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Showing posts from June, 2011

CR3 #55: The Case of the Guilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

This is another work in my summer mystery series. Set in the late 30s in England, it's sort of an upper-crust society murder. The main character (the Watson, of the piece) is journalist Nigel Blake, on holiday to his college town of Oxford. Although the narration is a third-person limited-omniscient, Nigel is character who does most of the heavy lifting. The main detective is Gervase Fen, a professor of English literature, a friend of Nigel's who has done some detecting before. The rest of the characters are members of a repertory theater company, gathered with the playwright, his companion, the Oxford organist, and several other hangers-on, all of whom become suspects when a widely disliked member of the company is murdered days before opening night.

The mystery is quite twisty, and I couldn't figure it out until the end when it was all laid out for me. I did have trouble for a while keeping all the characters straight, as there are eleven or twelve of them, and several a…

CR3 #54: Her Wyoming Man by Cheryl St.John

(Disclaimer: I won this book for free in a giveaway on Goodreads.com. Doesn't mean I shall be even slightly less critical than I normally would.)

Her Wyoming Man is the story of Ella, who begins the story as a high-class hooker in Kansas City during the late 1800s (I think, I can't recall if any specific dates were ever given). After a change in circumstances, Ella and a few of the other women from the "house of pleasure" make a run for it, answering an ad from a city in rural Wyoming that needs marriage-worthy women. Ella quickly finds herself married to a young widower named Nathan, who has three small children and political aspirations. How long can she keep her past a secret? And what will happen if it comes out?

In general, this is a pretty standard Harlequin-style romance. The heroine is beautiful, the hero is dashing, there is a certain amount of conversation, a problem comes up, is overcome, and everyone basically lives happily ever after. It is not especially…

CR3 #53: Bag of Bones by Stephen King (King REreview #1)

At the moment, I am running low on new books. Partly because I am running out of space to store them (I have a gigantic Ikea bookshelf, I just haven't had the wherewithal to shift all our furniture around to create a space and then put it together), and partly because as I mentioned before, it's summer. I lose motivation in summer, which is not helped by the fact that I managed to complete the full Cannonball. I'm waiting for some new ones to arrive, but what to do in the interim? As I stood in front of my bookshelves the other day, the idea came to me: Stephen King. I own nearly all of his books, and have only reviewed a few. New goal: Re-read and review all (previously unreviewed) King works I own. That should keep me busy during any slow points. Plus, it will give me the opportunity to think a little more critically about his works and express what it is that I enjoy about them to others.

I have already done Cannonball reviews for a few of his works:
1. The Cell
2. The …

CR3 #52: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around with nothing to do, unable to watch TV because The Boyfriend was thoroughly engaged in some sporting event. I found myself in front of the computer, poking around through the Netflix OnDemand list. Suddenly, I remembered the Pajibans recent flurries of praise for the BBC's Sherlock and figured I might as well give it a try.

Ten minutes in, I was completely hooked and already bemoaning the fact that only four episodes had been made. I mentioned this in a previous entry, but bring it up again because it led me back to the original source material. I already own the collected works, but upon further investigation, I discovered that (unsurprisingly, really) some other authors have created their own Holmes tales. I happened to purchase The Seven-Per-Cent Solution simply because it seemed to be the top-rated of the group.

In this story (purported to be a lost work of Dr. Watson, dictated years after the death of Holmes), Dr. Watson tells the story o…

CR3 #51: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

I was talking to my mum the other evening, and she asked about what I'd been reading lately (partly because she is genuinely interested, and partly because I pass along a lot of my books to her, and she hoping to get some good stuff instead of YET ANOTHER BOOK about a horrific fire or shipwreck or something). I said that since it is now summer, I have shifted into trashy fiction/mystery gear. I explained that is what summer is for...even though I am no longer in school and thus get to pick ALL my own reading material. I then went on to explain that my latest trash mystery was a defense of Richard III, using historical documents to show he was innocent of the murder of the two young princes. She said "That doesn't sound trashy at all."

Tey's detective Arthur Grant is laid up in the hospital after a painful accident. He has hurt his back, is unable to move, and is slowly losing his mind from inactivity. Soon, a friend drops by with a stack of photos, some of famous…

CR3 #50: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Circular Staircase was written in 1908 by Mary Roberts Rinehart, a woman many considered to be the "American Agatha Christie." This particular novel is one of the first mysteries in the "Had I but known" style, in which the first person narrator is telling the story from a point after the events, and often throws in small hints about the danger that is to come.

In this particular case, Rachel Innes--a middle-aged spinster--decides to take a house in the country for the summer, along with her niece and nephew, whom she has raised for most of their lives. The house, Sunnyside, turns out to have some very strange issues, including many suspicious things that go bump in the night. As if that wasn't bad enough, shortly after they arrive, a man is shot in the house during the night, even though all the doors were closed and locked. Soon, both of Miss Innes's wards are wrapped up in the mystery, and the house continues to be haunted by noises and uninvited gue…

CR3 #49: Under Observation: Life Inside a Psychiatric Hospital by Lisa Berger

So it looks like my new obsession for fall (once I'm done with the summer's mystery challenge) will be mental hospitals. I checked my to-read list and discovered about six mental hospital-related books.

Lisa Berger spent about a year observing one unit at Massachusetts's McLean Hospital (for more information about McLean's history, here is a link to a previous review). The book was written in cooperation with the doctor-in-charge of the unit she observed, and benefits greatly from his observations. She focuses on a few specific patients over the course of two weeks (roughly the average stay for a patient in the hospital.) They each have different issues, and are treated in different ways. The book also gives some information about how new psychiatric drugs are developed, what the new (in 1992, anyway) advances in mental health are, and the different ideas regarding the treatment of psychological problems. There is also a certain amount of discussion on the way things l…

CR3 #48: The Laughing Policeman by Per Wahloo

(Okay, let's get this out of the way right now: Per Wahloo is a funny name. I know I shouldn't laugh because it's Swedish and for all I know Wahloo is just as average in Sweden as Smith is here. But come ooooooon! Say it to yourself: Per Wahloo. Now out loud. And again. And again. See?)

I have only recently become aware that the Swedes are quite the mystery novelists. I bought Steig Larsson's Lisbeth Salander books, and enjoyed all three to varying degrees. After that, Amazon.com started getting very Scandinavian in its book recommendations. I tried to explain that just because I enjoyed one Swedish mystery did not mean that I wanted to explore any further. However, Amazon can be very stubborn when it so chooses. Unsurprisingly, so can I when I make my mind. No Swedish books, goddammit! My motherland (or like 1/8 of my motherland, anyway, being something of a mutt) has no literary pull on me!

Unfortunately, I had reached a point where I was at a loss for things to read…

Random Things That Are Not Book Reviews

For that four of you out there who read this blog on a regular basis, you must be getting exceedingly tired of my endless book reviews. I'm not going to STOP with the books, mind you, but I thought at least today I could talk about something different. Besides, I also watch MOVIES!

1. Cannonball Fail #1: Before I get into movies, I have to make mention of my first Cannonball Fail. I tried to read Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, but after about 100 pages, I just had to throw it against the wall and give up. I couldn't stand any of the characters--I wanted to take every single person in that story out behind the barn and beat him/her unconscious with a rock. They were all so snooty and archaic. Anyway, I very very rarely give up on a book--sometimes I take...very long breaks, but I nearly always come back and finish--but I couldn't do it. I don't really understand my problem, either. I know several bright, interesting people who truly enjoy Jane Austen's w…

CR3 #47: Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

As far as I can tell, this is the first of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries (it's tough to be sure, because there are so many and they are not labled "Number 1 in the Series!" as they bloody well should be.) I had never read any of the previous books, but I greatly enjoyed the short-lived television show A&E put together a number of years ago (2001? Was it really a whole decade ago?) with Timothy Hutton as narrator Archie Goodwin and Maury Chaykin as the titular Wolfe.

The basic set-up takes place in the 30s, and has Nero Wolfe as the eccentric genius, and Archie is sort of his eyes and ears (and legs and arms--Wolfe is both hugely fat and somewhat agoraphobic, so Archie does pretty much everything that requires leaving the house.) In this particular adventure, a young Italian immigrant comes to Wolfe requesting that he locate her missing brother. Shortly after that investigation begins, a mysterious murder occurs on a golf course, and Wolfe suspects that the murd…

CR3 #46: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Fat Charlie Nancy didn't really understand his father at all. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that his recently deceased father was the personification of the mythical figure Anansi. He's also very surprised that he has a brother--an out-going, magical party boy named Spider--that he never knew existed. Once Spider shows up, Fat Charlie's calm, normal, boring life takes a turn for the crazy. He has to ask for help from some strange sources, and discovers that his father had some fairly dangerous enemies. Besides all that, his fiancee may be falling for Spider and his boss might be a high level criminal out to frame Fat Charlie. It's a wild and satisfying ride.

At first I was excited about the book, since the character of Anansi is featured in American Gods. However, it started out pretty slowly. It took me a while to warm up to Fat Charlie--in the beginning, he was kind of a whiny fuddy-duddy, but eventually he gets it together and becomes a pretty cool hero. The…

CR3 #45: Pronto by Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard's work (so far as I can tell) is populated by a rich and eccentric group of characters. Each one has a distinct personality, and each seems to act for reasons that make sense with his personality--I never got the feeling a character was doing something just to suit the author's plan.

The main character of Pronto is Harry Arno. He's an aging bookie who has been forced into retirement earlier than planned by local crime lord Jimmy Cap. In fact, he hasn't just been forced into retirement, he's been chased right out of Miami. Harry's insistence that he's been set up by the local feds in order to get him to testify against Jimmy falls on deaf ears, and soon men with shotguns are turning up outside Harry's apartment. The US Marshall service sends Marshall Raylan Givens (yay!) to keep an eye on Harry, but Harry is just a little too slippery for his own good. Soon, Raylan is chasing Harry through Italy, with Jimmy Cap's men close on his tail.

I…