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moonlightreader

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.

Currently reading

Serpents in Eden (British Library Crime Classics)
Martin Edwards
Progress: 20/276 pages
With Child
Laurie R. King
Progress: 1 %
A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer
Progress: 52 %

It's no Ripley, but it's all right

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

I'm going to surmise that this is one of those rare occasions where the movie actually exceeds the book. 

 

Patricia Highsmith was amazing, of that there is no doubt. However, this book was extremely frustrating to read because there are so many terrible decisions being made by the main character, Guy Haines, whose encounter with a psychotic murderer is a terrible turning point in his life.

 

The plot is quite different from what I thought I understood it to be - and perhaps the movie aligns more with my misunderstanding. I went into it thinking it was more of an inverted mystery, and was interested to see where the mistake was made for the investigators to figure it out. I wasn't expecting one half of the plot to be a reluctant participant, and nearly as much of a victim as the murder victims.

 

I think that the biggest problem with this book is that it felt about 100 pages too long, and took fairly close to forever to get to the point. While Highsmith excels at building suspense, the pacing was way off in this one. In addition, the end was sort of anticlimactic. 

 

I'm still a card-carrying member of the Patricia Highsmith fan club, but this was a bit of a disappointment.

Reading slump has hit me hard

 

I hate reading slumps. Nothing is really capturing my interest right now - even my girl Agatha can't do the job.

The Last Coyote is a metaphor

The Last Coyote  - Michael Connelly

Details: This is book 4 in the Harry Bosch series, and is Book 4 in the Harry Bosch Universe. I'm way behind in my HBU reviews - I've read all the way through Blood Work, which is the 8th book in the HBU. 

 

Nonetheless, to discuss The Last Coyote, I must begin with the obvious and somewhat heavy-handed metaphor in the title. Harry Bosch is the last coyote: solitary and lonely, an anachronism in the urban jungle of Los Angeles. This particular book is all about Harry Bosch. 

 

We begin with Harry on suspension for throwing Pounds, LAPD brass, through a window. In order to be reinstated, he needs to be cleared for duty by a psychologist. During his suspension, Harry decides to work on solving the three-decades-old murder of his mother, Marjorie Lowe. Because he's Harry Bosch.

 

I really like this book, although the ease with which Harry puts together the truth about a case that went cold when he was 11 is somewhat, erm, unbelievable. He's a good detective, but really, that's a bit hard to swallow. The identification of the murderer, as well, was very anti-climactic.

 

In addition, I have to add that the idea of Harry's mother, who was, not to put too fine a point on it, a young and attractive woman who was a prostitute, catching the eye of not one, but two, extremely prominent Los Angeles attorneys (including Harry's father, the late, great, Mickey Haller, who was a well-known defense attorney) is, again, difficult to square with the realities of Harry's life. It's very Pretty Woman, which makes it implausible. And this isn't just Harry's rose colored glasses view of his beloved mother - this is the factual background that Harry uncovers.

 

Overall, this is a solid installment, and it clears up the mystery of his mother's murder.

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

After reading more than half of this one, and all of The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith has overtaken Shirley Jackson as the American woman writing the most terrifying characters in literature. 

 

Moral of the story: do not talk to anyone, anywhere, ever. Do not make eye contact. In fact, pretend to be dead. Yeah, do that.

So much fun!

OB & I met at Powells and browsed for books and then got coffee! It was amazing.

 

Pic of my books:

 

 

Since both of us have "public" jobs, we're not really up for posting pics, but suffice it to say that it was amazing to get to meet in person! It was so much fun to have coffee and talk about books and about how much we love the community here at booklikes!

Authors I am on the look-out for!

Since Powell's has a huge used book inventory, I decided to look for inexpensive editions from these authors:

 

Patricia Moyes: this is a relatively recent author who writes mysteries in the "golden age" style. Her books are available on kindle, but they are a bit pricey for books of their age.

 

Madeleine Brent: these aren't available in ebook at all, and the used copies are fairly expensive. I am not sure if I'll be able to get my hands on any of them, but I'll give it a look-see.

 

Patricia Highsmith: I am on an "I want to read more Highsmith" kick, so I'll just take a look and see what they have!

 

Agatha Christie: anything that I don't already own in print is fair game!

 

Ngaio Marsh: these are also available in ebook, for a fairly reasonable price, so I'll only pick the up if they're under $4.00.

 

John Dickson Carr: he is pretty unavailable, so I'm going to take a look see!

 

I may come up with more as I think it over today! If anyone has any suggestion for OOP gems, especially mysteries, let me know in the comments!

 

Oh. My. God! You Guys!

Obsidian Blue and I are going to get to meet!

 

 

This Sunday!

 

 

At POWELL'S BOOKS, Y'ALL!

 

The Great American Read on PBS

 

This popped up on my twitter feed this morning! There is some utter shit in this list, but here's also some good stuff here. Apparently PBS is doing a six part series. More information here: link.

 

I've read 47, evidently. There's a quiz!

 

The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh

The Nursing Home Murder - Ngaio Marsh

Because this one involves the murder of the Home Secretary, which is apparently a cabinet level position in the British Government (it seems to correspond loosely to a combination of the Secretary of State and the Head of Homeland Security, near as wikipedia can help me to figure out), it is one of the featured books in Chapter 12 of TSCC100, Playing Politics. 

 

This is also the third Inspector Alleyn mystery, but is the first one that I've read. I am reserving judgment overall because it was obvious to me that there was a backstory to the characters that I didn't have.

 

The mystery itself was fun - by the time Inspector Alleyn gets called out to the deceased Home Secretary, who died on the operating table from a septic appendix, pretty much everyone is a suspect. He's been getting threatening letters from the local anarchists and Bolsheviks, and he's broken it off with a mistress who is taking it badly and who just happens to be, along with his former friend and hopeful swain of the above mentioned mistress, the nurse and surgeon, respectively. They've both recently threatened him because the nurse is not handling the rejection with equanimity. And then we have his rather bizarre wife, a Leninst nurse, and an anesthetist who is disturbingly fond of a hands on approach to eugenics.

 

I didn't get the relationship between Alleyn and Nigel Bathgate at all, and the relationship with his fiancee, the fair Angela even less. I think I need more data in order to draw any conclusions. It was enjoyable, but a bit farcical.

 

Unfortunately, the solution to the crime was just plain bad. I had to read the last two chapters three times before I was able to really absorb what had happened, and at the end I was still just puzzled about the entire thing.

 

 

Allrighty then.

HBU # 3: The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

The Concrete Blonde  - Michael Connelly

In this third entry into the Harry Bosch Universe, we finally get more background on The Dollmaker case, which is really the case that catapulted Bosch to fame. Harry is being sued by the widow of The Dollmaker, whom he shot during an attempted apprehension, after the man reached under his pillow for what Harry thought was probably a gun, but which was, at it turned out, a toupee.

 

The widow is represented by prominent defense attorney Honey Chandler, who is nicknamed Money Chandler. Harry is represented by the county attorney, Belk. Harry is not satisfied with the quality of his representation. In addition, LA County has wanted to settle the case, but Harry won't let them. A significant portion of The Concrete Blonde occurs in the courtroom.

 

I am not really a fan of courtroom dramas - because I am actually a prosecutor, and I've tried a lot of criminal cases, reading courtroom dramas can be frustrating because I am all too aware of errors in procedure. I think it is probably human nature to struggle with books that cover territory that the reader has a deeper understanding of than the writer. This is the case with the courtroom portions of this book. I won't bore you with a detailed analysis of things that Connelly gets wrong, but there are aspects of the courtroom drama that he does get wrong.

 

Leaving those quibbles aside, though, I really enjoyed this book and thought that the mystery was exceptionally well done. During the trial, a body is discovered that appears to be from The Dollmaker, of a young woman who was killed well after Harry Bosch killed the man who the LAPD believed to be The Dollmaker. This throws the whole case into disarray, because the defense relies on the fact that the man that Bosch killed was a serial killer.

 

As the story develops, Harry has to look back into the old case and set aside his former conclusions in light of new evidence. He also has to work through his own discomfort with the possibility that he was wrong about the Dollmaker case four years earlier. And, again, his history becomes a significant aspect of the book, when Chandler accuses him of shooting the Dollmaker because he was avenging his murdered mother, whose killer was never brought to justice. 

 

We also finally get to see Bosch getting some support from the LAPD brass, including Chief Irvin Irving who, for the first time, tells Bosch that he would back him up no matter what happened with the jury, and that the shooting was justified. Bosch is also involved with Sylvia Moore, the wife of Calexico Moore, who he has been seeing since the end of The Black Ice. She is a thoroughly nice person, a teacher, and has tried hard to pierce Bosch's nearly impenetrable armor.

 

I enjoyed this book a lot, and really liked the fact that Connelly didn't fall back on the same trope of institutional corruption that the first two books really relied upon. The interactions between Bosch and the LAPD show a different, more functional and respectful, relationship with his peers. The relationship with Sylvia isn't going to last, but it's nice to see Bosch letting down his guard a little bit. 

 

Next up is The Last Coyote.

The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

The Black Ice - Michael Connelly

This is Connelly's second outing for LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch, opening shortly after he returns to work, having recovered from being shot in The Black Echo. Lewis and Clark, the IA detectives who wanted nothing more than to drum Bosch out of the LAPD are both dead. 

 

In this book, we have Harry investigating the murder of an unidentified male who was found outside of a restaurant that is frequented by the detectives of the undercover drug unit. During the course of the investigation, Harry realizes that there might be a connection between his murder and the suicide of Officer Calexico Moore, found dead in a hotel room over the Christmas holidays. Moore is also the subject of an IA investigation, and the belief is that he is a dirty cop who took the easy way out. 

 

Reading The Black Echo and The Black Ice in quick succession really highlighted the thematic similarities between these two books - in each of them, an effort is made to use Harry Bosch's rogue nature in a way that benefits the individuals at the heart of the conspiracy. In both of them, the individuals vastly underestimate Bosch's tenacity as an investigator, losing control of their plans midway through the book. And both of them involves themes of institutional corruption.

 

We again find Bosch in trouble with the LAPD brass, the subject of angry phone calls with management. He is, always, on the verge not just of firing, but probably of prosecution, for his policy violations. He has no sense of self-preservation. The intertwined cases lead him to the border towns of Calexico and Mexicali, where he runs afoul of the powerful head of a drug syndicate. Given the present situation in Mexico, with the cartels, this book maintains its currency. 

 

Harry sees similarities between himself and Calexico Moore, a fact which makes him very uncomfortable. The reader is finding out more about Harry's personal history, that his mother was a prostitute who was murdered when he was 12, that he grew up in foster care, and that his father, it turns out, was a prominent lawyer named Haller, and that he has a half brother - through Haller's legitimate family. We will get to know Mickey Haller in some of the later books. There is a description of the one meeting that Bosch had with his father, while he was dying of cancer. 

 

Arm chair diagnosing of Harry Bosch would lead to an assessment that he probably has some sort of attachment disorder related to being shuffled between foster homes and orphanages. So far, we haven't met anyone who has gotten close to Harry Bosch - he holds everyone at arms length. For all of that, however, he is not a nihilist, believing firmly that life is sufficiently meaningful that to take it is the greatest crime. He is not swayed by the prominence of the victim, working just as hard on the case of an itinerant worker or a dead junkie as he would on a case where a more "respectable" victim is murdered.

 

I've already finished The Concrete Blonde, so you can expect a review of that one soon. Happily, Connelly steps outside of his theme of institutional corruption in that one, and gives us a straight up murder mystery.

Updates: Serpents in Eden, edited by Martin Edwards

Serpents in Eden (British Library Crime Classics) - Martin Edwards

I'm reading this collection for The Detection Club. I will update this post as I read the stories.

 

Table of Contents:

 

The Black Doctor by Arthur Conan Doyle: This is a non-Holmes story about a doctor of color (from the Argentine, so the precise racial background is undefined) practicing in a small rural community. It's interesting for the off-hand manner in which the doctor's minority status is addressed, as it is not a barrier to his ultimate engagement to a prominent white woman in town. The mystery is sort of obvious. 3 stars.

 

Murder by Proxy

The Fad of the Fisherman

The Genuine Tabard

The Gylston Slander

The Long Barrow

The Naturalist at Law

A Proper Mystery

Direct Evidence

Inquest

The Scarecrow

Clue in the Mustard

Our Pageant

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

The Legend of the Seventh Virgin  - Victoria Holt

It's just not the right time for this book at this point, so I'm taking it off of my currently reading shelf and putting it back in the "to read some other time," category!

Welcome to the Harry Bosch Universe

The Black Echo  - Michael Connelly

Originally published in 1992, The Black Echo is Michael Connelly's first mystery featuring rogue LAPD detective, Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch.

 

I've read this book before, possibly all the way back in 1992, and my husband and I listened to the audiobook more recently on a car trip after I got the first two in the series for $1.99 during an audible sale. The Black Echo introduces many of the long-running series characters, including Irvin Irving, Jerry Edgar, Harry's well-dressed, ambitious partner slash real estate agent, Pounds, and Eleanor Wish. At the time that this book begins, Harry is 40 years old, and has been banging his head against the wall of the LAPD management for years.

 

There is a lot going on, plotwise. Harry draws a case of a body found in a drainage tunnel, and realizes as he is at the crime scene that the victim is someone that he served with as a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam. Much of this book is given over to developing the characters and Los Angeles/Hollywood setting. Scene setting is a tremendous strength of Connelly's - he gives his LA the right amount of tattered, grubby glamour alongside of its glittering, moneyed present. Connelly's treatment of LaLa land sits comfortably alongside Raymond Chandler's LA and the 1972 classic film Chinatown, with similar noir elements.

 

Harry himself is a noir character brought into the present. He is taciturn, troubled and solitary, a man whose eyes have seen too much, but who has never learned the art of not giving a shit. He still cares, and deeply, about the cases that he investigates, operating independently, all too often on the very edge of policy and procedure, to solve the cases that no one else really cares about, including, in this case, the murder of a junkie vet who died in an L.A. tunnel. He is a thorn in the side of an LAPD management that would very much like to be rid of him.

 

The Black Echo opens with Harry being assigned to the Homicide desk in the Hollywood Division, following an encounter in which Bosch kills a suspect who turns out to have been responsible for the death of nine women. The Dollmaker case is referred to frequently in this book, although the crime and investigation itself are only partially explained. It's clear, though, that this is the case that made Harry Bosch - he is already living in his house in the LA hills, with a view overlooking the city, which he bought after being used as a character in a Paramount picture. That shooting got him busted down from the prestigious Robbery-Homicide Division (RHD) to the Hollywood Division.

 

In this book, as in many others, Harry is in the middle of an IA investigation, being followed by a pair of untalented investigators named Lewis and Clark. He is partnered with FBI agent Eleanor Wish when his murder appears to be related to a bank heist which involved the thieves tunneling into the vault through the sewer systems. There are conspiracies that extend to the highest levels of law enforcement. The plot is convoluted, but still well-done.

 

This story was used, in part, in Season 3 of the Amazon series, Bosch. Titus Welliver inhabits the character of Bosch so convincingly that I am unable to not picture him as I read the book. Overall, The Black Echo is an incredibly strong series entry, and the fact that it was Connelly's first book is really sort of amazing.

Reading (And Watching) The HBU

 

The new season of Bosch just dropped on Amazon - ten awesome episodes of Titus Welliver as the taciturn LAPD murder detective Hieronymus Bosch. I have watched each season as it was released, and have been considering a series rewatch. My husband and I started the new season on Friday, and watched two episodes over pizza and beer.

 

I really don't remember when I started reading the Bosch series - decades ago, certainly. I also don't remember if I started with The Black Echo, the first entry in the original Bosch series. Since that time, Michael Connelly has reworked his arcs and there is now an ordering of what someone (the publisher? Connelly himself?) is calling the Harry Bosch Universe.

 

So, I decided that a reread - in order - is called for here, so I'm adding the HBU to my list of ongoing reading projects. I already own most of the books, so this should be a cheap, and easy, reread. I've read all the way up to Nine Dragons in the Bosch track of the series (it's book 14 out of 21), at which point, I bogged down badly and didn't finish. The HBU as a whole is comprised of 31 books:

 

 

I own all of the books except The Lincoln Lawyer, Suicide Run (short stories), Blue on Black (short stories), The Scarecrow, Switchblade (short story), and then the last four: The Wrong Side of Goodbye, The Late Show, Two Kinds of Truth and Dark Sacred Night.

 

I started The Black Echo last night, which introduces Harry Bosch, as well as many of the ongoing characters. This story was used, with significant modifications, in Season 3 of the amazon series.

A very strange book

The Mayfair Mystery - Frank Richardson

I can't quite figure out what to say about this book. It is an incredibly weird little tale, and, to be honest, it isn't really much of a mystery. 

 

Here is the note about the author from Goodreads:

 

Frank Collins Richardson, barrister, and novelist, was educated at Marlborough and Christ Church, Oxford, afterwards entering the Inner Temple and being called to the Bar. But there, as he admitted, he was a failure, and he took in consequence to writing, his "King's Counsel," a novel, appearing in 1902. It was followed by some dozen others. His peculiar topic of humour was the subject of whiskers, which he discovered by accident, and perhaps worked for rather more than it was worth. But his treatment of it was hailed at the time as an amusing innovation, and by pen and pencil, and by judging at seaside male "beauty-shows," it cannot be said that he was wholly unsuccessful in his peculiar hobby. (from obituary in "The Times", August 2, 1917) 

 

I added the bold.

 

Which brings me to one of the weird elements, which is, of course whisker humor. Who would've thought, really, that whisker humor was a thing. I would certainly agree that he worked it for rather more than it was worth - I was tired of it about ten seconds after it was introduced. Obviously, times have changed, although in this era of peak hipster beard (estimated to have occurred in 2014), I suppose that there could be some mileage to be gathered.

 

Moving on.

 

There were elements of this book that were interesting, and could make for a fine study of gender crossing, queer theory, and whatever else one might be looking for. I was, however, looking for a mystery and with that, I cannot recommend this book.