Missing Susan is not a conventional murder mystery, in which the investigator tries to nab the killer. Rather, in a refreshing turnabout, the reader fo...moreMissing Susan is not a conventional murder mystery, in which the investigator tries to nab the killer. Rather, in a refreshing turnabout, the reader follows London crime expert and tour guide Rowan Rover, the most unlikely killer for hire imaginable. Rowan's preparing to lead a group of bibliophiles on a tour of sites connected with English mystery novels and crime scenes, when an American businessman approaches him with an offer he can't refuse. All he has to do is find a way to kill the American's niece,Susan, at some point during their tour, and make it look like an accident.
What follows is an almost farcical comedy of errors. Rowan likes to study scandalous murders, but he's never been tempted to commit one himself. Now, in desperate need of ready cash, he accepts the offer and begins plotting. From day one, Susan begins to drive her fellow tourists crazy, so annoying that Rowan begins to think killing her will be a pleasure. Easier said than done. Author McCrumb saves the best bits of the story for the final chapter, by which time your mouth is tired from all that smiling.
Five stars for the enjoyment factor of this imaginative and competently presented novel.
This series is built around an English cathedral community. Each book focuses on one of the major players. All of the players are present in all of th...moreThis series is built around an English cathedral community. Each book focuses on one of the major players. All of the players are present in all of the books, so the reader sees the same events from differing perspectives. Engrossing. IMO, Howatch's best work.(less)
Anyone who has lived in close proximity to animals senses that they can perceive things that humans never notice. A Cat is Watching, written in a plea...moreAnyone who has lived in close proximity to animals senses that they can perceive things that humans never notice. A Cat is Watching, written in a pleasant conversational style, has helped me to better understand my own little brood.(less)
As an inveterate visitor of ancient churches, what I've found invaluable is Visser's thorough lesson on how to read a church, especially an Italian Ca...moreAs an inveterate visitor of ancient churches, what I've found invaluable is Visser's thorough lesson on how to read a church, especially an Italian Catholic one.(less)
Though it seems to be a secret, the city of Hartford, Connecticut has a rich architectural history. Most visitors content themselves with visiting the...moreThough it seems to be a secret, the city of Hartford, Connecticut has a rich architectural history. Most visitors content themselves with visiting the famous Mark Twain House while just passing through. In fairness, until recently there hasn't been much information published about Hartford's other treasures, but now local historian Daniel Sterner has addressed that problem with A Guide to Historic Hartford. In this well written, liberally illustrated volume, the city is divided into twelve walking tours. I've lived in this region all my life, but until perusing this guide, never knew - or even wondered - how Governor Street got its name. From the oldest extant residence, The Butler McCook House, to the first permanent triumphal arch in America, to the castle-like edifice of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Sterner has compiled an interesting compendium of some of the most unjustly overlooked locations in this three hundred year old city. Pick up a copy, leave it in your car, and the next time you're on one of its streets, check it out. A valuable resource to be sure.(less)
Deborah Crombie is one of those writers who reliably comes through with an engrossing, fast moving mystery, especially if Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jam...moreDeborah Crombie is one of those writers who reliably comes through with an engrossing, fast moving mystery, especially if Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are the detectives on the case. The Sound of Broken Glass is no exception. Newly married, Duncan and Gemma are working out child care arrangements for their blended family, and Duncan's being house husband for a while. Gemma lands the case of a London barrister who was murdered in a seedy hotel. A few days later, another death occurs, seemingly with the same MO. She expects a relatively straightforward crime, once she can pin down a motive, but both of these crimes have roots dug firmly into events that occurred more than fifteen years ago. With the assistance of her new partner, DS Melody Talbott, Gemma tries to untangle a very twisted knot indeed. And some of the entanglements are only just beginning.
Ms Crombie deftly manages the narration and interweaving of present and past by using a series of flashbacks, which recount the memories of one of the prime suspects in the current murders. There is no dearth of possible killers, all of whom have interesting back stories that lead to credible motives. The setting, a hot London summer in the down-at-the heel Crystal Palace neighborhood, lends a fitting ambience to the investigation. Written so smoothly and intelligently that the pages just fly by, Broken Glass is an outstanding police procedural, so much more than a mere whodunit.(less)
Though it's rated at the pre-school level, I've found Charlie Needs a Cloak to be useful and entertaining for kids up to third grade. In my work as a...moreThough it's rated at the pre-school level, I've found Charlie Needs a Cloak to be useful and entertaining for kids up to third grade. In my work as a museum educator, this delightful tale serves as a valuable intro to the world of pre-industrial textile production, especially in colonial America.(less)
Published in 2007, James Baker's guide to New England's first town is probably the most comprehensive one currently available. It opens with a history...morePublished in 2007, James Baker's guide to New England's first town is probably the most comprehensive one currently available. It opens with a history of the settlers we now call Pilgrims, tracing their decisions and moves prior to setting off for the New World. It then presents four separate walking tours and a driving tour of sites a bit out of town. Plymouth itself has, of course, changed greatly since the 17th century, but Baker does a fine job of pinpointing where, in the modern town, the Pilgrims made their first homes and farms. Plymouth Plantation, the museum founded in the 20th century, had to build its recreation of the original fort and village on a different site, one which hadn't been modernized beyond recognition, but judging from the photos of Leyden Street today, especially its topography, the recreation got things right. Baker points out the few remaining 17th century buildings, and reviews the town's museums. Of particular interest is the history of Plymouth Rock, which traveled to various locations around the town center before settling under the grand portico designed by McKim, Mead & White and erected in 1921. A Guide to Historic Plymouth makes for enjoyable armchair reading for those with an interest in early American history, and would be and invaluable resource for visitors to Plymouth who wish to do more than merely skim the surface. (less)
Merrily Watkins is a widowed mother and a new Anglican priest. She is assigned to the village of Ledwardine, near the Welsh border, once the center of...moreMerrily Watkins is a widowed mother and a new Anglican priest. She is assigned to the village of Ledwardine, near the Welsh border, once the center of English cider production, but now little more than a weekend getaway for rich folk from London. Jane, her teenaged daughter, is perplexed by her mum's career choice, but delighted because the big old vicarage has room enough for her to have her own apartment. Merrily is hoping for a peaceful transition, but her first week is anything but auspicious. Some of the residents are into reviving ancient customs, such as dancing around the "Apple Tree Man" to encourage the recovery of the orchard and cider business. Some of the newcomers (aka outsiders) are bent on presenting a church play in which "the truth" about a medieval minister is subject to dramatic examination. And Jane has fallen in with both the local folklorist and the village wild child. Then there's the disaster at her installation ceremony....
Phil Rickman is an outstanding writer, skilled at working credible plots, dialogue, characterization, and ambience. In the Merrily series, he expertly and seamlessly blends superstition, folklore, and a touch of the paranormal into the problems of modern day living. Ledwardine is a timeless place steeped in tradition, and filled with colorful inhabitants reminiscent of the traditional English "types", but most definitely real. Merrily and Jane so engaging that the reader begins to pull for them from the first chapter, as they struggle with the realization that there's much more here than meets the eye. And much of it isn't as pretty as the landscape.... (less)