Moonlight Snow

Moonlight Snow

Halloween bingo 2018 was a rousing success - now join the party for the 24 Tasks of the Festive Season: A Bookish Advent!

Detection Club Bingo: UPDATES

 

Links to the book lists - courtesy of Themis-Athena

 

The 100 books: The 100 books individually highlighted by the author.

 

Chapters 1 through 5: (Chapter 1: A New Era Dawns; Chapter 2: The Birth of the Golden Age; Chapter 3: The Great Detectives; Chapter 4: Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!; Chapter 5: Miraculous Murders)

 

Chapters 6 & 7: (Chapter Six: Serpents in Eden; Chapter Seven: Murder at the Manor)

 

Chapters 8 through 10: (Chapter Eight: Capital Crimes (London mysteries); Chapter Nine: Resorting to Murder (detectives solving crimes while on vacation); Chapter Ten: Making Fun of Murder)

 

Chapters 11 through 15: (Chapter Eleven: Education, Education, Education; Chapter Twelve: Playing Politics; Chapter Thirteeen: Scientific Enquiries;; Chapter Fourteen: The Long Arm of the Law; Chapter Fifteen: The Justice Game

 

Chapters 16 through 20: (Chapter 16: Multiplying Murders; Chapter 17: The Psychology of Crime; Chapter 18: Inverted Mysteries; Chapter 19: The Ironists; Chapter 20: Fiction from Fact)

 

Chapters 21 through 24: (Chapter Twenty-One: Singletons; Chapter Twenty-Two: Across the Atlantic; Chapter Twenty-Three: Cosmopolitan Crimes; ChapterTwenty-Four: The Way Ahead)

 

Bumping up 12/13/18

 

I am bumping this to the top of my feed in the hopes of getting caught up today. There's at least one new category that I can check off!

 

The Card:

 

As promised, I put together a bingo card for The Detective Club, based on the chapter headings in Martin Edward's The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

 

Each number refers to the relevant chapter in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. The images are either a detail from the cover image of a book mentioned in the chapter, with the exception of #3, and I couldn't resist an image of Hercule Poirot for a chapter called The Great Detectives!

 

1. A New Era Dawns: image: cover detail from The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

2. The Birth of the Golden Age: image: cover detail from The Mystery of the Red House by A.A. Milne

3. The Great Detectives: image: Hercule Poirot as played by David Suchet
 

4. Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!: image: cover detail from The Hog's Back Mystery by Freeman Croft
 
The Hog's Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft

5. Miraculous Murders: image: cover detail from Miraculous Murders anthology, edited by Martin Edwards
 
Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne
 
Also read:
 
Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards (anthology)
The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

6. Serpents in Eden: image: cover detail from Serpents in Eden anthology, edited by Martin Edwards
 
Poison in the Pen by Patricia Wentworth
 
7. Murder at the Manor: image: cover detail from Murder at the Manor anthology, edited by Martin Edwards
 
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

8. Capital Crimes:  image: cover detail from Capital Crimes anthology, edited by Martin Edwards
 
Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston 
Murder in the Museum by John Rowlands
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie

9. Resorting to Murder: image: cover detail from Resorting to Murder anthology, edited by Martin Edwards

10. Making Fun of Murder: image: cover detail from Ask A Policeman by The Detection Club
 
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

11. Education, Education, Education: image: cover detail from Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
 
Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

12. Playing Politics: image: cover detail from The End of Andrew Harrison by Freeman Wills Croft
 

13. Scientific Enquiries: image: cover detail from Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg
 
Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Wills Crofts

14. The Long Arm of the Law: image: cover detail from anthology of the same name, edited by Martin Edwards

15. The Justice Game: image: cover detail from Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate
 
Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate

16. Multiplying Murders: image: cover detail from The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon
 
The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon (read 1/12/18)

