Just a reminder that this one starts tomorrow!
I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me. She was small and blonde, and whether you looked at her face or at her body in powder-blue sports clothes, the result was satisfactory. “Aren’t you Nick Charles?” she asked.
This book has popped up on my radar screen several times - when I started it, I wasn't entirely sure where it might fit into Halloween bingo, but figured that I would be able to find someplace to slot it. After finishing, it fits into Amateur Sleuth, Murder Most Foul, Country House Mystery and Terrifying Women.
Those preliminaries out of the way, this was a really good book. It relies on the trope of the "prodigal son" or the "missing heir restored," but puts an interesting twist on that theme. Also, more generally, the writing is sublime.
We initially meet Brat Farrar when he is being persuaded to impersonate the missing Ashby heir, Patrick, who seems to have committed suicide by walking into the sea at the age of 13. A body was recovered and buried, but it was so badly decomposed that no identification could be made. Brat bears an uncanny resemblance to the missing Patrick, whose twin Simon has inherited Latchetts, the country manor seat of the Ashby's, in his stead.
As the story unfolds, Brat is accepted into the Ashby family and we are introduced to his new relations: Aunt Bee, the spinster aunt who has single-handedly saved the family from financial ruin by building up its fortunes with a horse breeding program, Simon, Brat's "twin," a brash 20 year old who has been superceded by the return of "Patrick," and who has seemingly accepted this with such equanimity, Eleanor, the sensible 18 year old cousin, and yet another pair of twins, Jane and Ruth, who are as different as two sides of the same coin. The domestic details of the family are doled out in a way that is both soothing and convincing.
However, it becomes clear early on that something is rotten in Denmark, and the tension continues to ratchet up between Brat and Simon.
Simon asks, "'Who are you?'
Brat sat looking at him for a long time.
'Don't you recognize me?'
'No. Who are you?'
Tey's ability to build suspense is incredible, and by the end of the book, I was reading as quickly as possible to get to the end of the book and learn the truth. In fact, I was reading so fast that I really need to go back and re-read the last two chapters to make sure I entirely understand the resolution of the book!
Highly recommended as an outstanding example of vintage crime fiction - the domestic details are perfectly rendered, the tension is built with unerring precision and the ending is startling but doesn't come out of left field.
The British Library Crime Classics series has published a number of anthologies edited by Martin Edwards. I was looking for a locked room mystery to fill a square in a Halloween bingo game, and thought that this one would fit the bill splendidly. And so it did.
Only one of the stories was an unredeemable clunker - the abysmal The Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room by Sax Rohmer.
My favorite stories were The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle, a clever non-Holmes story about a train that simply disappears, The Miracle of Moon Crescent by G.K. Chesterton, an extremely complicated Father Brown mystery that was previously published in The Incredulity of Father Brown, and Too Clever By Half by GHD and Margaret Cole, which makes the point that complicated plots should be avoided.
The remaining stories are all entertaining, and contain all of the secret passages, disappearing weapons, and complicated murderous devices that a reader needs to be satisfied with a locked room/impossible crime. The story by Dorothy Sayers would be a charming Wimsey tale that follows directly on the heels of Harriet Vane giving birth to the Wimsey heir, with a suitably lighthearted solution but for the fact that it contains a disgusting racial slur which rather ruined the whole thing for me, so fair warning should be provided. Yes, different times, yada yada yada. Nonetheless, the slur used is indefensible, and shocking to the modern reader.
I decided to listen to this audiobook narration, since I'd been hearing such fabulous things about it from BrokenTune!
I started with A Study In Scarlet, which is neither my favorite nor my least favorite of the Holmes canon. I ultimately ended up enjoying it more than usual, largely because of the narration. Fry's Holmes & Watson are both extraordinarily well-done. I'm not entirely sure about his rendering of Lucy Ferrier, a young American girl, but it was adequate.
After finishing A Study In Scarlet, I decided to skip The Sign of the Four and go straight into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia. I plan to loop back and pick up The Sign of the Four at some point later, probably after I finish Adventures. While I'm not usually a short story fan, I actually think that I prefer to Holmes short stories to the full length treatments, with the exception of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
I'm going to use A Study in Scarlet to fill Amateur Sleuth, because it would piss off Holmes mightily if he knew. And this amuses me.
This is a whirlwind tour of classic crime fiction which is in the process of exploding my tbr.
Martin Edwards is the current president of The Detection Club, and was appointed its first "archivist" in 2011. He apparently has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things classic crime, and is the anthologist who put together the Locked Room Mystery anthology which I am currently reading. He has also put together several other anthologies for the British Library Crime Classics series, many of which play off of the chapter titles within this book, including: Chapter Six, Serpents in Eden (murders occurring in rural/country settings); Chapter Seven, Murder at the Manor, Chapter Eight, Capital Crimes (murders occurring in London) and Chapter 9, Resorting to Murder (murders on holiday).
I am just beginning Chapter 9. I'm literally reading this with GR open on my chromebook next to me, adding books to a shelf as they catch my interest. With so many out of print books coming back into availability as ebooks, I'm astonished at how many of them I can download for under $5.00.
The GR list that I've created while reading can be found here, if anyone is interested.
I decided to read this one for the "Locked Room Mystery" square. I'm not sure if I'll read all of the stories, or just pick and choose, but I decided to start at the very beginning!
