In the small British town of Bamford, the ill-fated Oakley family has lived at Fourways house since the 19th century. The only Oakleys now remaining a...moreIn the small British town of Bamford, the ill-fated Oakley family has lived at Fourways house since the 19th century. The only Oakleys now remaining are two elderly sisters in impoverished circumstances, who have always lived under the shadow of their grandfather William's possible murder of their grandmother Cora--he got off, but the general belief was that he was guilty. Now the sisters are hoping to sell Fourways and move into a more comfortable flat, but their plans are disrupted by the arrival of Jan Oakley from Poland, who claims to be William's great-grandson. Everyone in the village rallies around the Oakleys, suspecting Jan to be up to no good, but when he dies under circumstances horribly similar to Cora's, no one is safe from suspicion. Detective Allen and his lover Meredith, who both interacted with Jan, are in it up to their eyes, to the point that even they cannot be exempted from suspicion.
Meanwhile, in the past, Granger relates the story of Cora's appalling death, William's trial, and the exploits of a young reporter intent on discovering the identity of the enigmatically veiled young woman who comes to watch the trial.
I really enjoyed this one, which had lots of twists and turns. I'm partial to solving old mysteries, and having the sections set in the past is like giving the reader the front-seat view into what really happened--to a point. I thought the book was a bit long, but I liked how it played out, with secrets layered on secrets. I did peg the murderer pretty early, though--someone was just a bit too "innocent" to be believed. But good description, good characters I could mostly tell apart (a large cast, though), interesting and complex relationships. I liked how the bit about Meredith's intolerably nosy officemate didn't play out as I thought it would, and turned out to have a completely different effect on the plot. Anyway, very enjoyable.
In the late 1920s, Daisy Dalrymple is staying at her aunt and uncle's capacious country house in order to watch the boat races at Henley. The house is...moreIn the late 1920s, Daisy Dalrymple is staying at her aunt and uncle's capacious country house in order to watch the boat races at Henley. The house is full to the gills with the Ambrose College crew, so Daisy's fiance, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, will have to stay in town. Despite the lovely weather and setting, tensions are running high in the crew. The cox, Bott, is a brilliant scholarship man with a surly attitude brought on by years of humiliation and condescension from the upper crust. One of the oarsmen, Delancey, has the nastiest tongue Daisy has ever come across, and entirely directed at Bott. She's still surprised when one of them ends up dead in the water, but is the other really responsible? Alec must set aside his holiday once again to step in, but of course Daisy is there first.
I enjoyed this one, even though the mystery is pretty straightforward (I prefer the Christie type where you don't really know until the last few pages). The setting is perfect for a cozy British mystery, and well-described as always. This is just a fun series.(less)
11 year old Flavia DeLuce is on edge; she and her family only recently learned that her mother, missing for ten years, is returning to Buckshaw. At th...more11 year old Flavia DeLuce is on edge; she and her family only recently learned that her mother, missing for ten years, is returning to Buckshaw. At the train, though, a strange man falls under the wheels; was he pushed? And what on earth was Winston Churchill doing there, asking Flavia about pheasant sandwiches? At the house, Flavia's family is acting even more strangely than usual. Her unknown cousin Lina has shown up with her irritating daughter Undine (it's rather hilarious how much Flavia can't stand Undine, as Undine is very like her), her Aunt Felicity is being mysterious, her father is ever further away from her, and her sisters are their usual obnoxious selves. This time the mystery Flavia is unravelling is her own family's, and what she finds out will change her life forever.
This entry is rather different than others in the series, as it's more about Flavia delving into family secrets than solving a concrete mystery. I enjoyed it, though. Flavia is her usual outrageous self (I was appalled but not surprised at the most daring and shocking of her exploits), and her world is intimately described, including the chemistry she so loves. This is a rather more thoughtful entry than the others, and if you haven't read the others, this is not a good one to start with. I'll be interested to see where Flavia goes after this!(less)
In an alternate-world Victorian England, where most well-to-do households have robot servants, fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a disgrace in her mother...moreIn an alternate-world Victorian England, where most well-to-do households have robot servants, fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a disgrace in her mother's eyes. She's always in some kind of scrape and always ruins her clothes, and with her older sister Petunia's debut coming up, her mother decides the best thing to do is send Sophronia to finishing school. What her mother doesn't know, however, is just what kind of finishing school has secretly recruited Sophronia. She learns about clothes and etiquette and all that, but also about poisons, espionage, weaponry, and much more--and one of her teachers is a vampire, and another is a werewolf. After her astonishment settles, Sophronia cautiously comes to enjoy her unusual school (though she's pretty sure she never wants to kill anyone). There's something going on beneath the surface, though, concerning the odious Monique and a missing piece of vital equipment. Can Sophronia figure it out before her sister's debut?