17. The Psychology of Crime: image: cover detail from Payment Deferred by C.S. Forester

18. Inverted Mysteries: image: cover detail from Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith

19. The Ironists: image: cover detail from Family Matters by Anthony Rolls

20. Fiction from Fact: image: cover detail from  The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

21. Singletons: image: cover detail from Darkness at Pemberley by T.H. White

22. Across the Atlantic: image: cover detail from Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
 
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

23. Cosmopolitan Crimes:image: cover detail from Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon 

24. The Way Ahead: image: cover detail from The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake
 
25. Free Square: I've used an image of The Detection Club mascot, Eric the Skull, for the free square.
 
The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
Reading progress update: I've read 32%.
South Riding - Shirley Williams, Marion Shaw, Winifred Holtby

At this point, I'm struggling with this book. The writing is top notch, but there are so many characters and we're skipping around so much that I'm not really getting a good sense of person or place.

 

The plot summary makes it sound as though the book concentrates on Sarah Burton, the new headmistress to the local school. So far, though, our engagement with Miss Burton has been minimal. I'm hoping that now that the characters and the community have been introduced, Holtby settles in and gives us a bit more of a narrative.

 

Reading for my A Century of Women project - this is the book for 1936.

Task 1: St. Nick book wish list

Dear St. Nick:

 

I have many bookish wishes for the holiday season. Some of them will be admittedly easier than others.

 

1. A complete set of the 130 books published by Persephone Books and all 687 Virago Modern Classics. In print and ebook formats please. I know this is a lot of books, so I will also need a few additional bookshelves.

 

2.  For someone to discover a trove - say a minimum of ten - Superintendent Battle/Colonel Race/stand-alone mysteries written by Agatha Christie between 1930 and 1945, previously undiscovered in a trunk in someone's country house.

 

3. A solid adaptation of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mysteries to be released on either Amazon or Netflix.

 

4. And, while we're talking adaptations here, the Amazon Middle Earth adaptation had better be amazing.

 

5. Since my visit to Memphis, Tennessee, it occurs to me that someone - and specifically an author of color since I'm not interested in a white washed version - needs to write a well-researched historical saga about the intersection of rock and roll and the civil rights movement on Beale Street from the perspective of the African-American community. Somewhere there is an author who can do it justice and I want to read this book (or, better yet this series of books).

 

I've always believed in you.

Review
4 Stars
Romantic suspense by Patricia Wentworth
Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth

Ten years earlier, when she was ten and he was 20, Nan Forsyth saved the life of Jervis Weare and was smitten with an overwhelming childhood crush. At the beginning of the book, she is 20 and working for Weare's lawyer when she overhears him storm in and tell the solicitor that he needs to come up with a bride in three days because his society fiancee, the beautiful Rosamund, has unceremoniously dumped him. Under the terms of his Uncle's will, if Jervis must be married in three months and one day after his uncle's death, or the entire fortune goes to Rosamund.

 

You can already see where this is going, right? Nan follows Jervis home and makes him a business proposition - she will marry him in return for 2000 pounds, which she promptly hands off to her sister so that the delicate Cynthia can marry her one true love and go to Australia.

 

This book is just delightful. I spent much of the book being reminded of a Heyer romance - although this is not set during the regency period, if Heyer had written contemporaries, they might have been similar to this one. There is the marriage of convenience, with Jervis coming to the realization that Nan is in love with him, and then later that he is also in love with her. There is a nice little bit of suspense because someone is trying to murder Jervis, and we're pretty sure we know who it is from the beginning. Nan is a fantastic character, with tons of agency, who saves Jervis time and again in a really convincing way. Jervis is a worthy hero, if a bit thick since he can't figure out that he's being targeted for death. The mystery is completely beside the point here - there's no reason to read it for the whodunnit. The real questions are: 1) will they survive and 2) will Jervis pull his head out of his hind end and realize that he is in love with Nan?

 

Wentworth takes a similar line with respect to the suspense climax that she did in Grey Mask, actually, but this time around it is just so much more successful. Grey Mask was published in 1928, and Nothing Venture in 1932, but that four years made quite a difference in terms of the quality of the writing, characterizations and plotting.

