Trying my hand at Ferrars again, but first a note on ebook quality. The version I bought (on Google Play) has no quotation marks, apostrophes or dashe...moreTrying my hand at Ferrars again, but first a note on ebook quality. The version I bought (on Google Play) has no quotation marks, apostrophes or dashes - making for a rather challenging reading experience! The same ebook on Amazon doesn't seem to have this issue. Poor quality control.
For the book itself, this is a very unusual pair of detectives. Virginia is a physiotherapist (aged around 40), who is separated from an extremely charming man named Felix, who proved to be an inveterate, almost compulsive con artist. (view spoiler)[While he does have certain crimes he won't do (blackmail, murder) (hide spoiler)] he never hesitates to embroil Virginia in his crimes and to steal from her.
I really hate con artist characters. I'm so-so on thief characters altogether, but con artists so frequently betray _trust_ that I hate spending time around them. And Felix makes Virginia miserable. (view spoiler)[The concept of him turning his own criminal tendencies to the investigation of crime for a series of seven or eight books is rather clever, but I so thoroughly dislike the relationship between them - thoroughly believable as it might be - that even though I really liked Virginia (hide spoiler)] I won't be reading on with this series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The last of this series of seven books centred on painter/spy Johnson Johnson. "Moroccan Traffic" is a companion piece to the previous volume (the six...moreThe last of this series of seven books centred on painter/spy Johnson Johnson. "Moroccan Traffic" is a companion piece to the previous volume (the sixth published, but first in internal chronological order) "Tropical Issue". For the first time we see some returning characters other than Johnson and his crewman.
This time the focus is business espionage, and the main character is an executive secretary who starts out not particularly appealing due to having listened to far too many "How to Win in Business" motivational tapes. She improves, fortunately, and we also get to meet Doris, who is entertaining. There is also a surprisingly low amount of sexual assault in this particular volume - no attempted rapes, and hardly any groping! Quite an improvement.
On the whole, although they were interesting enough for me to read through thanks to the range and depth of the protagonists, this isn't a series I would read again. Way too much sexual assault (generally a cynical attitude towards romance, but just _so much_ assault). Too few ongoing links between the individual volumes. Johnson is interesting, but not quite enough of a focus of the stories to maintain an ongoing character arc. And there's a tendency for our viewpoint character to be withholding a massive piece of information, and for that information to be used as the basis of a near-ending twist.(less)
On the whole, this was probably the best of this series so far. The main character is herself involved in the espionage game, though as a decoder, and...moreOn the whole, this was probably the best of this series so far. The main character is herself involved in the espionage game, though as a decoder, and thus spends a lot of time being calm and competent. A heck of a lot about child care in the story, along with a great many women who have the care of children and yet care nothing for them.
As usual there's a portion of the ending that steps out of adventure and could be suitably be called "mad cap". Almost all of these books have had a section that is presumably meant to be comedic, but is where credulity is stretched to the limit.(less)
A good deal less annoying than the previous outing. Interesting to have an astronomer main character (though the astronomy worked mainly as a setting,...moreA good deal less annoying than the previous outing. Interesting to have an astronomer main character (though the astronomy worked mainly as a setting, and several infodumps at the beginning).(less)
Operation Nassau starts promisingly, with a main character who is observant and very good in a crisis. A woman who has chosen to place her medical car...moreOperation Nassau starts promisingly, with a main character who is observant and very good in a crisis. A woman who has chosen to place her medical career above all else (though driven there to a degree by her eccentric father, who wants her to get married and give his clan heirs), she is perhaps a little over inclined to use exact medical terms, but she worked well as a person.
Unfortunately, the point of this novel is to teach Dr McRannoch that she is wrong to be this way.
This series has always been a trifle rapey - all three of the female main characters I've read so far have had to deal with people trying to have sex with them ("forcible passes"). The first two deal with this casually, as a kind of occupational hazard of being female. Dr McRannoch brings to mind a line from a different detective series, where one woman says of another: "What she needs is a good rape".
The tee-total career-minded doctor, in other words, needs to learn to dress better, drink more, and appreciate (among others) a man who spikes her drink, hides under her bed, and ties her up - all because he knows she won't let him kiss her in other circumstances.
So, yeah...this wasn't my idea of a fun story. Especially since (view spoiler)[the observant, good in a crisis woman ends up being a total patsy to the espionage story, with a couple of TSTL moments, and where practically everyone except her knows what's really going on. And, of course, by the end of the book she's resigned from her job and is contemplating marriage (hide spoiler)].
I'll give this series another shot, because the prior two didn't stray into quite so offensive areas, but I strongly recommend readers to stay away from this one. [Additional note: some dated racist terminology, though not strictly racist attitudes.]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The second Johnson Johnson story. Tighter than the first outing, and again as much a character study of the main female character as anything else (th...moreThe second Johnson Johnson story. Tighter than the first outing, and again as much a character study of the main female character as anything else (this time a young woman raised in rich circles, but with not much money of her own). I can see why the series is compared to the Campion novels, although the focus is far less on Johnson than Allingham's are on Campion.(less)
Part mystery, part spy story, but primarily a character study of a famous female singer. Her practiced coping with the men who want to use her, sleep...morePart mystery, part spy story, but primarily a character study of a famous female singer. Her practiced coping with the men who want to use her, sleep with her, or impede her is one of the more interesting aspects of this book. I also found interesting her detailed description of her (endless) array of outfits, because that is very much a part of a woman who is famous and to whom appearance is a primary factor.
The story is a tad overlong, and could particularly have done without most of the final 20%, and the last twist kind of left me blah, but I'm curious to see how different the next book will be, so I'll probably try one or two more of these.(less)
The former resident of the room next door of a woman living in bohemian surroundings is murdered. The gun is discovered on the premises. The residents...moreThe former resident of the room next door of a woman living in bohemian surroundings is murdered. The gun is discovered on the premises. The residents of the boarding house are the prime suspects.
Some annoying deliberate non-disclosure by POV character, but otherwise very readable.
I enjoyed this more than my first Ferrars outing, but it still didn't grab me strongly enough to want to do an author glom. May try another of her books at some point in the future.(less)
Again a very readable book with plenty to enjoy. [Although, again, far fewer female characters than male.]
This world seems to have 1800s children's ri...moreAgain a very readable book with plenty to enjoy. [Although, again, far fewer female characters than male.]
This world seems to have 1800s children's rights, while being set at the end of the 20th or beginning of 21st century. It's very easy to forget that it's a modern setting - until someone comes along in a puffa jacket.(less)
"The Rook" starts out with a powerful hook. A person comes to awareness, surrounded by bodies, and no memory of who she is. In her pocket is a note fr...more"The Rook" starts out with a powerful hook. A person comes to awareness, surrounded by bodies, and no memory of who she is. In her pocket is a note from her former self, first in a collection of notes from someone who knows that all that makes her Her is shortly to be wiped out, and who has chosen to prepare the ground for the successor to her body's occupancy.
To complicate matters further, that person happened to be a high-up administrator in Britain's supra-normal secret service.
This is urban fantasy in the manner of Morrison's The Invisibles (though not achieving the style, wit and social commentary of that series), and the hook of curiosity drew me rapidly through it, wanting to see where the story led, so on the whole an enjoyable experience, since I'm a sucker for things that make me want to know what happens next.
I had a fair few gripes along the way - particularly the occasional spurts of bitchy commentary about prettier women, and especially the absolute stupidity of the night club stuff (there is a time and place for everything and this is not the time for ditching one's bodyguards to dance while squiffy). All books of this type require a fairly strong level of suspension of disbelief, but this one particularly tested my willingness to accept what can and can't be kept from the public - and also the sheer incompetence of supposedly ultra-competent people. The banter also kept feeling out of place, and I struggled to believe in the people who would say these things in these circumstances.
I still raced through reading it, but I probably wouldn't pick up book 2.(less)
Found myself more than a little annoyed by this description of Medb, though:
"She is promiscuous, mating...moreGood basic dictionary with nice illustrations.
Found myself more than a little annoyed by this description of Medb, though:
"She is promiscuous, mating with at least nine mortal kings and refusing to allow any king to rule in Tara who has not first mated with her. One of her consorts is Ferghus, a hero of extreme virility, who needs seven ordinary women (or Medb) to satisfy him."
The negative word 'promiscuous' is applied to Medb (because of the ritual joining of immortal land-goddess and current mortal king), but Ferghus - sexing seven women apparently in a group - is 'virile' and 'satisfied', with no negative implication.(less)
The feel of this book is a combination of The Spellcoats and The Merlin Conspiracy, and though I was a little shaky on the...moreThe last Diana Wynne Jones.
The feel of this book is a combination of The Spellcoats and The Merlin Conspiracy, and though I was a little shaky on the characters at the start, I was pleasantly surprised where some of them went. There are high stakes, and bad things potentially happening (particularly those donkeys), but rarely any sense of real danger. Not exactly a romp though.
I wouldn't put it in my top ten DWJ's, but I read it straight through in very short order and was smiling by the end.(less)
At the conclusion of the previous volume, Barbara discovered that her neighbour's daughter, Hadiyyah, had been kidnapped by her mother. Given that Had...moreAt the conclusion of the previous volume, Barbara discovered that her neighbour's daughter, Hadiyyah, had been kidnapped by her mother. Given that Hadiyyah functioned as practically the sole light in Barbara's bleak existence, naturally I read this volume as soon as I could.
The storytelling is, as usual, compelling and the people richly drawn. As with most of the George books of late, I really wish it had been about half the length, since I felt like I'd read a whole book by the 30% mark.
The theme of the book appears to be "love and bad circumstances can lead people to abandoning their morals".
I'll probably read the next book, in the continued hope that something changes, but my enthusiasm is flagging for any continuation of this trend.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
An impeccably-researched alt-history set late in Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
In this world there are two main points of difference. Elizabeth married an...moreAn impeccably-researched alt-history set late in Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
In this world there are two main points of difference. Elizabeth married and bore two sons, and there is a race of people called "skraylings" who come from Vinland (Newfoundland). Presumably this is a play on 'skraeling', which is what the Norse called Greenland and Vinland's Native Americans, although this book's skraelings are non-humans with fangs and vestigial tails. England has an important alliance with (the main clan of) the skraylings.
The plot revolves around three people. Mal, who has been specifically requested as a bodyguard by the skrayling ambassador. Coby, a girl-dressed-as-a-boy working for a theater company. And Ned, Mal's good friend. Many plots begin revolving around Mal after his appointment, and Coby and Ned are drawn into them in his wake. Things are far more complex than any of them realise.
The story very successfully conjures the uncertainty and powerlessness of the landless and poor during Elizabethan times, and the culmination of the story is quite interesting, but I kept putting the book down and not picking it up, so I guess overall it didn't click with me.
A couple of things which made me a little uncomfortable were the use of an actual-world word for Native Americans for a non-human race, and the general womanlessness of this world. There are quite a few incidental women in the story, but Coby is the only one who matters enough to be a person to the reader (and she's (view spoiler)[basically 'the helpful love interest', while Mal is the person who is the interesting/important one (hide spoiler)]). Even the Queen is off-scene and not directly involved in much of the story.
At any rate, I think this is a solidly-told story, which just didn't click enough with me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I hereby dub this review: "In need of a good stupping".
This is the second mystery that Harriet and Peter investigate 'together' – and by together I me...moreI hereby dub this review: "In need of a good stupping".
This is the second mystery that Harriet and Peter investigate 'together' – and by together I mean that Harriet spends quite a time collecting facts, and Peter does all the analysis and deduction. Indeed, he spots the culprit almost immediate on reading the evidence, quickly takes steps to verify it, and does what he can to obtain what little proof is possible.
The primary question of the book is women – intellectual women particularly – and their need, or not, for sex and marriage. Something at the forefront of Harriet's mind because the wounds of her disastrous first love have more or less healed over, and she now is beginning to face up to the question of an extremely suitable man who for the last five years has been asking her to marry him. She likes Peter, but has not quite connected to him as an attractive male, and considers herself weighed down and burdened by her debt to him – while also strongly and powerfully believing that she herself is "spoiled" – publicly known to not be a virgin and thus not suitable marriage material.
Gaudy Night opens with Harriet Vane returning to Oxford, giving us the equivalent of a high school reunion, as Harriet looks back with rose coloured eyes on happy student days, and offers up a romanticised picture of Oxford scholars as unworldly and devoted to nothing but the highest of intellectual ideals. Most of the female scholars are representative of types – the woman who has married and let her mind decay while she devotes herself to children. The virgin spinster who hates men. The woman passionately devoted to a cause. The pure intellectual. The rare successful marriage where intellectual pursuit and family devotion have been melded in a complementary match.
Harriet's opinions of the other female scholars are a trifle off-putting, particularly her immediate cringing away from the friend she has gone there to meet, who has allowed her intellect to stagnate in the favour of children, and of another who is "not smart enough" on two levels. Female scholars without fine minds and who are not fine clothes horses are definitely depicted as lesser in this book. Harriet is also of the opinion (commonly held at the time) that lady-bits denied a thorough stupping are prone to spoil, and the vinegar of their decay is liable to rise up to sour and distort their owner's thought processes.
This particular thesis is played out in the character of Miss Hillyard, the "man-hating" character. Frankly, I have little issue with ladies living in the 1930s who think men receive great privileges that women do not, and so are inclined to be resentful and sarcastic about it. Harriet, however, thinks Miss Hillyard is 'potty', that there's definitely something gone wrong with her, and puts it down to a lack of stupping. [Note: Harriet doesn't use quite the same terms.] I was amused when Peter told Harriet she's suffering from a bias because of her own preoccupations about sex. I was less amused at the inevitable fate of man-hating spinsters who meet god-like beings such as Peter Wimsey.
Although Peter and Harriet are clearly well-suited to each other, and it's obvious to the reader that they'll be happy if they manage to get together, it's only in the final pages of the book that I can manage to bring myself to fully enjoy the romance – because Peter apologises for the rush of his pursuit, so tactlessly commenced while she's still on trial for the murder of her lover. In these final speeches it's clear that Peter has had to face up to the wrongness – indeed, the cruelty – of that action, just as Harriet has had to both heal, and regain her courage. And during the book Peter has proved that he is capable of not "annexing" her – that theirs is to be a marriage of love and mutual support, with space given for their different interests and no expectation that Harriet become merely an obedient extension of him.
It is most certainly not a marriage of equals. Peter is superior to Harriet in every single way. Socially, financially, physically, intellectually, emotionally, morally. He unravels in a day the problem she has worked on for months. He tells her how to fix the novel she's writing. He completes the poem she's writing – but does it better. He faces his emotions and deliberately changes himself to better himself. The setting of Oxford, where they can both be just two scholars together, making it possible for them to be on equal footing and reach an accord, is somewhat undercut for me because Wimsey has just proved himself utterly superior to every single female scholar present – again both intellectually and morally, as well as on the social level of an extremely eligible bachelor in the spinster house.
All of this sounds like I hate the book, which is not quite correct. It's an engrossing mystery, and as much as any reader I want Harriet to work through her issues and find a way to be happy. And it is a writer in the 1930s trying to wrestle with the major question of being an intellectual woman.
I just prefer a little more equality in my romances, and hope for female scholar-mystery writers to occasionally be the one who makes the deductions. (less)