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Moonlight Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

Reading progress update: I've read 58%.

Assignment in Brittany - Helen MacInnes

He chose another fish, and beheaded it neatly with one blow of the knife. “That,” he said; “for all traitors who think of their own private interests first. And this”—he selected another fish—“this for the politicians who play with their country’s enemies for the sake of power; and—” He halted as he saw Hearne’s expression.


Playing with their country's enemies for the sake of power? You'd think she was talking about Donald Trump if this hadn't been published in 1941.

A Few Bingo Suggestions!

I doubt that I will get to suggestions for every square, but it's always fun to come up with suggestions of books that I've already read and recommend for the various categories.


I am not a serious horror reader, so I am always on the lookout for books that fill the squares without being overly scary. I'm easily frightened!


So, here goes!



My first recommendation is a book that I read earlier this year: Triptych by Karin Slaughter. If you've not read Slaughter, she writes solid police procedurals. This is the first in her Will Trent series, and it's good. She employs misdirection beautifully, and surprised me three different times before the end of this book.


If you're not into modern mystery thrillers which can be legitimately gory, then I'd recommend The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, which is one of her strongest Poirot mysteries. And Then There Were None would also qualify as a "serial killer" narrative.


Jack the Ripper is probably the most famous serial killer of all time, and Lyndsey Faye wrote a very entertaining Jack the Ripper/Sherlock Holmes mash-up called Dust and Shadow. In addition, she wrote a retelling of Jane Eyre, Jane Steele, with a main character who is a multiple murderess that both Obsidian Blue and I loved.



Who doesn't love a good ghost story? For the players who didn't read along with our group read of Ammie Come Home last year, it was pretty widely enjoyed as an old school gothic romance/ghost story from the 1960's. Barbara Michaels was an extremely prolific and accomplished writer who knew how to entertain her readers. An Inquiry Into Love And Death by Simone St. James is a more recent release in this same genre. 


If you are a fan of YA lit, Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star is the first book in her Shades of London trilogy, which is good fun. And Jackaby, which is billed as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Sherlock Holmes" has a main character who is a ghost. 


I also loved The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman when I read it last year for Halloween Bingo. It is sweet, charming and a bit harrowing - an absolutely lovely book.



There are a minimum of one million qualifying books set in London, so I'm going to mention four series that I love that are set there. First, V.E. Schwab wrote A Darker Shade of Magic, a series that is set in not one, but four, Londons: Gray London, Red London, White London and Black London. I adore this entire series. The Alex Verus series, written by Benedict Jacka and beginning with Fated, is an urban fantasy series in the vein of Harry Dresden, set in London. Ben Aaronovitch writes the beloved and well-regarded Peter Grant series, which starts with Rivers of London. This is the only one I've read, but I plan to read book two - The Moon Over Soho - for this square this time around! London Falling is the first book in the Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell, and is basically a police procedural/urban fantasy combination that is a bit more gory than the rest of the books on this list, but is very good.


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman fits this square perfectly, if you are looking for a stand-alone, and Sherlock Holmes is nearly always a fit for this one - except for The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is set on the moors.



This square has given people a bit of trouble so far, and I only have a few identified that will fit! Uprooted by Naomi Novick is a no brainer, with a corrupted Wood featuring prominently. In the Woods by Tana French is a very good mystery. I have enjoyed all three books in her Dublin Murder Squad series, although the first one is the only one that will fit this square. In addition, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings, set in the mysterious Sevenwaters Forest.


I am planning on reading Endless Night for this one - by Agatha Christie. If my memory serves me correctly, there is a folly in a woods that is integral to the story.


Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below!

The Bingo Calls


This is another reminder that you need to follow both OB & I to get the Halloween Bingo calls. We will be alternately announcing them on our blogs. I will start with the first call on 9/1, and then you will get a call every other day through 10/31.


If you don't follow both of us, you may miss something!