 

Anyway, for readers who like a lot of romance with their suspense, this is wonderful. It's not so sophisticated as Mary Stewart or Phyllis Whitney, but the romantic bits are much more fleshed out than the tiny romantic subplots in the average Agatha Christie mystery. I wouldn't be surprised if this one has some rereadability.

Reading progress update: I've read 32%.
Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth

I am really enjoying this one so far - it has a very romantic suspense feel to it, with a marriage of convenience.

Review
4 Stars
Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar #1)
Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey

Thanks to everyone who commented on my series post yesterday - as you can see, I settled on the Valdemar series for a couple of reasons. I have a horse and fantasy loving daughter who is 22, and this series seemed like it might appeal to her, and the plot summary really reminded me of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce, which is a favorite of mine.

 

Once I selected the series, I had to decide on the order. I didn't spend much time on this, although there are two possibilities: publication order and chronological order. I settled on publication order because the Heralds of Valdemar series is so beloved and seems like a good entry into the world.

 

Arrows of the Queen is a very fast read. There were some things that I really liked about it - Lackey doesn't waste any time getting right into the main plot, which occurs when Companion Rolan Chooses Talia (all caps are on purpose) and sweeps her away from her abusive, polygamous, male-dominated and primitive community to become the Queen's Own Herald. This did remind me quite strongly of the first book of the Alanna quartet.

 

I also liked Lackey's breezy, authentic writing style. Talia's self-esteem and trust issues are well-founded and make sense. Lackey refers openly to menstruation, contraception and same-sex relationships (this again reminds me of Pierce's Tortall books) which is refreshing, especially in a book of this age. The Companions are really sort of weird, but telepathic, uncorruptible blue-eyed magical horses is so obviously intended to appeal to teen girls that I'm willing to overlook the weirdness. 

 

There is a lot of sweetness and domesticity here, mixed in with the palace intrigue. There are flaws, too, of course - Talia is a bit too good to be true, and her ability to "cure" the princess heir of her tendency towards brattiness occurs with an ease that defies reality. That entire plot element, from the perspective of a parent, is wholly unrealistic. I don't know if Lackey had children, but a parent who is insightful enough to recognize that their child is an insufferable brat (as the Queen is, here) typically doesn't have a child who is an insufferable brat. I'm also not a fan of hitting children, not inconsequentially because it is generally not a particularly effective form of discipline, so the entire interaction in which Talia cures Elspeth of being horrible in a few weeks by swatting her bottom when she hits her servants (among other things) feels really inauthentic to me - like the sort of plotting that a teen writer would come up with to deal with an issue about which they know very little.

 

But, this is a book for teens, especially teen girls, and viewing it through that prism, the flaws are easily overlooked, the Collegium sounds lovely, and being Chosen as special by a magical horse would be pretty much the greatest thing ever, and it's no worse a system of government than many seen in fantasy, and better than some.  (Here I am reminded of Monty Python.  "Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.")

 

I would have read the hell out of this book as an eleven year old, and I thoroughly enjoyed it at 52.

Master tracking post: Patricia Wentworth

 

I pulled this from Wikipedia:

 

Miss Silver series

 

  • Grey Mask, 1928; Read 8/16/17
  • The Case Is Closed, 1937; Read 11/15/18
  • Lonesome Road, 1939; Read 11/30/18
  • Danger Point (USA: In the Balance), 1941
  • The Chinese Shawl, 1943
  • Miss Silver Intervenes (USA: Miss Silver Deals with Death), 1943
  • The Clock Strikes Twelve, 1944; Read 10/16/18
  • The Key, 1944
  • The Traveller Returns (USA: She Came Back), 1945
  • Pilgrim's Rest (or: Dark Threat), 1946
  • Latter End, 1947
  • Spotlight (USA: Wicked Uncle) (library), 1947
  • The Case of William Smith (library), 1948
  • Eternity Ring, 1948; Read 10/4/18
  • The Catherine Wheel, 1949
  • Miss Silver Comes to Stay, 1949
  • The Brading Collection (library) (or: Mr Brading's Collection), 1950
  • The Ivory Dagger (library), 1951
  • Through the Wall, 1950
  • Anna, Where Are You? (or: Death At Deep End), 1951
  • The Watersplash, 1951
  • Ladies' Bane, 1952
  • Out of the Past, 1953
  • The Silent Pool (library), 1954
  • Vanishing Point (paperback), 1953
  • The Benevent Treasure (library), 1953
  • The Gazebo (library) (or: The Summerhouse), 1955
  • The Listening Eye (library), 1955
  • Poison in the Pen, 1955; Read 3/24/19
  • The Fingerprint (library), 1956
  • The Alington Inheritance (library), 1958
  • The Girl in the Cellar, 1961

