted Quest, +$2.00 (dnf) (Memorial Day bonus roll #1)
5/25/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00
5/25/19: The Mystery of Cloomber, +$3.00 (Memorial Day bonus roll #2)
5/26/19: Grave Destiny, +$3.00

6/02/19: The Norse Myths, +3.00

6/02/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00

The Norse Myths: A guide to the gods and heroes

Norse Myths A Guide to the Gods and Heroes - Carolyne Larrington

My first dip into Norse Mythology was Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythologywhich, to my mind, was the perfect introduction.  This book was an excellent next-step - a little bit more in-depth, a little more of an academic bent, without being dry or boring.


Larrington gets off to the best possible start by including, on the very first page, a pronunciation guide to Old Norse, covering the extra letters of 'eth (ð)' and 'thorn (þ)', as well as the various diphthongs, æ, ö and ø.  I immediately bookmarked this page, because I referred back to it a lot.  Having given the reader this guide, Larrington then proceeds to refer to the gods and heroes by their original Old Norse/Icelandic names/spellings, so Thor is þórr; Odin is Óðinn.  This authenticity might annoy some readers, but I appreciated the exercise - hopefully some of it will stick now that I've used it for 200+ pages.


The layout of the chapters is as close to chronological order as is possible.  Larrington uses the first chapter to discuss her main sources, and then goes on with the creation of the world, the order of the gods and giants, the heroes, ragnorök, and the rebirth of the world.  Interspersed throughout are the myths that Gaiman's readers will recognise, as well as a fair few more, with a bit of commentary as to the historical background, modern day evidence, and a nod to the possible motivations and bias of Snorri Sturluson, the author of the Prose Edda, the earliest known written form of the Norse myths.  


At only a little over 200 pages, this book is short on the commentary and long on the myths, so it's likely not aimed at someone with a-better-than-beginner knowledge of Norse mythology.  There are also a generous number of illustrations and photographs (b/w) sprinkled throughout the text, showing images through the ages that illustrate the various myths.


All in all a delightful resource for me, and an engrossing way to while away a cold and windy afternoon snuggled up on the couch with the cats.


(Read for Booklikes-opoly square #32, The Nordic Express)

Booklikes-opoly 2019 - MbD's update #4

After the Memorial Day bonus rolls and my normally scheduled Monday roll, I had a backlog to get through before I could roll again.  I finished those up today and my current bank is:


5/20/19: Beginning balance, $20.00
5/22/19: Skinny-dipping, +$3.00
5/24/19: Cedar Valley, +$3.00
5/24/19: Garden Spells, +$3.00
5/25/19: A Lighthearted Quest, +$2.00 (dnf) (Memorial Day bonus roll #1)
5/25/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00
5/25/19: The Mystery of Cloomber, +$3.00 (Memorial Day bonus roll #2)
5/26/19: Grave Destiny, +$3.00


leaving me with a current total (according to MT, who is Rainman when it comes to doing math in his head), $41.00.


My next roll was an 11:



This puts me on space #32: The Nordic Express: Read a book set in one of the Nordic countries, or by an author from any of those countries. (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden).


For this square, I'm going full-on Norse and choosing Norse Myths A Guide to the Gods and Heroes by Carolyne Larrington @ 203 pages.


The Norse Myths presents the infamous Viking gods, from the mighty Asyr, led by Ó?inn, and the mysterious Vanir, to Thor and the mythological cosmos they inhabit.

The Mystery of Cloomber

The Mystery of Cloomber -  Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a great mystery, told in the same sparse but eloquent style used with the Holmes stories.  I could, and did as I was reading, nitpick about a few things, which is why I went with 4 stars.  Don't ask me what they were though; I just finished it, and yet can't put my finger on what I found lacking.


But the book represents something far more fascinating than another solid Conan Doyle mystery; The Mystery of Cloomber is an excellent representation of the two sides of Conan Doyle: the empiricist and the spiritualist.  Originally published in 1888, this story shows that ACD's embracement of the occult was a gradual process that spanned decades.  WWI might have been the tipping point, but as this mystery attests, the foundations were firmly in place early in his career.