There is a thread in the bingo group where we will post the calls, but they may not be posted immediately.


Bingo book list!

There is a good chance that I will change up this list.  However, by row, my tentative reading plans:



Supernatural: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle

American Horror Story: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Ghost: The Dire King by William Ritter

Gothic: The Looking Glass Portrait by Linda Hilton

Terrifying women: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith



Monster: Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire

Classic Noir: The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich

Genre: Horror: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (this is a wild card b/c I am doing the classic noir group read)

Classic Horror: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Diverse Voices: Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older



Chilling Children: Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

Murder Most Foul: The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

Free: Leaving open for spontaneity

Terror In A Small Town: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Magical Realism: The Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle



Haunted Houses: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Amateur Sleuth:  The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

Serial/Spree Killer: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Country House Mystery: The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

In The Dark, Dark Woods: Endless Night by Agatha Christie



Witches: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Cozy Mystery: A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

Locked Room Mystery: Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Romantic suspense: This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart

Darkest London: Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

10 days


It's not too late to request your card! Join us in reading for the spooky season!


The Pathologically Insecure Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

This was both my first introduction to Tom Ripley, and my first introduction to Patricia Highsmith. I was somewhat aware of the story before I started the book, although I'd neither seen the movie nor read any of the Ripley novels. I knew going in that Tom Ripley was a sociopath and a murderer.


What I didn't realize was that this book was a "retelling" (of sorts) of The Ambassadors by Henry James. Highsmith reveals this early, with overt references to the James novel. Mr. Greenleaf, father of Dickie Greenleaf, makes the fatal error of commissioning Tom Ripley to go to Italy and retrieve his son from the dissipated life of an American ex pat. Sadly for both Dickie and his father, Dickie is a man of independent means, so he cannot be forced him by turning off the money spigot. 


Italy in the 1950's was, apparently, a relatively inexpensive place for a young man of some means and no ambition to while away his days as a dabbler. Dickie Greenleaf has a talent for leisure, if no talent for painting.



Image result for italy in the 1950's


Italy in the 1950's.


Image result for italy in the 1950's


Como, 1954


Tom Ripley, on the other hand, had a talent for mimicry, and little else. I had expected him to be charismatic, but, as it turns out, he was just a nonentity. Whatever personality he possessed came only from an alcohol-induced haze. Because of this, he was pathologically insecure. 


One of the things that struck me about Highsmith's writing is how visceral her description of the act of murder was. With the exception of murder by firearm, murder is a taxing physical act. Highsmith doesn't just "tell" the reader about the murder. She shows the reader the heat, the blood, the exhaustion, and the terror that is experienced by her characters. It is brutal and revolting.


From there, things really just disintegrate. Tom Ripley seems to operate on a knife's edge between merely disturbed and completely unhinged. His internal dialogue is often incredibly creepy.


Alone again, Tom returned to his private reveries. He ought to open a bank account for Tom Ripley, he thought, and from time to time put a hundred dollars or so into it. Dickie Greenleaf had two banks, one in Naples and one in New York, with about five thousand dollars in each account. He might open the Ripley account with a couple of thousand, and put into it the hundred and fifty thousand lire from the Mongibello furniture. After all, he had two people to take care of.




His psyche seems to be fragile.


He definitely wanted to see Greece. He wanted to see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf with Dickie’s money, Dickie’s clothes, Dickie’s way of behaving with strangers. But would it happen that he couldn’t see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf? Would one thing after another come up to thwart him—murder, suspicion, people? He hadn’t wanted to murder, it had been a necessity. The idea of going to Greece, trudging over the Acropolis as Tom Ripley, American tourist, held no charm for him at all. He would as soon not go.


Like Broken Tune, I'm of two minds about Ripley's great escape. On the one hand, I certainly don't sympathize with Tom Ripley and I wasn't rooting for him. On the other hand, it was interesting to watch his mind work, and I can see how he could have fooled the Italian authorities in 1955.