Frank Garrett series

 

  • Dead or Alive, 1936
  • Rolling Stone, 1940

Ernest Lamb series

 

  • The Blind Side, 1939
  • Who Pays the Piper? (USA: Account Rendered), 1940
  • Pursuit of a Parcel, 1942

 

Benbow Smith

 

  • Fool Errant, 1929
  • Danger Calling, 1931
  • Walk with Care, 1933
  • Down Under, 1937

Standalone

 

  • A Marriage under the Terror, 1910
  • A Child's Rhyme Book, 1910
  • A Little More Than Kin (or: More Than Kin), 1911
  • The Devil's Wind, 1912
  • The Fire Within, 1913
  • Simon Heriot, 1914
  • Queen Anne Is Dead, 1915
  • Earl or Chieftain?, 1919
  • The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith, 1923. Serialised, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1925
  • The Red Lacquer Case, 1924
  • The Annam Jewel, 1924
  • The Black Cabinet, 1925
  • The Dower House Mystery, 1925; Read 10/14/17
  • The Amazing Chance, 1926
  • Hue and Cry, 1927
  • Anne Belinda, 1927
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp, 1928
  • Beggar's Choice, 1930
  • The Coldstone, 1930
  • Kingdom Lost, 1931
  • Nothing Venture, 1932; Read 12/2/18
  • Red Danger (USA: Red Shadow), 1932
  • Seven Green Stones (USA: Outrageous Fortune), 1933
  • Devil-in-the-Dark (USA: Touch And Go), 1934
  • Fear by Night, 1934
  • Red Stefan, 1935
  • Blindfold, 1935
  • Hole and Corner, 1936
  • Mr Zero, 1938
  • Run!, 1938
  • Unlawful Occasions (USA: Weekend with Death), 1941
  • Beneath the Hunter's Moon, 1945
  • Silence in Court, 1947
  • The Pool of Dreams: Poems, 1953
2019 Reading Plans

Does anyone have any projects planned for 2019? December is the month that I generally sit down and think about what I want my reading to look like in the next year, an picking the challenges that I want to participate in. This year I was not successful with most of my reading "plans," which is fine, but I'd like to be a bit more focused next year!

 

I am still working hard to pay off a few things (daughter's college education!), so my reading projects need to be largely accessible through the library or available used with my book credits.

 

Generally, I am planning to participate in the Back to the Classics 2019 challenge (if there is one - it hasn't been announced yet) as my main project, with the twist of fitting it into my All the Vintage Ladies project/blog. If there isn't a new one, I'll probably just take the categories from last year's challenge and create my own mini-challenge.

 

I also want to focus on a few authors/series next year.

 

I settled on the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar series as a long term fantasy series project - there are several sub-trilogies within the series, so I will just read them until I burn out. I'm doing the publication order, so I am starting with the Heralds of Valdemar series.  I read almost the entire first book yesterday, so I'll probably plan to read one of the sub-trilogies a month or so.

 

In terms of my Golden Age Mystery project, I am going to focus on Patricia Wentworth in 2019. I have become a huge fan of her books this year, and she has tons of books. I've already collected around half of her Miss Silver mysteries on my kindle, but I also want to dip into some of her stand alone books and her other shorter series. Hopefully Open Road will put her on sale during the year and I can snag some more, and I will just keep my eyes peeled every time I hit a UBS.

