Blood and Circuses, the 6th Phryne Fisher mystery, is so far, the least satisfying, and I think I know why. Kerry Green...moreI can tell what happened here.
Blood and Circuses, the 6th Phryne Fisher mystery, is so far, the least satisfying, and I think I know why. Kerry Greenwood has written the character for 6 books and five years at this point. I can almost hear her inner monologue: Am I in a rut? Are all of the books going to follow a pattern? Do I want to switch things up a bit? She did that.
This is essentially supposed to be a fish out of water story, with Phryne playing the fish. Specifically a play on a subtrope of FOW -- City Mouse. Phryne is stripped of her wealth, privilege, house, car and family. How will she survive? Except Ms. Greenwood seems to forget what she has told us in each of the other five books in the series: Phryne can take care of herself, that is her superpower. She grew up poor. She didn't gain wealth until she was a teen and even then, didn't take it seriously. She was always Rose in first class finding a poor bloke as a lover and dancing with the rabble in steerage. So now we're to believe that going into the countryside and living for a few weeks with a traveling tent circus will bring her nearly to the breaking point? That she will be so weakened she will take a lover not out of libidinous desire, but for protection? Um, no.
For much of the book there are two story-lines: Phrynie's circus investigation and Lt. Robinson's Melbourne murder. Obviously they were linked and it took until the last act of the book to bring them together. Some of the plot details were sketchy and there were also a few jarring perspective shifts in this one. The period and circus vs freaks research was flawless. I think Ms. Greenwood was so busy showing off her talents at meticulous detail, story and structure suffered.
Basically, Phryne lost her agency, just enough, and in such an unbelievably trivial (for her) way, it lost me. I get why Ms. Greenwood did it, but the reason Phryne broke was just too little. Phryne is a superhero. She's Bond. She's Nero Wolfe. She's flawed, but she doesn't break easily. I just didn't buy it and to be honest, I don't think Ms. Greenwood did either.(less)
In early 1928 England, bored, wealthy 28 year-old aristocrat Phryne Fisher (pronounced 'fry-nee') solves a minor mystery at a dinner when she finds a...moreIn early 1928 England, bored, wealthy 28 year-old aristocrat Phryne Fisher (pronounced 'fry-nee') solves a minor mystery at a dinner when she finds a stolen necklace. One of her fellow guests is impressed by her skill at deduction and asks her to solve a case for him in Australia. Phryne returns to her native land, solves the case and becomes a private detective. Taking Melbourne and the rest of Victoria by storm with her class, skills, flair and talent for continually doing scandalous things, she quickly builds up a group of friends and allies- everyone from a pair of Communist cab drivers to one of the few female doctors in the country- while solving her case.
I came to the book series because of the adapted Australian TV series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Several changes have been made from the books. Phryne is no ordinary aristocrat,she can fly a plane, drives her own car (a Hispano-Suiza), smokes, drinks, dances, has "friends in low places" and sometimes wears trousers. However, while displaying bohemian panache, she manages also to maintain style and class. Phryne is a hero, a female Bond or Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. She's an empowered female hero with agency and free as a male hero. She takes at least two lovers in each book, never looking back once he pulls his trousers on and walks out of her bedroom door. In book 5, she flies to a tiny village in the Australian Alps. She brings with her a change of clothes, her gun and her diaphragm (because, you just never know).
It's my belief that instead of being Kerry Greenwood's Mary Sue, Phryne deserves her place in the Wold Newton Family. Phryne is preternaturally intelligent, street-wise and strong. She's an expert with guns, knives (throwing and Apache-style fighting) and at judo. She can crack a safe with ease and disguise herself so even her closest allies won't recognize her. She's also a trained stunt and long-distance pilot with her own plane and trained racecar driver with her own (barely street legal) car. She deserves to be listed as an equal with others in the Wold Newton Family: Sherlock Holmes; Tarzan; Doc Savage; Lord Peter Wimsey, Bulldog Drummond; Fu Manchu The Shadow; Sam Spade; Nero Wolfe and Lew Archer.
Ms. Greenwood's writing gets better with each book. Her strengths are her amazing eye for detail and accurate period detail.(less)
I read A - H for the first time, last year. It's been almost a year since I checked into Kinsey Millhone - The Northern California PI, permanently stu...moreI read A - H for the first time, last year. It's been almost a year since I checked into Kinsey Millhone - The Northern California PI, permanently stuck in the 1980s and forever preserved in her 30s. This is, so far, my favorite book in the series. The plot is more developed and the character of Kinsey is fleshed out a bit more. (less)
Cowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” are back and they're tired. Tired of saddle sores and long trail rides. Old Red in...moreCowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” are back and they're tired. Tired of saddle sores and long trail rides. Old Red insists they sign on to protect the luxurious new Pacific Express, despite a generations-old Amlingmeyer family distrust of the farm-stealin', cattle-killin', money-grubbin' railroads. Old Red knows that little brother, Big Red wants to take a stab at professional ‘detectifying’ just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes so they quickly find themselves hired on as guards for the railroad. Soon, the boys find themselves trapped on a train, summiting the Sierras en route to San Francisco with a gang of outlaws, a baggage car filled with secrets, and a vicious killer hidden somewhere amongst the passengers.
Cowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” in 1890s Montana have just been hired at the Bar VR Ranch. It's not a very pleasan...moreCowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” in 1890s Montana have just been hired at the Bar VR Ranch. It's not a very pleasant place, but a job's a job. One day, though, the boys come across the aftermath of a cattle stampede, complete with the aftermath of a body. How did this fellow meet his demise? A fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin’” skills and sets out to solve the case. With Big Red as his Watson, "Holmes" is on the range.(less)
I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this series. I guess I thought it was more a hardcore romance than it was. My mistake and loss for gender-...moreI'm not sure why it took me so long to read this series. I guess I thought it was more a hardcore romance than it was. My mistake and loss for gender-stereotyping. It's no Dresden Files, but then again, neither was the first book in the Dresden Files. I've already borrowed the next book from my library.
(view spoiler)[BTW: How clever was it for Ms Harrison to create a slightly off-kilter alt-history for her world? In the Hollows-Verse, DNA was discovered earlier and the world became dominated by genetics. Around the early 60s a genetic plague called the Angel Virus wiped out a good chuck of humanity and that's when witches, fairies, were-creatures, vampires, ghouls and goblins "came out". This allows for her to have a bit bigger sandbox to play in, and for the reader to easily overlook outdated tech or dated references. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was, I believe, Mr. Talty's first published work of fiction. Talty’s South Buffalo is insular, paranoid, parochial, dying and dangerous. I grew u...moreThis was, I believe, Mr. Talty's first published work of fiction. Talty’s South Buffalo is insular, paranoid, parochial, dying and dangerous. I grew up in a tiny, insular, paranoid, parochial (though not dangerous) farm community -- I can relate.
I really came to like the Harvard educated Buffalo police detective, Absalom “Abbie” Kearney. I'd read another of her adventures, if Mr. Talty feels he has one in him.
Ratings: Again... *sigh* I'm vexed by the lack of half stars. If I could, I'd give it 3 and a half. Generally, if I really enjoyed an aspect of the book, I'll just grade up. In this case, I won't. As it is, as much as I enjoyed the character and his world building -- this needed to go through one more edit and revision. Just to shine it up, fix some sentence structure issues, tense changes and at least one glaring continuity error. I'm not nit-picking; it's a good first work of fiction, but at times it was a bit too uneven and "cinematic". I have no doubt that he'll grow as a fiction/thriller writer and I, for one, will gladly go along for the ride.(less)
This is the first book in a series that features a Police Detective named William Murdoch, who uses radical techniques such as science, forensics and...moreThis is the first book in a series that features a Police Detective named William Murdoch, who uses radical techniques such as science, forensics and psychological profiling to solve crimes in late 1890s Toronto. The books were first adapted into a series of television movies that starred Peter Outerbridge (ReGensis) and Colm Meaney (ST: DS9). Later it was developed into a highly successful and entertaining Canadian TV series, now in its sixth season on the CBC. I'm under no illusion that it'll be anything like the series; I'm just interested to see where it all began.(less)
Here's the thing: It's easy to start a great Joker story. It's harder to sustain it over multiple issues; and it's near impossible to end one well or...moreHere's the thing: It's easy to start a great Joker story. It's harder to sustain it over multiple issues; and it's near impossible to end one well or with satisfaction. The only people, in my opinion, who've managed to do all three with satisfaction are Bill Finger, Len Wein and in The Animated Series, Paul Dini.
This seemed rushed. I think if Snyder was given two or three more issues to play out the story, it would have worked better. It's not bad, it's just Joker and even though he seems to fans like the easiest villain to write, he's not. It's a good run and one that changes the character, but mostly it's a springboard for other writers to use in future stories. On to the next chapter.(less)
With the discovery of the last Plantagenet under a car park, (big news in early Feb. 2013 - probably not so much whenever you are reading this) I deci...moreWith the discovery of the last Plantagenet under a car park, (big news in early Feb. 2013 - probably not so much whenever you are reading this) I decided it was finally time to read this. (less)
There are many things wrong and I could nit-pick. There are many things I enjoyed, too. The main problem for me, is that this is the fourth in Bill Pr...moreThere are many things wrong and I could nit-pick. There are many things I enjoyed, too. The main problem for me, is that this is the fourth in Bill Pronzini's Quincannon series and first in the Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery, jointly written with his wife - noted mystery author, Marcia Muller. For me and I'm sure for many readers, it was our entree into these characters. So why add the extra distraction of including the most famous fictional Detective in modern history? In the Carpenter/Quincannon universe, Sherlock Holmes is a real person. He died a few years before. Now a "Bughouse" Londoner has shown up in San Francisco claiming to be Holmes. Except he's on the QT. Not even Watson knows he's still alive. So don't tell anyone. Except he does. All the time. He looks like Holmes. Dresses like Holmes. Plays the violin like Holmes and *calls* himself Holmes! This is set in 1894, a time when they have cameras, wax recording cylinders, telephones, telegraph and newspapers -- so why does one of the cleverest men in the world think no one would freak out because Sherlock Frickin Holmes is back from the dead? Well, they don't. No one believes him. I suppose because he seems very Holmes-lite. Think of the portrayal of Holmes in CBS' Elementary, which is more House and Monk (both, ironically Holmes knock-off) than BBC's Sherlock. So why would the authors throw in this really distracting -- is he or isn't he -- red herring into the first book of their new series? I wanted to get to know the characters but I was constantly Holmes-blocked. I've never read any of Mr. Pronzini's works, but I'm a fan of Ms. Muller's Sharon McCone series. Once she hit her stride, the characters in the McCone series became very fleshed out. We knew them. In later books, I think most fans read them not so much for the mystery but to catch-up on Sharon's life and the growing supporting cast. That's what surprised me so much about this book. The Bughouse Affair felt like the first few books in the McCone series. Tentative and clumsy but with promise. Except in those early McCone books, we were watching a good writer mature and grow into her craft. Now, this writing team has probably 50+ years and 100 books and dozens of awards between them - it's very surprising and ultimately, disappointing.(less)
My secret fear is that Mark Hamill will come to my house demanding royalty for every issue of the Death in the Family saga I read in his Joker voice f...moreMy secret fear is that Mark Hamill will come to my house demanding royalty for every issue of the Death in the Family saga I read in his Joker voice from the animated series.(less)