Based on this book, I slot Highsmith into the category of Shirley Jackson - incredibly talented woman who writes disturbed characters disturbingly well. I am wondering if anyone has read Ripley Underground, or any of the other Ripley follow-ups. I'm considering it for Halloween Bingo! 


Holy sociopath batman

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Whoa. Tom Ripley is shocking, disturbing, compelling, inspired. More on this book tomorrow, once I have a chance to process. My initial thoughts are that if Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith had conspired to achieve world domination, there would have been no stopping them.

Reading progress update: I've read 217 out of 285 pages.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

It was senseless to be despondent, anyway, even as Tom Ripley. Tom Ripley had never really been despondent, though he had often looked it. Hadn’t he learned something from these last months? If you wanted to be cheerful, or melancholic, or wistful, or thoughtful, or courteous, you simply had to act those things with every gesture.


Tom Ripley is a deeply disturbed individual. I keep flashing to various eps of Criminal Minds/CSI while I'm reading.


Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 285 pages.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Welp, things have really started to disintegrate for Tom. 


This book is terrifying. The amount of tension that Highsmith has created is really astonishing.

Reading progress update: I've read 103 out of 285 pages.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Holeeeeee shit. That escalated quickly.

Reading progress update: I've read 78 out of 285 pages.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

About thirty minutes later—just the right time later, Tom thought, because the Greenleafs had kept insisting that he drink another and another martini—they went into a dining room off the living room, where a table was set for three with candles, huge dark-blue dinner napkins, and a whole cold chicken in aspic. But first there was céleri rémoulade. Tom was very fond of it. He said so.


Image result for chicken in aspic




I'm on page 78, and Tom has made it to Italy and found Dickie Greenleaf. Things just got super weird, with

Tom vividly imagining strangling Marge while wearing Dickie's pants.

(show spoiler)

Ghosts! Haunted Houses! Romantic Suspense! (Contemporary) Gothic!

Reblogged from Linda Hilton:
The Looking-Glass Portrait - Linda Hilton

I am terrible at self promotion.  I feel queasy even doing this much.


But I'm screwing up my courage, because yes, this is my book and it fits a whole bunch of Halloween Bingo squares.  (And if I do say so myself, it's a fun read, with no graphic violence or sex.)  (And I never read the reviews!)


The Looking-Glass Portrait


When Thomasina Ryder inherits her grandmother's house, she expects to quickly arrange for the sale of the estate. She soon learns the disposal of her legacy will be a more complicated process than she expected. And nothing could complicate matters more than the return into Thomasina's life of a forbidden love from the past.

The further she delves into the secrets of that past, the more she is made aware of something sinister and hidden, never to be spoken of even in whispers. She begins to suspect this secret is connected to the silent forms she has seen moving in the old house, from the corner of her eye or in the distorted reflection of a mirror. Then, as her investigations bear fruit, the shadows in the mirrors become more threatening.





For players having trouble with their card formats

Because of the way that the discussion groups work, it isn't possible to upload directly into the threads. I have to upload the cards to a photo hosting site and then drop them into the post using a direct link.


I assume that this is why some of you are struggling with getting your card downloaded to your computer. 


I don't know if it will be helpful at all, but my imgur account contains nothing private at all - mostly .gifs and pics that I've used here and/or on GR. The link to the account is here. I *think* you can access it, if not, reply in comments and I will try to figure out permissions to open it up. Once you open your card, you should be able to right click on it to get it to download to your computer.


Now for the bad news! There are something like 45 bingo cards on there, and I didn't name them. So, you'll need to scroll through the images to find yours. They are arranged by upload time, so you should be able to sort of guess where yours might be based on the order of creation.



The Crime Coast by Elizabeth Gill

The Crime Coast: A Benvenuto Brown Mystery - Elizabeth Gill

This is one of three golden age mysteries published by Elizabeth Gill, a largely forgotten author who published her first book - this one - in 1931. She published only 3 mysteries because she passed away unexpectedly at 32. All three of her books have been reissued by Dean Street Press, and are available from amazon for only $1.99.