 

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Books - there is no way that I will finish this series this year, but I have enjoyed both of the Discworld books I've read (Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters) so I want to read some more. I am going to read Hogfather for 24 Tasks of the Festive Season, and then I will read Witches Abroad in early 2019 to finish out the first witches trilogy. I haven't decided on where to go next!

 

 

Series recommendation

This is probably mostly a question for Wanda, since she reads a lot of fantasy, but anyone else who has opinion can weigh in as well!

 

I am looking for a new long fantasy series. I'm choosing between three options, with a dark house space opera as the fourth possibility. 

 

Option one:

 

Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey

 

There are a lot of people who love this series. The first was published in 1987, and there are somewhere around 36 books in the series. It's doubtful that I would finish them all, but there are lots of options for mini-series arcs within the series

 

Option two:

 

 

Deryni Rising - Katherine Kurtz   

 

The first Deryni book was published all the way back in 1970. This series appears to have 18 primary works (per Goodreads), and is based loosely on Celtic mythology, as is the next possibility.

 

Option three:

 

Daggerspell (Deverry Series, Book One) - Katharine Kerr

 

The first book in the Deverry series was published in 1986, and the series has a total of 15 primary works. It also appears to contain dragons, which are one of my favorite cryptids. Wanda just reviewed one of these books.

 

 Option four (the dark horse):

 

Shards of Honour - Lois McMaster Bujold 

 

 

Louise McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is a space opera that has long been on my list of series to start. It has 16 primary works and 33 total works (no idea what the differences are).

 

So, what I'm looking for is a long, complicated, immersive narrative that is fun. I really think I want something that is more fantasy than sci fi. Is anyone familiar with any of these series, and do you have any additional suggestions. No trilogies - I want something that's at least ten books, and it needs to be written by a woman. No grim dark gritty series, either. I don't really want anything urban fantasy either. It doesn't necessarily need to be a completed series, but it needs to be far along in the process.

 

Thanks!

Review
4 Stars
An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters
An Excellent Mystery - Ellis Peters

I love this series more every time I read further into it. This is the eleventh of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, and is set in the fall of 1141. King Stephen and Empress Maude are making war, as usual, when two strangers show up at the Abbey in Shrewsbury.

 

This mystery centers around a young woman, Julian Cruce, who has disappeared before entering a convent. As mysteries go, it's quite easy to figure out - and there are, as well, some pretty obvious difficulties with the plot. None of that hampers my enjoyment of the book, however, as these mysteries have become one of my go to comfort reads.

 

I picked up my copy at Wallace Books today, for a whopping $3.50 of my credit, and dove right in after I finished putting up some of my Christmas decorations. I was really wanting the next book as well, The Raven in the Foregate, because it is a Christmas mystery. I've been reading them in order, so I was happy that this one was available, since I had read up to the tenth, but disappointed that there wasn't a copy of the next one to buy as well. At this point, I think I will probably buy a used print copy on amazon, since the kindle book is priced at over $10.00, which is high for a book first published 30 years ago. Maybe Open Road will put the series on sale over Christmas!

 

I'm using this book for Day of Penance (book concerning a man of the cloth/Brother Cadfael is a monk).

Festive Cats!

I've been pulling out the Christmas decorations, and as cats are wont to do, two of my four have found places to hang out, right in the thick of things!

 

 

Jonesy wants to make sure that he gets a stocking full of cat toys, and Brie has found a cozy spot on an old Christmas quilt that doubles as a tree skirt, right under the living room Christmas tree!

 

Moonlight Snow's 2018 Bookish Advent Tracking Post

 

I will be tracking my bookish advent season here! I'm still in the process of organizing things, but I think I've got things dialed in at this point, and I can focus more on the tasks/reading

 

 

RUNNING TOTAL: 21

 

Planning update:

 

With U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday, I should have a bit of extra time to read and post. Like MBD, I plan on a bit of a flood of catching up on tasks - including some for my as yet uncompleted holidays: Diwali & International Day of Tolerance.