1. The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle: This is not one of the Holmes stories and was published during the time that the public believed Holmes to be dead from the incident at Reichenbach Falls. It is a clever story about a train that simply disappears one day, never to be seen again.
I was exhausted last night, so this was as far as I got in the stories. Looking at the TOC, there are a total of 16 stories, with enticing titles like "Beware of the Trains" and "Too Clever By Half." Next up is The Thing Invisible by William Hope Hodgson.
2. The Thing Invisible: this was an "impossible crime" more than a locked room mystery. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great.
3. The Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room: Wow, was this story ever terrible! It had a vaguely supernatural solution, and some absolutely awful purple prose:
‘Mr. Coram,’ he continued, ‘I am an old fool who sometimes has wise dreams. Crime has been the hobby of a busy life. I have seen crime upon the Gold Coast, where the black fever it danced in the air above the murdered one like a lingering soul, and I have seen blood flow in Arctic Lapland, where it was frozen up into red ice almost before it left the veins. Have I your permit to see if I can help?’
All of us, the police included, were strangely impressed now.
They may have been "strangely impressed." I was not.
4. The Aluminum Dagger: At last we come to our first legitimate "locked room mystery," this one involves a victim who was stabbed while locked in his room on the second floor. A very fine, albeit semi-implausible solution.
5. The Miracle of Moon Crescent: This is a Father Brown tale, set in the United States. This one had quite a complicated solution, and I certainly didn't guess what happened to the victim! I liked the writing in this one quite a lot.
6. The Invisible Weapon: This is a very locked room mystery, with a pretty common solution. I liked it - the author got straight to the point.
Murder most foul: any murder mystery!
There are a few of us reading this as a buddy read. Edited by Martin Edwards, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things vintage crime fiction, this book takes a look at the development of crime fiction beginning with its roots in the post-Victorian era.
I'm sure that this book will have the effect of blowing up my TBR. I've read the first two chapters, and have already added at least 5 books to my reading list!
I'm reading this for my "free square."
Remember - you don't necessarily need to read an entire book to fill each square. The two collections are both chock full of "locked room" mysteries and other impossible crimes. The Black Lizard edition, edited by Otto Penzler, is a long book (900+ pages), and the Martin Edwards offering is part of the British Library Crime Classics series. One or two stories would fill this square nicely!
In addition, Murder on the Orient Express is such a wonderful book that everyone should read it! There is also a new adaptation coming soon to a theater near you, so if you plan to see the movie, always read the book first!
Finally, Death in the Tunnel has received a mixed reception here on BL. Both Tigus & I really liked it, but BrokenTune (I think) was decidedly lukewarm.
Locked room mystery: A subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime—almost always murder—is committed under circumstances which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime and/or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene.
Here is your bingo call:
Horror is a genre of fiction which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror.
1. I love everything Halloween. As soon as the bats and pumpkins come out, my inner Goth emerges for the season.
2. It inspires me to read my book backlog! Since I like supernatural or monster stories, I do tend to acquire books that would fit Halloween Bingo squares. Giving me two months to read 25 of them makes me prioritise them and find more time to read!
3. I've read more Classics. I've been attempting to read Classics interspersed with more recent books in general, but Classic Horror like Dracula, The Invisible Man, etc. sat around on my tbr until last year's Halloween Bingo. Now I've read enough of them that I had to make a special effort to find one I hadn't read yet!
4. Comraderie. It's fun to compare book choices with others playing and to make new friends in the process!
5. Book recommendations. Watching others choose their books and reading their reviews after leads me to some good reads!
6. The cards are so pretty! Seriously, the effort our hostesses go to for these results in some attractive Bingo cards!
7. Markers creativity. While our hostesses are expressing their creativity on the cards, the participants are inspired to seek out interesting markers, even more so with this years calls.
8. Buddy reads. Funnelling our reading into Horror/Mystery means more people looking at the same books and buddy reads can happen, either officially through the discussion group or individually by agreement.
9. Most of all, having a challenge going gives me an excuse to get out of doing things that take me away from my reading, so I get more done! Just for a couple of months. Then I get r/l social again. ;)
In the dark, dark woods: a mystery, suspense, horror or supernatural book in which a forest/woods plays a significant role, or which has a forest/woods on the cover.
This was a fun romantic suspense/gothic romance novel by our own Linda Hilton!
Things I liked:
The writing is impeccable, and the book is edited to a "t." The setting of the book is quite modern, but it definitely shares some of its elements with the old-fashioned gothics from the 1960's & 1970's. Tamsin, our heroine, is likeable, and her return to her old hometown proves the old saying "you can't go home again."
Things that I struggled with:
The pacing drags a little bit in the middle. There is quite a lot of character development, but sometimes that seemed to bog the story down a bit. Tamsin's stubborn insistence on remaining in the house regardless of the danger seemed foolish at times, although it was necessary to move the story forward. The romance felt a little bit insta-love/abrupt to me, even thought it was a rekindling of an old flame.
The ending was great. I don't want to accidentally spoil, because the mystery is really well-plotted and the solution, while it doesn't come out of left field, was neatly done.
This one works for: ghost, haunted house, romantic suspense, & gothic. I would recommend it to fans of old-fashioned romance, especially fans of gothic romance like that written by Barbara Michaels. If you enjoyed last year's bingo buddy read of Ammie, Come Home, I think you would like this one!