I was, frankly, lukewarm about her main character, Benvenuto Brown, amateur sleuth and brilliant artist. Perhaps he will grow on me during the course of the remaining two books.


However, while I didn't really become attached to Ben Brown, I really liked Paul Ashby, a young London lawyer who finds himself embroiled in a mystery. He is trying to locate a young artist, Adrian, on behalf of his father, whom he has met and who gave him the strange commission before leaving London for the French Riviera. Paul meets and falls in with Adelaide Moon on the train from Paris to Marseille, an alluring young woman who is known to associate with Adrian.


As the story progresses, Adrian is accused of murdering his former lover, who is discovered completely nude except for a whole bunch of jewels. Shortly thereafter, Adrian disappears, and Ben, Paul and Adelaide attempt to solve the murder to clear Adrian's name, while Paul becomes increasingly enamored of the fair Adelaide. 


“As leading ladies say on first nights, this is the happiest moment of my life,” he murmured, watching blue smoke vanish into the blue air. “It’s the sort of thing one dreams about on a wet, grey day in London—only better. I’ve never had the imagination to dream of such a day as this or such a boat, or—or you,” he added, only so low that he thought perhaps she hadn’t heard.


Gill has a gift for descriptive writing, evoking the beautiful turquoise sea of the Riviera with gems like this:


“Can you dive with your eyes open?” she said. He nodded, and in a second she was a red bird skimming through the air, a moment later a goldfish in the translucent depths. It was a good dive, and Paul pulled himself together—she was watching him. He went in neatly and for cool moments of silence saw the green world slide past his eyes, saw the smooth stones of the ocean bed, and fish that flickered and vanished mysteriously, before he shot up into the dazzling sunshine.

There is a classic reveal at the end of the story, with Ben explaining all to his rapt listeners. The mystery relies on a great deal of coincidence, as these golden age mysteries often do, but it is an enjoyable, and surprising, whodunnit, nonetheless.

Classic Noir Group Read

Some preliminary book ideas


I've certainly not made any final decisions about what I'm reading for bingo, but I do have some ideas percolating!


Chilling Children: I am definitely reading something by Lois Duncan for this square. I bought several of hers when they went on sale several years ago because my daughter was the right age and devoured them. Down A Dark Hall was one of my favorites back when I was the right age for Lois Duncan, so I think that'll probably be the one I pick.


Classic Noir: I am strongly leaning towards Cornell Woolrich's The Bride Wore Black. It's available for $4.99 on kindle & I've never read anything by Woolrich. I will also be participating in the September group read, so I'll either use that read for classic noir (if it fits) or as a wild card for a different category.


Romantic suspense: This one is looking likely to be This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart, which is on its way to me even as I type!


Gothic: this will likely be a Phyllis Whitney or a Barbara Michaels. I already have Blue Fire by Whitney.


Supernatural: I bought The Revenant of Thraxton Hall last year to read during Halloween bingo and I never got around to it! This year it is in!


Diverse voices: Same with Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older, which would qualify under supernatural or ghosts, so I can read it for diverse voices.


Witches: Since Alice Hoffman is releasing a prequel to Practical Magic this year, called Rules of Magic, I'm planning to read Practical Magic for this square.


Magical Realism: And then I will read Rules of Magic for this square, once it is released on October 10th.


Haunted House: I may reread The Little Stranger for this one. It's been about four years since I read it the first time and I really liked it. I think it would hold up well to a reread.


Ghosts: The final book of the Jackaby quartet, The Dire King, is scheduled for publication on 8/22. One of my favorite fictional ghosts, Jenny, is featured in the series. This one is already pre-ordered & may be the first book I read for the game!


That's my first ten ideas! I'm so excited for this round, I can hardly stand it!