 

I've also got some books on my agenda: I picked up one of Cara Black's Aimee LeDuc books on my last trip to Wallace Books, which will fulfill the reading component of International Day of Tolerance (set in Paris), and I have the second Jane Harper mystery - Force of Nature - checked out of the library, which will fulfill the reading component of Melbourne Cup (set in Australia). I'm also considering between a few non-fiction possibilities for the reading element of Diwali.

 

Door 10: Bon Om Touk

 

Task 1:  Make a paper boat and post a picture of it.   Instructions, if needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiAWx8odStA

 

Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.

 

Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!

 

Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?

 

Post for Tasks 2, 3, & 4 is here.

 

Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.

 

+3

-read more-
Door 10: Bon Om Touk

 

Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.

 

Like many river cities, Portland has an annual Christmas boat parade. I've only managed to get down to the river to see it a couple of times - the last time was when my kids were very young and my husband and I took them to dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory, which has an amazing river view. It was a lot of fun, and was very festive! People really deck out their boats for the holidays:

 

 

 

I don't have any pictures from the occasion, so I had to make do with this photo from google images.

 

 

Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!

 

Well, I live in Oregon, so pretty much every book is a rainy day book! In all seriousness, though, there's nothing like a mystery - especially of the Golden Age variety - for a rainy day. There's something so comfortable about curling up on the sofa with a quilt, a cup of coffee/tea or glass of wine, and whiling the rainy day reading (or re-reading) one of Dame Agatha's mystery.

 

Pictures of my favorite cozy reading spot:

 

 

 

Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?

 

Cozy mysteries lend themselves very well to this category, because most of them have main characters who moonlight as amateur sleuths:

 

1. Anything with Miss Marple, who is a fluffy old lady moonlighting as a detective;

2. The Brother Cadfael mysteries, with a monk who moonlights solving mysteries;

3. Discount Armageddon & Midnight Blue Light Special, where the cryptozoologist cum monster slayer Verity Price moonlights as a ballroom dancer.

 

Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.

 

I think I will reread Death on the Nile for this one!

Review
4 Stars
Not a whodunnit. Not even a whydunnit.
Portrait of a Murderer: A Christmas Crime Story - Anne Meredith

Themis reviewed this one last year for the Penance Day task, and her rationale is convincing enough that I may end up sliding it in there. At this point, though, I've completed several of the Penance Day tasks, so I figure I'll hold onto it and see if it fits somewhere else first.

 

This was an oddly intriguing mystery. It took me some time to get into it, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked and couldn't set it down. In spite of the fact that we know who the murderer is from the moment that the murder occurs (it's really more a manslaughter than a murder), it's the first - possibly the only - Golden Age mystery that I've read where I genuinely thought that the wrong person might hang for the murder. This was a clever plot device because it really did keep the tension high for me, even though there were no secrets to be revealed.

 

This book fits neatly into one of my favorite book categories: English country house Christmas murder mystery. While the author does keep the festivities to a minimum, the murder occurs on Christmas Eve. The victim, yet another stingy patriarch, is the sort of petty domestic tyrant that the members of the Detection Club specialized in creating. Were all old English men such maliciously awful people? One wonders...

 

One of the things that I did admire about the book was the success that Meredith had in creating individual characters - all too often in these books, the siblings (suspects) sort of blend together and it's hard to remember whose who. Not so in this family. 

 

I also enjoyed the fact that there are a few (very few, but a few) very likeable characters mixed in with the rest of this miserable family. Miles Amerey has married the youngest daughter of Adrian Gray, Ruth, and they have a sweet and happy marriage. Miles is unambitiously happy as a mundane solicitor, in contrast to the two strivers in the family: Richard, the eldest, an MP who desperately wants his father to buy him a title, and whose just a noxious social climber, and Eustace, who has married one of the Gray daughters, and who is a "financier" (i.e., swindler) who seems to have managed to waste the entire family fortune, along with the fortunes of countless working class families, through his fraudulent dealing.

