S.S. Van Dine's "Philo Vance" detective books are a weird love of mine. The books were written in the late 1920s/early 1930s and are quite stylized in...moreS.S. Van Dine's "Philo Vance" detective books are a weird love of mine. The books were written in the late 1920s/early 1930s and are quite stylized in their way. Philo Vance is a wealthy dilletante and bon vivant who wanders around New York City smoking regie cigarettes and adjusting his monocle. Vance spends pages opining on ancient Chinese ceramics. Vance is BFFs with the attorney general, and involves himself in murder mysteries mostly as an intellectual exercise. The books are notable for including fold out maps of murder locations, diagrams of murder rooms, and Vance's affected "quaint" language.
Despite the dated language and style, despite the improbability of various elaborate murder scenarios, and multi-page intellectual showboating, I still love these books. IDK.
"The Bishop Murder" revolves around a series of murders that relate to nursery rhymes. The murders begin when a man named "Cock Robin" is killed with a bow and arrow. The suspects are all independently wealthy, and spend their time in archery clubs and elaborate chess tournements. Everyone lives in palatial buildings in Manhattan, which given current NYC real estate can be a bit startling.
If you're a fan of early Agatha Christie or pulp fiction from the 30s you will probably enjoy this. (less)
**spoiler alert** I first read this book quite a while ago, and when a friend put it in her Good Reads "to read" pile I decided to read my copy again....more**spoiler alert** I first read this book quite a while ago, and when a friend put it in her Good Reads "to read" pile I decided to read my copy again. The results were mixed.
"Deerskin" is reworking of a classic fairy tale type "The king who wanted to marry his daughter" (aka "Cap o Rushes", "Donkeyskin" and others. reference one and reference 2). The fairy tale is about father/daughter incest and obsession. The incest is always portrayed as wrong and forbidden, but the degree to which it is disturbing varies. McKinley directly tackles the subject and its implications.
The first third of the book is quite well done. McKinley describes how beautiful the queen is, how everyone was obsessively in love with her and how that focus resulted in her daughter being shunted off to the side and neglected. McKinley brings out the disturbing violent aspects of love and obsession quite well. However, subtlety is not her strong suit. The reader is quickly hit with some plot anvils regarding the queen's former suitors (one of them is pointedly different).
About 2/3 of the way through the book I decided to stop reading. I had been hit around the head with obvious plot points and I knew how the end was going to play out. I never got very invested in the characters, so I wasn't interested in sticking around to see everything tied up.
It's quite possible that someone less familiar with fairy tales (and fairy tale retellings) might have been more intrigued and surprised by this story. I enjoyed reading "Deerskin" (as much as you can enjoy reading about incest) but I'm unlikely to read it again.(less)
In this book, Lackey retells "Beauty and the Beast" and sets it in San Francisco around the turn of the century. Our heroine is destitute and bookish,...moreIn this book, Lackey retells "Beauty and the Beast" and sets it in San Francisco around the turn of the century. Our heroine is destitute and bookish, so of course takes a mysterious position working for a man who she never sees properly. Unlike others in her situation, she takes charge of her situation. Enjoyable, though not ground breaking.(less)
This book is one of Lackey's re-telling of fairy tales. This retelling of Snow White is set in turn of the century England and our heroine is an educa...moreThis book is one of Lackey's re-telling of fairy tales. This retelling of Snow White is set in turn of the century England and our heroine is an educated 'half-caste' (one parent is British, the other Indian) woman. Lackey's descriptions of life in India draw heavily from British colonialistic/romantic ideas of what life was like. Also, Lackey's understanding of Hindu gods is not as sophisticated as I would like.(less)