The book is also interesting for the setting:  if you liked the bleak moors of England in The Hound of the Baskervilles, you'll enjoy seeing Doyle's earlier use of the moors (this time Scottish) in The Mystery of Cloomber.  Like Hound of the Baskervilles, the moors play a big part in the plot, though their mysterious and heavy atmosphere are used to less effect.


i don't want to say more about the plot for fear of spoiling it, but I'll leave off with this:  this mystery might not have a satisfactory ending for some readers.  There's a resolution, but, well...


(read for BookLikes-oploy for space #3 - a classic)

A Lighthearted Quest (Julia Probyn, #1) - DNF

A Lighthearted Quest - Ann Bridge

There's a good story in here somewhere, and I tried to stick with it long enough to find it, but in the end I couldn't do it.  


I often lament poor copyediting/editing when I come across it, but in truth, I can generally overcome it; it might slow me down, but I'm able to understand the writing.  This is the first book I've ever read where the copyediting was so poor that I struggled in places to understand what the hell the sentence was supposed to be saying.


A quick example:

Of course Mrs. Monro had no idea how big the boat was. Edina might know, she said; but Edina was out seeing about draining those fields on McNeil's farm, that poor John had been so keen on —"It was standing over those wretched drainers, in the East wind, that made him ill and killed him," said Mrs. Monro, beginning to dab at her eyes.


By the old rules, that semicolon is before 'but' is acceptable though clumsy, but the comma after farm, on top of the em dash ... and it's not just a one off; there are multiple occurrences of these clunkers, along with missing words and other more run-of-the-mill copyediting gaffs.


Then there's the editing.  This book is so much more tell than show.  After reading the efficient and aesthetically pleasing style of Conan Doyle, this was a slog.  This is a subjective complaint; after all, part of the draw of this book (and series apparently) is that Julia is traveling to exotic locals, and painting the picture plays a heavy hand in making the style work.  I suspect I'd not have minded all the detailed telling had it been more grammatically graceful, but coupled with the clunky writing it snapped the thread of my patience.


Underneath all of this though, there is a good story.  As it's the first book of what looks to be a well established series, it might be an outlier and subsequent books are better, perhaps.  Bridge does bring the characters (though the MC was difficult for me, because I kept imagining a British Lana Turner) and setting to vivid life, and the plot shows a lot of promise.  But none of it was compelling enough to inspire me to overcome the hurdles of the technically awkward writing.


(This was a Booklikes-opoly read for square #35 and I read 113 pages for a total of $2.00)

Reading progress update: I've read 113 out of 356 pages.

A Lighthearted Quest - Ann Bridge

Imma dbf'ing this one.  I can't take it anymore; there's a good story in there somewhere, but the editing is so bad it's mostly unreadable.  Semicolons in the middle of sentences, missing words, commas seeming just thrown on the page and allowed to stay where they land.  


On the plus side, the book definitely fit the booklikesopoly category I was reading it for: The mc spends most of the first 100 pages as a passenger on a cargo ship.  I made it to page 113, so I'll get my $2.00 out of it too.

Grave Destiny (Alex Craft #6)

Grave Destiny - Kalayna Price

Probably one of the strongest entries in this series; it felt tightly plotted, well paced and clearly part of a larger series arc.  Not all the previous books, even when they were good, felt like they were part of a larger story.


Most of Grave Destiny takes place in Fairy, which truthfully, I don't find nearly as compelling as the mortal realm, where Alex is a grave witch (able to talk to the dead through their shades).  Alex's life is divided between her mortal witch existence, and her fae existence in Fairy, which she's only becoming reconciled to.  My personal preference is for the mortal side, where I find her relationships more interesting, but Price managed to keep me invested in this story anyway.


Major character development took place at the end; it will be interesting to see where Price goes with it, as it's clear she's got a plan for these characters.  Hopefully I won't have to wait as long for the next book to find out what that plan is.