 

I also really liked the two women who seem to come to life throughout the events of the book: Isobel, the youngest daughter, whose been dispatched home by her husband after her child dies and he decides he just can't deal with her anymore, and Richard's wife, Laura, who has some sort of an intellectual awakening as Richard's life falls apart, in which she realizes that everything that they have been working for is an illusion. I would have loved to see more of these two characters, because I found their tangential story lines really interesting.

 

Martin Edwards wrote the Forward to this one, and mentioned that many of the members of the Detection Club would use one another's names in their books. He pointed out that Agatha Christie named one of the characters in Cards on the Table "Anne Meredith" after the author.

 

This was a library copy, and while I did enjoy it, it isn't Christmassy enough to make it into my holiday rotation. The cover is gorgeous, though - even better in person!

Door 9: Thanksgiving

Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.

 

There are a few books that I've read that changed my life for the better. Three of those books are:

 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis Devil in Winter - Lisa Kleypas 

 

There are many more than just three, but I'm picking these for the following reasons:

 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was a book I read during law school, at a time when I was very much grappling with those deep things with which one mostly grapples when young. I fell in love with Annie Dillard's words, and her seeking. I've reread it many times over the years, and I always come away with something new.

 

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was the first fantasy book that I can remember reading, and it spawned in me a love of books, and specifically of fantasy, that has stood me in good stead throughout my entire life.

 

Devil in Winter is a bit of an odd choice, I know. But it cured me of a pretty bad case of book snobbery a few years back, and was just a really fun introduction back into the joys of the romance genre, especially historical romance.

 

Task 3: Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.

Pirate King - Laurie R. King 

 

I finally managed to finish The Pirate King, which is the weakest entry in Laurie King's Mary Russell series by far. It was definitely full of stuffing, as the series can easily be enjoyed even with just skipping this one, which I do recommend.

Door 8: Day of Penance

Task 1: “Confess” your book habits. Dog-earring? Laying books face down? Bending back the spines? Skimming? OR: Confess your guilty reading pleasure, or comfort reads.

 

I have a number of terrible book habits to confess! I was a serial page dog-earrer, although I've tried to reform and use bookmarks. I do have a tendency to lay books face down if I can't put my hands on my bookmarks and I'm not going to be gone for very long. The one thing that I do not do is I don't break my spines. I'm very careful about this, because in my younger, careless days, I destroyed my books this way!

Task 2: It’s “Pennants” day according to MbD’s husband: post a picture of your favorite team’s logo / mascot and the last time they’ve won a championship (or not).

 

I really don't care about sports. However, my husband and daughter both graduated from U of O, and they are both huge fans. Therefore, the Ducks have become my favorite team by default because my husband loses his mind when they lose and makes everyone in my house MIS-ER-AB-LE. He is so ridiculous that he scares the dog.

 

Task 3: In centuries gone by, penance would often end up in what might be described as a very extended bad hair day (complete with sackcloth and ashes). Tell us: What’s a bad hair day to you – and what (if anything) do you do about it?

I have very thick hair. A bad hair day to me occurs when I've gone waaaayyy to long without a haircut (which is most of the time, TBH). My hair doesn't just get longer, it gets bigger. This persists until I throw in the towel and get a haircut.

 

Task 4: Early Christian spiritualists would sometimes do penance by spending time in the desert. If you’ve ever visited a desert region (or even live there), post a picture and tell us about it. Alternatively, post a picture of sand dunes (NOT with water in the background!).

 

My parents live in the Phoenix area, and a few years ago I flew down on my own for a short visit. We drove over to Tombstone, which was touristy, but fun, and then stopped at the Mission San Xavier Del Back on our way home. It is a beautiful old mission, and the story behind the Mission (wikipedia article here) reminded me of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, although the historical figure upon which Archbishop is based is not Eusebio Francisco Kino, who established the mission in 1692.

 

 

 

 

Book: Read any book concerning a man / woman of the cloth, a book about a character hiding a guilty secret or searching for absolution.

 

I'm not sure if I will read for this task, but I do highly recommend Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, which is a fictional treatment of Jean Baptiste Lamy, an early French missionary to the area which would become New Mexico.

currently reading

Progress: 32%
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries - Otto Penzler
Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon