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jenn

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.

How I spent my summer vacation / book haul the first

The post you all knew was coming ... my first book haul post.  But first, a vitamin D break:

 

 

Ok, moving on; as I mentioned earlier, I made my traditional first-day-home pilgrimage to the FOTL across the street from my mom's house, and bought a few books.  Today I returned, because who knows what I missed because of the jet lag?  Then my mom mentioned the library in the next town up, which had to re-built from the ground up, had re-opened.  I've always had excellent book karma at that FOTL (First edition Eyre Affair signed by Fforde for .25 cents) so we pilgrimaged up there.  My karma remains intact.  On the way home, we hit another library FOTL shop.  The result:

 

 

Note that the Icarus Agenda is for MT, because his paperback has disintegrated.  A couple of these are upgrades from paperback - and the two Nancy Drews are first editions; none of this 'updating' crap.

 

There's at least one title there from the 1001 Badass list.  BrokenTune, I caved.  ;-)

 

This is all a prelude, of course, to our FOTL book trail that my mom, my sister and I inaugurated the last time I was here.  With 6 FOTL shops in the county, we just can't do them all in one day; now we can concentrate on the bigger shops in the county seat later this week.



Booklikes-opoly 2019 - MbD's update #12; the traveling edition.

Having safely (if not soundly - the jet lag this time has been debilitating) arrived home to Florida, and having finished my book for the current space, #16), it's time to roll again.

 

I have my trusty travelling board, but haven't found a stand-in game piece yet, and I'll have to rely on virtual dice so, pictures later.

 

My first roll was a 4 in the form of double 2s:

 

This lands me on #19: Read a book with a cover that is more than 50% blue, or by an author whose first or last name begins with any letter in the word L-A-K-E.

 

 

My second roll was an 8 by way of double 4sb

 

which put me on #27: 27. Read a book that features a hero's journey or is a bildungsroman (coming of age tale) or that has a word related to space in the title, such as star, planet, rocket)

 

 

and finally I rolled a 3 (thank god):

which put me on space #30: Read a book with fruit or pastries on the cover, or that was written by an author whose first or last name begins with any letter in L-O-V-E.

 

This is all very exciting because I'm finally visiting some new squares - EXCEPT - I'm not at home, with access to my books.  Oh no!  I'll have to buy more books!  The things I do in the name of the game.

 

I do have one book with me that will fit the space for #30, The Frangipani Tree Mystery - Ovidia Yu, so I'll start that book now, and see what I can find for the other two - though I may end up skipping 27.  

 

 

(And yes, I've been to the FOTL; I bought 4 books, but I'll do a book haul post later.)



The Skeleton in the Clock (Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery)

The Skeleton in the Clock - Carter Dickson

There's a lot to unpack about this book, and I doubt I'll cover all of it.  I enjoyed my first John Dickson Carr read (The Mad Hatter Mystery) so much, I wanted to try out the series he wrote under the pseudonym Carter Dickson, one title of which I happened to have on the ole TBR pile.

 

If I were to judge based only on these two books, I'd have to say the Merrivale series is the one where he let his nutty flag fly.  This book was hilarious; I laughed out loud several times at the start, and the witticisms and situational humor continue unabated throughout the rest of the story.  There was also a vibe here that kept me thinking several times that this was what a Mary Stewart book would look like if it were written by a man (if that makes sense).  That's not strictly accurate, but there's an essence of those types of storylines here.

 

The language was, to a modern reader, a bit obstructionist.  It's very, very English and Dickson spent a lot of page space on "Ho! Ho!", "Oh, ah", "Phooey" and "Ahem" in ways that are out of sync with our style of speech.  I was also never clear who the narrator was supposed to be; it's definitely third person, but there was a time or two when the fourth wall came down and comments were made that made it sound like the narrator was Martin Drake.

 

The plotting was, well, ok, here's the thing: the plotting was done so well and the murderer took me by such complete surprise, that the whole thing sort of backfired in the sense that I didn't buy into it at the end.  There was no ah-hah moment, more a wait-wtf moment.  The evidence is all there for the reader, but the psychology didn't work.

 

Still, I thought it was a hugely entertaining read.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it an essential read, or even insist it's a must for Golden Age enthusiasts, but if you're in the mood for a laugh and don't mind a narrative that can be a bit thick, it's an extremely amusing tale.

 

 



Homeward bound...

I've been MIA the last few days as I:

 

A. Procrastinate about upcoming overseas trip;

B. Panic madly and scramble about wildly preparing for said overseas trip.

 

I'm off to Florida tomorrow for my mom's 95th birthday and because, not to put too fine a point on it, it's winter here and summer there.  Also:  Friends of the Library - 7 of them in my county.  And me with a Badass BookLikes 1001 list in my hot little hands...

 

See you on the other side (of the date line)!

 

Where I'm headed...



Mythos

Mythos - Stephen Fry

A quick review:

 

I debated between 4.5 and 5 stars because at about the 75% mark I started to drift because the abundance of names became hard to follow.  But it's Greek mythology; has anyone ever managed to compile the myths without all the names?  No, I doubt it, so, it hardly seems fair to penalise Stephen Fry because it lagged a bit.  I went the full 5 stars because the names thin back out at the end, and because it's narrated by the author, and Fry can read me any damn thing he wants and I'll listen - even though I have an issue with how he says 'issue'.  

 

If you have any interest in Greek myths but found them incomprehensible - take a look at Fry's effort; I think it's an excellent read for non-academics.



Having the last word ...

A friend of mine posted this on FB and I had to share, because it's my kind of revenge:

 

 

courtesy of the female indexer of the 1980 edition of the Williams Obstetrics Gynecology textbook.



For Moonlight Reader, per request

Closer look at my poor bedraggled quilt (as seen in the background of my last monopoly post):

 

 

 

Possession being 9/10ths of the law, it might be a stretch to say it's mine...



Essential Books - The supplemental non-fiction list.

Since non-fiction has been put on the table, I'm including my supplemental list of non-fiction books that I think are ... somewhat essential.  This one is harder, because, up front, I'm not an academic, and I have a low tolerance for edifying reads, if they are dry or boring.  So I went into this list asking myself what books have I read cover topics that I think are essential to developing a better understanding of the world.  This is what I came up with:

 

The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf:  This is the one essential book on this list.  Everyone should read this at some point in their life.  That Humboldt has become lost in the mists of history is a travesty, as he truly was a genius who recognised two centuries ago what we're just figuring out now.  

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain:  With diversity getting so much attention these days, I think it's important for everyone to understand what is arguably a fundamental level of difference; introversion transcends gender, race, and religion, and offers critical advantages to humanity's progress and neigh, survival.

 

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby:  Because it's essential to know that women have been getting it done and changing the world for far longer than history would like you to believe.

 

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett:  because climate change isn't going to go away if we pretend it's not there, and as Noah found out millennia ago, water (or the lack of it) is nothing to sneeze at.

 

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman:  We are an arrogant species and the world would be better off all around if we only knew and acknowledged that we are not necessarily the smartest species simply because we are the ultimate apex predator.

 

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth:  In the era of social media, it would be refreshing if only those that spoke the loudest had any clue as to how to speak the most eloquently - or hell, even coherently.

 

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston:  We, as book lovers, might appreciate an understanding of the book's history.  If so, this is an excellent and comprehensive history.

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson:  Just think for a moment: even lacking as it is of any depth, imagine that every student had to read this book.  Now imagine how much smarter and better informed registered voters everywhere would be.  Baby steps are better than no steps.

 

Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War by Julie Summers and The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny:  Creative problem solving is a perennially useful skill but never more so in times of greatest adversity - like war.  Learning how humanity gets into the messes it does is crucial, but so is learning how people get through those same messes.  Also, I'd argue that there's a larger message about sugar being a catalyst for peace, but I won't insist upon it.

 

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends and Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends Through the Great War by Mary McAuliffe:  Both of these books are an excellent way to 'side load' history into reluctant students of history.  Well written and incredibly informative not only about the artists the books purport to be about, but about the events in history that shaped them.

 

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell:  Philosophy is non-negotiable for any critical thinker, but like anything that is essential, it's hard.  Sarah Bakewell has done the impossible here:  she's not only made existentialism understandable, but she's made it fascinating.  Ok, I lied above when I said there was only one book on this list I considered essential in and of itself.  This one is too.  Everybody should read this book.



Essential Books - The supplemental mystery list.

Moonlight Reader's call for additional books gave me the excuse I needed to put together a mystery supplement to my original Essential Books list - and not feel guilty about it.  

 

While my original list included some mysteries, I held back in favour of variety across genres and subjects.  Note to Moonlight Reader and Themis-Athena:  To make this list all-inclusive for mysteries, I'm repeating the ones I put in the original list, but I've marked them as repeats.

 

Repeated titles from original list:

Arthur Conan Doyle - There is nobody I'd recommend before I'd recommend Doyle.  His writing remains to this day, wry, entertaining and easy to read; his settings are vivid, his characters written so well as to be almost holographic, and the plotting tight, intricate and the pinnacle of both inductive and deductive reasoning.  Add to all of that the fact that the only person on Earth who bested Sherlock Holmes was a woman, and you have perfection.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers - All her work is worth reading; she was a genius with prose and plotting and while it might be almost blasphemous to say, might be Christie's superior when looking at the consistent excellence of her overall body of work.

 

File on Fenton & Farr - For mystery lovers, this is the natural extension, and apex, of the fair play mystery. Truly just a bound collection of witness statements, police reports and evidence; everything the reader needs to solve the mystery with no extraneous prose, and the solution at the back.  

 

The Circular Study - I could have chosen several Anna Katherine Green novels that could qualified for this list; at least one of which is arguably a better story than this one, but I went with The Circular Study because it's ahead of its time in terms of plot devices. Published in 1900 by one of the first female mystery authors, the story used devices that are common in many mystery stories today, but were technologically non-existent in Green's time, lending the narrative an almost sci-fi feel at times.

 

The Circular Staircase - This story pioneered the 'had I but known' style of mystery writing.  Rinehart is another female frontrunner of the mystery genre, preceding Christie and Sayers by at about 2 decades, and her writing remains gripping, action packed, and humorous today.

 

The rest of the list (in no particular order):

 

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers:  This title deserves I specific mention, in my opinion.  I know Gaudy Night is considered her strongest (with just reason), but for me Strong Poison affected me the most.  It's probably the most emotional of the Whimsey books, with Harriet's startling apathy borne of complete hopelessness, and Whimsey's passionate – almost unreasonable in the face of the evidence – determination to save her.  By the end I was thoroughly wrung out.

 

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne:  While the world is definitely better for having Winnie the Pooh in it, Milne had untapped talent for imaginative and engaging mysteries, save for this one gem.  It's not perfect, but which mystery writer ever wrote a perfect first novel?  The potential though, is clearly there, and I think it's worth any reader's time who is interested in the Golden Age, and the history of the mystery genre.

 

The Mayor's Wife by Anna Katherine Green: Not only is the book very well written, but it has a little bit of everything fun and suspenseful in a vintage mystery: tales of hauntings, cryptic codes, unexplainable occurrences, dodgy butlers, and crazy old ladies staring out of attic windows.  And Green was doing it all over 100 years ago.

 

3 Thirds of a Ghost by Timothy Fuller:  Definitely one of the more obscure titles on my list, but for the hard core Golden Agers, I think it's worth the effort.  Fuller authored several Jupiter Jones mysteries, and this one was fun, well written, has a large satirical streak, is self-referential, and openly pokes at popular tropes contemporary to its publication.

 

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin:  Crazy, madcap fun, centered in Oxford.  It might be stetching the definition a bit, but this mystery centers on a kind of gaslighting, and well, it's just a hoot.

 

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham:  This is the only Allingham I've read, so she might have better, but I thought, for such a slim volume, she'd written an exceptionally good mystery here.  The ending is daring, even by today's standards, and it just left me feeling as though reading it was time well spent.

 

The Mad Hatter Mystery by John Dickson Carr:  The newest addition to my list, as I just finished it yesterday.  Like Allingham, this is the only Carr I've read so far, but it is exceptional.  Otto Penzler counts it as one of Carr's masterpieces and I have no trouble believing it.   An essential read for any mystery lover.

 

Woman in White by Wilkie Collins:  I'm going rogue here and choosing this over The Moonstone.  Both are excellent; classics even, and well worth reading at least once (Collins can be rather verbose), but Woman in White has stuck with me as a more compelling mystery, while The Moonstone has largely faded from my memory.  

 

The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales by Edgar Allen Poe:  Poe generally gets credit for writing the first detective mystery, and as such, mystery fans should definitely read this short story of a locked room mystery (of sorts).  Dupin's influence on the creation of Sherlock Holmes is impossible to miss, though I argue that Doyle surpassed his mentor.  Personally I find Dupin to be an ego driven ass in love with the sound of his own voice, but The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a good mystery, and the least objectionable of the Dupin stories.

 

Locked Doors by Mary Roberts Rinehart: Short the story may be in pages, but long in suspense, and fast in pace.  If you can find this story anywhere, I highly recommend it; I promise you, you'll never see that ending coming.  

 

Contemporary Titles - I'm not sure these will stand the test of time, but they've all certainly stood up to re-reads.  With the exception of Midnight... all are the first in a series; the first book might not be classic contenders, but I've found the series as a whole  to have merit.

 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt:  I've never felt confident about whether this was a true crime story or not, but either way it's a gripping mystery with amazing characters and the Savannah backdrop is the best supporting character.  Haunting, atmospheric and definitely a must-read.

 

Caught Dead in Philadelphia by Gillian Roberts:  Written in the late 80's, before a romance with a police detective became tropetasically cliche, the Amanda Pepper series centers on a prep school teacher as reluctant amateur sleuth.  It's well written and solidly plotted, without the often painful shallowness that today's commercial cozies have adopted.

 

Them Bones by Carolyn Haines:  This is definitely a recommendation for the series over the specific title.  The Sarah Booth Delaney books straddle the line between traditional and cozy; there's a ghost that pesters the MC to get married and pregnant (not necessarily in that order) so the family line doesn't die out, but there's also a lot of emotional depth centered on friendship as well as love that is often painful to read (in a good way).  Essential might be a stretch, but these books left a mark on me, and gave me food for thought.

 

Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews:  Arguably the 'cosiest" of the books on this list, the series is meant to be funny and light.  And it is - there's a scene in this particular book that made me laugh until tears streamed down my face.  But every one of them is well written and Andrews created, in my opinion, the very model of a modern major general in Meg Langslow.  She's everything every woman should want to be when she grows up (blacksmithing is optional).

 

Death at the Chateau Bremont by M.L. Longworth:  The closest I've found to a true traditional mystery in recent years; this series takes place in Aix en Provence.  The mysteries are complex, as are the characters, and the setting is magnificent.  

 

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters:  Classic traditional mysteries that take place in medieval times and centers on a monk named Brother Cadfael.  On the surface, this sounds dull (at least it did to me) but Peters monk came to monastic vows late,  after living a colourful and eventful life fighting in the crusades.  This is a series that will definitely stand the test of time and, I think, will become a classic.



Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 303 pages.

The Skeleton in the Clock - Carter Dickson

The mystery hasn't started yet, but I've snort*laughed at least twice so far.  I'd quote one here, but both are slow build-ups and I'm unwilling to type that much for something that might fall flat out of context.  

 

A very promising start.



Reading progress update: I've listened 801 out of 925 minutes.

Mythos - Stephen Fry

The last couple of hours of the book, while still unbelievably entertaining, have entered the realm of Too Many Names To Keep Straight.  This has always been my biggest problem with Greek Mythology (or any other mythology, really)- the names are unfamiliar to me and the list of begats and family trees make my eyes glaze over.  Still, I'm loving this like I've never loved Greek Myth before, and I'm hoping to finish it before I leave for the States (although if I don't, it'll be something to listen to on the plane, providing I remember my noise cancelling headphones.



Booklikes-opoly 2019 - MbD's update #11

Well, having finished the brilliant The Mad Hatter Mystery, it's finally time to roll again and the suspense was too much for the Victorian Gaming Commission's feline agent:

 

 

She needn't have feared though; it's not close enough to bed time for me to roll doubles, or land on free parking, or any of the other complexities that seem to plague me when I'm just intending to do a 'quick' roll before heading to sleep.  I rolled a simple 6 and landed on 16. Read a book that is a mystery or suspense, or which has a title that contains all of the letters in the word C-A-B-I-N.

 

Trawling through my TBR shelves, I spotted The Skeleton in the Clock, by Carter Dickson, and since I enjoyed The Mad Hatter Mystery so much, I decided to go with it and see if I like Dickson Carr as much when he writes under his pseudonym.