I'm not a fan of werewolves and vampires, but this is much more steampunk, and was lots of fun. Lots of action and adventure, and the floating school is creative--wish there'd been a floor plan, but maybe in the next book? There were a lot of characters, and I couldn't really tell the human teachers apart, but the students were distinctive and sympathetic (or odious, as the case might be). I think kids will love this, and there's nothing in it that would make it inappropriate for grades six and up (unlike the adult books in this series!). Carriger's intelligence and wit make this one a winner.(less)
In an alternate world that feels like Victorian England, sixteen-year-old Emilie runs away from her impossible family, and somewhat accidentally stows...moreIn an alternate world that feels like Victorian England, sixteen-year-old Emilie runs away from her impossible family, and somewhat accidentally stows away on a ship bound on a magical adventure into the hollow core of the earth--where there is a world both like and unlike the outer world. Emilie discovers that the ship is on a rescue mission. Dr. Marlende, a sorcerer who discovered how to manipulate the aether currents to travel to the unsuspected world, is stranded there with his airship. His daughter and the explorer Lord Engal are off to save him, accompanied by a Cirathi--a non-human inhabitant of the Hollow World whose people had befriended Dr. Marlende. When they reach the Hollow World, Emilie and her companions find many wonders, but not Dr. Marlende or his ship, his crew, or the Cirathi crew. When they sail off to seek him, they have no notion of the adventures and perils awaiting them.
This was a lot of fun, though I often felt that, at least in the first half of the book, Emilie could have been twelve; I kept forgetting she was 16 because it felt so much like a middle grade steampunk adventure (which is fine with me!). I loved all the description of the Hollow World, though I did find it impossible to get a mental picture of the places Emilie explored, like the ship, a foreign city, etc. I don't know if it's my fault or if things were beautifully but confusingly described. Overall, just a fun adventure, and I look forward to more!(less)
Phillip Petrie, the amiable younger son of a lord who has set his sights on becoming a common auto mechanic, never expects to fall for the daughter of...morePhillip Petrie, the amiable younger son of a lord who has set his sights on becoming a common auto mechanic, never expects to fall for the daughter of a visiting American millionaire. No more does he expect her to be kidnapped, and himself with her. They don't want him, though, and he finds himself bound and dumped in a hedge at Fairacres, the ancestral home of the Dalrymples. Wasting no time after his rescue by the butterfly-obsessed current Lord Dalrymple, Phillip calls in his childhood friend Daisy Dalrymple, who has solved many mysteries in her time. Forbidden by the millionaire to contact the police, Daisy assembles a group of friends to impose on her cousin (the lord) and search for Gloria before the ransom is paid. Naturally she gets herself in trouble, and naturally her love interest, the handsome Scotland Yard chief inspector Alec Fletcher, shows up early and is roped into helping out.
This really wasn't a mystery so much as suspense/adventure, which is why I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the others in the series. I just don't like kidnapping stories, and listening to it as an audiobook, I just found it agonizing when the passages went on and on with things we already knew while Gloria was always in danger. Still, I enjoyed the parts about the relationships between the characters, especially Daisy and Alec, and the descriptions of the countryside and the period details are well done and evocative.
With the audiobook, though, I found the narrator awkward--she didn't seem comfortable with either an American or British accent, so the stereotypical 1920s American slang sounded completely fake (and why do Brits still think every American talks like a Texan?). She also mispronounced at least a dozen reasonably common words, like stripling and cadge. So...just not my favorite of the series.(less)
A year before the story starts, Rosemary Barton died dramatically at a restaurant by ingesting cyanide. It was ruled a suicide, but not everyone belie...moreA year before the story starts, Rosemary Barton died dramatically at a restaurant by ingesting cyanide. It was ruled a suicide, but not everyone believes that, and a year later her husband George is determined to re-create the party and find the killer. Included are: Rosemary's much younger sister Iris, wealthy after Rosemary's death, and now George Barton's ward. Politician Stephen Farraday, who had an illicit affair with Rosemary, but tired of her. Lady Alexandra Farraday, Stephen's wife. Ruth Lessing, Barton's secretary, who had no great love for Rosemary. Anthony Browne, an enigmatic sometime-cicisbeo of Rosemary, but who now has his eye on Iris. If George is right, one of them killed Rosemary, but which one? Of course, his party goes horribly wrong...
This is one of Christie's classics, and it holds up remarkably well. It's well-structured and clever, and the characters are all larger-than-life and with believable motives. There is a bit of sexism and stereotyping, of course, but it was written in about 1945. Overall, a great mystery.(less)
Taking 100 words as examples of how English has evolved and how it has been and is being used, Crystal covers the whole history of the English languag...moreTaking 100 words as examples of how English has evolved and how it has been and is being used, Crystal covers the whole history of the English language chronologically. For example, he'll take one word--such as UFO--and use it as an example of acronyms turning into words, and branch out into other examples with many different shadings of the trend.
I found this absolutely fascinating, and I enjoyed the structure of the 100 words, particularly since he really didn't stick to just 100--each represented something, and I enjoyed the explication of the trend and the other examples. Crystal also has an intelligent charm evident both in his writing and in his reading his work aloud, that lent a gentle sense of humor to the effort. I highly recommend this if you are interested in the history of the English language, but don't want a dry textbook.(less)
Bruce Chatwin, who seems to have spent his writing life wandering the globe, got interested in the Aboriginal concept of Songlines and creation and we...moreBruce Chatwin, who seems to have spent his writing life wandering the globe, got interested in the Aboriginal concept of Songlines and creation and went to Australia to learn more. While there he meets unique and not entirely pleasant characters, has some outback adventures, and learns more about Songlines and the culture of the Aborigines in general--in the past and the present. Then about 2/3 of the way through the book Chatwin goes philosophical walkabout himself, writing up small snippets of information he'd previously gathered on nomads, evolution, fighting, and other topics--basically concluding that the migratory life is better for humans.
I didn't quite know what to make of this. I'd been interested to learn more of the background of the native Australians, and there is a lot of information here, but the book starts out more as just an often-depressing travelogue of the author's trip, then it wanders off into endless short meditations and quotes about the other topics that interest him. I don't know if he was just being self-indulgent, or if he really wanted to reflect the concept of walkabout in a literary fashion. Much of the information was interesting, but I found it tiring to read such choppy chapters--like the dots of Aboriginal paintings, rather than continuous and connected prose. And honestly--I think there's a bit of the trouble with the subjunctive (just heard an interesting TED talk about that) in always looking back and thinking that lifestyles were so much better in the distant past and we've ruined ourselves by learning to farm. I mean, seriously? Farming and cities are not going to go away. We can't all just start being nomads again. Why make us feel guilty about it?
Anyway, overall I was somewhat disappointed that the book wasn't really what I had expected.(less)
In this book of many names (my favorite is "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw"), Elspeth McGillicuddy witnesses a murder in a train, as her train runs moment...moreIn this book of many names (my favorite is "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw"), Elspeth McGillicuddy witnesses a murder in a train, as her train runs momentarily alongside it. Because no body is found, no one believes her--except her old friend, Miss Marple. Because Miss Marple is a little past the age of active sleuthing, she enlists the vastly competent Lucy Eyelesbarrow--a highly intelligent young woman who has gone into domestic service--to take a post at the most likely house in the neighborhood and go looking for a body.
This is classic Christie; all about the method and the deduction, with some quirky characters thrown in. I always enjoy a good Jane Marple mystery, and this was no exception. See how the master does it!(less)
1. The Listerdale Mystery: An impoverished gentlewoman and her grown children fall into good fortune when they rent a lovely London house--complete wi...more1. The Listerdale Mystery: An impoverished gentlewoman and her grown children fall into good fortune when they rent a lovely London house--complete with butler--for a peppercorn rent. The son, though, is suspicious--it's the house from which Lord Listerdale disappeared. 2. The Girl in the Train: Young George Rowland hides a desperate and attractive young woman from pursuers on a train, and finds himself involved in more adventure than he's ever had in his young life. 3. The Manhood of Edward Robinson: Beaten-down Edward gets a windfall and defies his miserly fiancee by purchasing a sports car, but the adventures really start when he accidentally steals a car nearly identical to his, and discovers in it something that the owner will likely do anything to get back. 4. Jane in Search of a Job: Impoverished Jane answers an ad for someone with her physical features, and ends up acting as a body double for a famous foreign national in trouble--but who is really in trouble? 5. A Fruitful Sunday: A working class couple enjoys a country afternoon, and find something in a basket of fruit that may prove their undoing. 6. The Golden Ball: The exquisitely dressed George is fired from his uncle's company, but is invited to join a stunning heiress in her car for the afternoon, which leads to adventure. 7. The Rajah's Emerald: On a beach holiday, James is peeved that his supposed girlfriend is spending all her time with wealthier friends. Then he surreptitiously uses Lord Campion's beach hut and finds something unexpected. 8. Swan Song: It has taken twenty years, but the operatic diva will finally get what she's always wanted--but what will it cost? 9. The Hound of Death: A nun has visions of a world that never was, but a psychologist and scientist is convinced it is real--and that the power it offers is real. 10. The Gipsy: An offhandedly-racist story in which a gipsy predicts all too well. 11. The Lamp: A heartbreaking ghost story. 12. The Strange Case of Sir Andrew Carmichael: Just as he has gotten engaged, Sir Andrew Carmichael is struck by a bizarre mental disorder that makes him behave like an animal. Who is responsible, and why? 13. The Call of Wings: Achieving heavenly glory means giving everything up. 14. Magnolia Blossom: How far will a man gamble with his lovely wife, in order to save himself? What will she give up for him? 15. Next To a Dog: Impoverished Joyce will do anything--anything--to keep her beloved dog Terry, even if it means marrying a man she hates.
I remember loving several of these stories as a teen, particularly the first few which have a Fantasy Island feel--the adventures are not "real" adventures, much as they feel real to the participants at the time--there's always something more cheerful behind them. Some of the others are quite dark and depressing, and I think it's interesting to see where Christie's imagination took her, beyond mysteries. My favorite of these would be the Hound of Death, which is essentially science fiction--I wish she'd made it into a whole novel, or explored that other world further. I really wanted to know! The ones I liked least were The Lamp, which was just god-awful depressing, and Magnolia Blossom, which was also just depressing. Overall, though, an interesting collection.(less)
In 1993 in Canton, Ohio, a newspaper announcement declared that those with nothing for Christmas could write to B. Virdot, who would distribute small...moreIn 1993 in Canton, Ohio, a newspaper announcement declared that those with nothing for Christmas could write to B. Virdot, who would distribute small amounts to a certain number of families. He promised anonymity for both the writers and himself. In 2008, his grandson inherited a suitcase full of letters to B. Virdot, and began exploring the story of his grandfather, Sam Stone, and of all the letter-writers. He researched many of the writers and their families, and discovered what happened to them after the depression. He also looked into his grandfather's cloudy past, about which his grandfather would never speak, and learned many secrets that helped him better understand Sam Stone and B. Virdot.
This is a heartbreaking look into the desperation of the Depression, but also a fascinating look at the time period, and what happened to the writers. Sometimes they were able to pull themselves back up and their families enjoyed success, sometimes they didn't. Both their stories and Sam Stone's story made for intriguing listening, and helped me better understand my mother's stories of her parents' and family's experience during the Depression (she was not yet born). Well worth reading.(less)
As a young teen, I loved this book more than any other--I have no idea how many times I read it. I wanted to be Robin Hood--or at least one of the Mer...moreAs a young teen, I loved this book more than any other--I have no idea how many times I read it. I wanted to be Robin Hood--or at least one of the Merry Men (let's face it; Maid Marian had no fun)--and live in Sherwood Forest endlessly defeating the evil Sheriff. Pyle's wonderful, old-fashioned language builds the world as much as the classic stories do, to create a legendary rather than historical world--so much more fun!(less)
This brief book explores the history behind Lewis Carroll's famous image of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired 'Alice in Wonderland.' The first part...moreThis brief book explores the history behind Lewis Carroll's famous image of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired 'Alice in Wonderland.' The first part covers Dodgson's (Carroll's) life until he arrived at Oxford, the second part covers the history of photography up until Dodgson got involved, and the last part covered Dodgson's relationship with the Liddells and his photography portraiture hobby. It specifically focuses on the famous image of Alice as a beggar maid, but covers other photographs as well.
This wasn't uninteresting, just rather narrowly focused, and I thought I might have done better with a full biography of Dodgson if I were interested. It did make me go online to find copies of the photos, as they are hard to imagine just from the descriptions.(less)
When movie star Jane Wilkinson first meets Hercule Poirot, she asks him to get rid of her husband, Lord Edgeware, for her, since she wants to remarry....moreWhen movie star Jane Wilkinson first meets Hercule Poirot, she asks him to get rid of her husband, Lord Edgeware, for her, since she wants to remarry. Later, when someone murders Lord Edgeware, Jane Wilkinson is the prime suspect--until she produces an unbreakable alibi. So who really killed Lord Edgeware? And who killed budding actress Carlotta Adams, a friend of the new Lord Edgeware? If anyone can find out, it's Poirot.
I read this as a teenager, and since I remembered who did it, I wasn't surprised. I thought that it was actually pretty obvious from the start, but I don't know if I guessed it the first time I read it. It's a classic Christie, though, with interesting characters, screwed up family dynamics, and good if simple descriptions. A classic cozy.(less)