 

 

Wild cards in hand:  3

 

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 (picked up Cat Card)
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

6/08/19: The Library of the Lost and Found, +$3.00

6/10/19: Beach Town, +$5.00

6/10/19: Passed GO!, +$5.00  (via Free Parking / Race Car)

6/13/19: The Shakespeare Requirement, +$3.00

6/13/19: Passed Go!, +$5.00 (via Free Parking / Scotty Dog)

6/15/19: Death and the Girl Next Door, +$3.00

6/22/19: The Mad Hatter Mystery, +$3.00

 

(show spoiler)

 



The Mad Hatter Mystery (Gideon Fell, #2)

The Mad Hatter Mystery - John Dickson Carr

I've been wanting to read The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins) for ages, but I've been stubbornly waiting until I found an older edition (mission: impossible), rather than buying a spiffy new reprint.  But when Otto Penzler's American Mystery Classics released this spiffy new reprint with it's classic looking cover, I caved.

 

In Penzler's introduction, he refers to this as one of Dickson Carr's masterpieces.  It's the only one I've read –so far– but I'll agree with him in principle, because I can't imagine the mysteries he'd have had to write to knock this one out of, say, his top 3 (we'll take it as read that The Hollow Man occupies the first spot).  The writing is sublime, the humor is well timed and a perfect blend of American and UK wit, and the plotting is incredible.  The ending... well, the ending is twisty and dodgy and Dickson Carr uses one of my favorite devices; one I think elevates the story to another level.

 

Woven within the narrative is Dickson Carr's ode to books; to a good mystery; the legitimacy of genre literature; to the love of reading and the places it can take you.  Round about the edges are tip of the hats to Conan Doyle and more obviously, his friend and debate partner, G.K. Chesterton.

 

My reading was constantly interrupted by real life, which I feel hampered my ability to 'play along', though, ironically, I did guess the murderer in the end, purely because the fractured reading left me misunderstanding what I thought was a 'big' clue.

 

All in all an incredibly entertaining read; I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, classic mystery, with the caveat that it is best read when the reader has time to devote to it.



Reading progress update: I've read 156 out of 292 pages.

The Mad Hatter Mystery - John Dickson Carr

This book is taking way too long to read for something I'm enjoying this much.  So far, it's everything I love about the Golden Age mysteries.  Dickson Carr based Fell on GK Chesterton, and once you know that, the resemblance is startling.  The nod to Doyle and Watson was wonderful, and it made me giggle madly.

 

So far, I have no idea where this mystery is going, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the ride.

 

Dorothy had not been at the hotel when Rampole and the doctor arrived there on their return from the Tower. A note left for Rampole at the desk informed him that Sylvia Somebody, who had been at school with her, was taking her home for a gathering of some of the other old girls. Owing, she said, to previous knowledge of her husband's passionate aversion to jolly little evenings of this kind, she had informed them that he was in the hospital with a violent attack of delirium tremens. They'll condole with me so, she explained. D'you mind if I tell them how you throw plates and the cat and come home every night by way of the coal chute? She said he was to give her love to Dr Fell; and not to forget to pin the name of his hotel to his coat lapel so that the cabman would know where to put him at the end of the evening.
 
My marriage resembles this remark...


MbD's Essential(ish) Books; could be the first, or the final, draft

I've been sitting on this list for three days, and I can't think of anyone I've left off; that won't happen until I actually publish the list. These are the books on my shelves that I'd recommend to just about anybody with the thought that they're the most likely to appeal on one level or another.  

 

I've left off most of the mysteries - in case I do that second list. More than half are not dead white guys, though that wasn't by design.  I also spanned all age groups, and tried hard to leave off mainstream authors (that means Christie, though her place in any list is firmly cemented).  Almost all of them are older (far older) than I am.

 

Arthur Conan Doyle - There is nobody I'd recommend before I'd recommend Doyle.  His writing remains to this day, wry, entertaining and easy to read; his settings are vivid, his characters written so well as to be almost holographic, and the plotting tight, intricate and the pinnacle of both inductive and deductive reasoning.  Add to all of that the fact that the only person on Earth who bested Sherlock Holmes was a woman, and you have perfection.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers - All her work is worth reading; she was a genius with prose and plotting and while it might be almost blasphemous to say, might be Christie's superior when looking at the consistent excellence of her overall body of work.

 

 

Judy Blume - I could just say this woman raised me via her writing and leave it at that, but more importantly, Judy Blume wrote adolescent characters with agency and the ability to reason.  The result was at least one generation whose women are stronger and more independent because of her.

 

Fox in Socks - To this day, there is no book I've read more than this one.  I learned to read at the tender age of 3 reading this book; I'm not sure it gets more essential than that.

 

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective - Books that entertain while they're teaching critical thinking skills ... the gateway drug to Sherlock Holmes.

 

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Where to begin?  Kids run away and sleep in a museum; they survive by budgeting they money; they learn to appreciate art, and solve a mystery in the process.  It's damn inspirational, if you set aside the running away part.

 

Window on the Square - Pure gothic romance, with a gripping mystery.  When I read it as a twenty-something, it's premise felt shocking, and just the right amount of horrifying for a chicken like myself.  After several re-reads, I still find the whole story shocking and a little bit twisted.

 

File on Fenton & Farr - For mystery lovers, this is the natural extension, and apex, of the fair play mystery. Truly just a bound collection of witness statements, police reports and evidence; everything the reader needs to solve the mystery with no extraneous prose, and the solution at the back.  

 

The Circular Study - I could have chosen several Anna Katherine Green novels that could qualified for this list; at least one of which is arguably a better story than this one, but I went with The Circular Study because it's ahead of its time in terms of plot devices. Published in 1900 by one of the first female mystery authors, the story used devices that are common in many mystery stories today, but were technologically non-existent in Green's time, lending the narrative an almost sci-fi feel at times.

 

The Circular Staircase - This story pioneered the 'had I but known' style of mystery writing.  Rinehart is another female frontrunner of the mystery genre, preceding Christie and Sayers by at about 2 decades, and her writing remains gripping, action packed, and humorous today.

 

Old Herbaceous: A Novel of the Garden - Published originally in 1950, this is just a cozy, kind, feel good narrative of a life of hard, honest work by a man who loved his job and his place in this world.  It's a wonderful story that left me feeling good when I finished it.

 

Elizabeth and Her German Garden - First published in 1898, this is a fictionalised account of Eliabeth Von Arnim's first summer in her country house, learning to garden.  It's wry, dry, and witty; Von Arnim barely tolerates her own family, never mind the guests, and she has a terrible time keeping gardeners.  

 

84 Charing Cross Road - This is probably on a 1001 list somewhere, but I'm including it because it's brilliant, and it's perfect.  Another feel good read.

 

Last Days of Summer - On the outside, this looks like an epistolatory comedy for baseball fans, but that's not all it is.  This story is about the family you choose, and it packs a wallop.

 

The Chosen - A friend tricked me into reading this by telling me it was about baseball; it isn't.  But it's a moving, thought-provoking story about the mysteries of faith and family and how friendship can often trump both.

 

Dear Committee Members - One of the few contemporary titles on my list, but I feel like it can stand the test of time as well, or better, than most.  Another epistolatory novel, this time it's pure satire of the American university system; it too packs a punch.

 

Wild Strawberries - Pure entertainment in the form of eccentric family chaos.  Thirkell was a woman who seemed to live on her own terms, divorced twice and writing for a living, rather than a hobby or an art.  She didn't hold her own work in very high regard, but it stands up beautifully as quality satire.

 

Please Mr. Einstein - One of the few books I've ever read that spoke to my soul, if I may be so melodramatic.  I love this book; I might ask to be buried with it when I shuffle off.  It's perfect.

 

The Eyre Affair - Is it perfect? No. But it's genius and it's fun and it's a love story for book lovers.

 

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 - The only poem / ballad on my list.  Casey at Bat feels, to me, like everything that is good about America.

 

The Semi-Attached Couple - Originally published in 1860, an almost forgotten story in the vein of Austen, about what happens after the wedding between a husband and wife who marry as strangers.

 

The Grand Sophy - Heyer was hit and miss, but when she had a hit, it was a big one.  The Grand Sophy isn't deep, but it's entertaining and at its center is a woman who never lets a man - or anything else - stand in her way.



Question for Tigus

Tigus, if you please, can you tell me ifThe Mad Hatter Mystery involves a visit to a museum, concert, library or park? 

 

I'm taking a shot in the dark here, with the black top hats, and hoping that somebody in that book is going to the theatre or a concert.