This is going to be a mini-review for a mini-book. But--a mini-book in size only. Then Gone is Romayne Rubinas's gorgeous, hand-stitched petite book oThis is going to be a mini-review for a mini-book. But--a mini-book in size only. Then Gone is Romayne Rubinas's gorgeous, hand-stitched petite book of poems. Her words are achingly beautiful and heart-breaking in their raw honesty about the ravages of cancer and its treatment. Short and poignant, ringing with lovely poetry about a very ugly disease....more
The Finishing Stroke is devilish little classic mystery story set primarily at Christmas-time, but bookended by a prologue set twenty-some years priorThe Finishing Stroke is devilish little classic mystery story set primarily at Christmas-time, but bookended by a prologue set twenty-some years prior to the main events and a wrap-up that takes place over twenty years later. The set-up: In 1905, John Sebastian, Sr. takes his pregnant wife for a New Year's fling in New York before her "confinement" to bring forth an heir. When the weather turns bad (and a bit of looting takes place in the city), he stubbornly insists on taking her home. The result? An auto accident and his wife going into premature labor. She manages to successfully deliver a son--John Jr.--and then the doctor surprises the new father with word that another baby is on the way. But giving birth to another baby is too much for his young wife and she does not survive. In a fit of misplaced anger (heaven forbid that the man admit that it was his stubbornness that forced them out onto roads unfit for driving), John Sr. blames the death on the innocent baby and refuses to acknowledge him as his own. He gives the boy to the attending physician--a man whose wife has been unable to have children--and heads home with his new (and only) son. But the father doesn't last long himself and dies within a week, having made a new will leaving everything to John, Jr. but without arranging a promised trust fund for the unwanted baby.
Fast forward to Christmas 1929. John Jr. has put together an extended Christmas party at the home of his guardian, Arthur Craig. He has invited his best girl, Rusty Brown, and her mother; an old flame and wanna-be actress, Valentina Warren, and her current escort, an angry young musician named Marus Carlo; his long-time friend Ellery Queen and Ellery's publisher, Dan Freeman; Sam Dark, the family doctor; Roland Payne, the family lawyer; and the Reverend Andrew Gardiner. Sebastian immediately announces that some important events will happen during the party. Item one: his book of poetry is being published by the House of Freeman. Item two: January 6th is twenty-fifth birthday and he'll come into the trust fund that his father set up for him in his will. Item three: He's going to marry his beloved Rusty--and that, by the way, is why the good pastor is among their number. And item four....well, he's going to save that one for later.
However, someone has a few surprises of their own. On Christmas Day when Sebastian leads them all to the Christmas tree in the living room for gifts, they find the presents have all vanished. As they are musing over this, suddenly a fully costumed Santa Claus appears from the hallway, hands them all gifts, and vanishes just as suddenly. They all assume that Felton, the butler, had been talked into performing and they go ahead and open their gifts--items that match the zodiac sign of each guest. But when Felton--and then all party members and the rest of the servants--denies any knowledge of Santa, Ellery becomes concerned. A search through the large rambling house, reveals no extra person...and the newly fallen snow outside reveals no footprints. Later an unknown man is found dead under the Christmas tree. Then a steady campaign of mystery gifts commences. Each night a gift with a parody verse matching the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" appears with Sebastian's name. And as the gifts continue the tone becomes more and more menacing until it all culminates in a second murder. Ellery believes he has solved the mystery--but doesn't have enough confidence in the solution to put it before the police. So the case remains unsolved.
Fast forward again to 1957. Ellery receives a phone call from now-Chief Devoe (a man who had been a sergeant in the state troopers at the time) wanting to know if Queen would like a crate that contains everything gathered in the Sebastian case. [There's a general clear-out going on and Devoe hates to throw it out.] Ellery takes it and when going through all the materials, he realizes he was right--well, pretty much. He just needed to give his solution a little twist. And he goes to confront the culprit.
Provided that one is willing to suspend one's disbelief regarding the sensible actions of a few people...and one is willing to swallow an interesting twist on a central theme [can't be more specific or I'd give the show away], this is a ripping good tale. What's not to love--mysterious corpse, red herrings, large cast of suspects, isolated and somewhat snow-bound setting, lovely prose, and witty banter. This a fun mystery and I can say that I got hoodwinked (and thoroughly enjoyed it)--I was absolutely distracted by that central theme and didn't catch any of the clues that would have led me in the proper direction.
Synopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, aSynopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, a young art historian, is assigned eighteenth-century painter Canaletto’s Vedute by his teacher as the topic for his dissertation, he decides to focus on a secondary feature, Canaletto’s figures. Allyn uses his camera phone to solve a centuries-old mystery, thanks to clues left by the painter employing a mobile device of his time--the camera obscura. With the action taking place over a single day, art and technology, as well as ambition, romance, and a brutal crime intersect in a series of step-by-step revelations culminating in a startling deus ex machina at the end.
I opted to just quote the synopsis from the book cover and to make this a mini-review for two reasons. First, this is a very short book. Very short. (44 pages) And I was afraid that I might make the synopsis either full of spoilers or, at the very least, longer than the book itself. Second, I don't have a lot to say on this one.
The premise was fantastic--the book jumped off the library's "New Arrivals" shelf and into my hands and as soon as I read the synopsis I was hooked. But. When I started reading it--what a let-down. As I mentioned this is one short book....and as far as I can tell the primary purpose was to give the reader every bit of knowledge David Alan Brown (he would be the author) has about Canaletto, painting in Italy in the 1700s, and the camera obscura. Tons of dry as dust info-very little story. And when we get to the big discovery (finally!), he crams it all into about five pages (five tiny pages--the book is about 4 inches square). Brown could have done so much with this story to make it interesting, but didn't. The startling ending mentioned above doesn't even do it. If anything, it feels rather like a cheat--like he knew the book wasn't all that intriguing and, hey, why don't I try to spice it up with this surprise ending? The book is okay--great premise, poor execution.
At its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and theirAt its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and their ways of handling what they have been through and what they have done only serve to drive a wedge of silence between them. They rub along for ten years in what is revealed to be a fairly superficial semblance of a relationship, but the day that Peter puts his fist through the glass pane of the back door starts them down a road that will lead either to the complete disintegration of the marriage or reconciliation and healing.
Blake (Swift) is absolutely on target with her representation of how a relationship can gradually slip away--almost without notice. The polite daily interactions smooth over the troubled waters underneath and both Rhoda and Peter believe that the other responsible for the lack of warmth and trust. The truth, as always, is more complicated than that and they both need to lay a few war-time ghosts to rest before deciding what really matters to them.
Deft characterization and terrific period detail make this novel an absorbing read. An emotional exploration of the psychological effects of war on both the soldiers and those they left behind. ★★★★
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[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments in this section are entirely my own honest opinion.] ...more
Judith Kingsley marries well-known financier Horace Fescue on the rebound. She had fallen in love with Charles Darlington, but he never came back to hJudith Kingsley marries well-known financier Horace Fescue on the rebound. She had fallen in love with Charles Darlington, but he never came back to her as promised from a supposed trip to break off his engagement to another woman. And she never heard another word from him
On the day of their wedding, Fescue takes his bride to his house in St. Augustine for their honeymoon where she immediately see Darlington and his fiancee. In fact, the honeymoon is crowded with people who know either Fescue or Judith--from Fescue's ex-wifer, to the Darlington family (who have reason to hate Fescue) to Fescue's factotum--a man who seemed downright evil to Judith and whom she had asked Fescue to dismiss. He had told her he had. None of the servants at the St. Augustine house seem to approve of the new bride and none of them are friendly.
Before their first night is over, Judith overhears Fescue telling his ex that he deliberately brought Judith to St. Augustine knowing Darlington was in town, that he had intercepted a letter from Charles meant for Judith and he knew of their ill-fated love. It seems that Judith's new husband has a cruel streak and is going to enjoy torturing his bride with the nearness of the man she cannot have. Judith decides to leave him at once and have her marriage annulled...but before she can escape Fescue is shot and he tells her that Darlington is the man who did it. If Judith leaves him, he will turn Darlington over to the police. If she stays, he will play dumb.
Judith feels caught in a trap and determines to find out who really shot her husband. She doesn't believe Fescue for a moment when he claims it was Darlington. Before she can make much headway, Fescue begins receive death threats ("You are going to die"), another attempt is made on the recovering man, and then Hudson is killed. Who is behind it all? Is it Darlington's fiancee, the pretty girl with the scarred cheek? Could it be Darlington's sister, who has reason to hate Fescue for ruining her family? Or maybe Fesuce's ex-wife still has reason to want him dead? Then there's the mystery man Chesneck who claims to have known Fescue's brother--does he know a few secrets as well?
Inspector McKee is in the case from the beginning and comes to Florida to unravel all the clues. But the more clues he discovers, the worse it looks for Darlington and Judith is afraid that neither she nor the man she really loves will escape the traps laid for them.
This novel is much more of a romantic suspense mystery than others I've read by Reilly. While it is still a good read--Reilly is a more than competent writer--I really enjoyed her earlier books more with their focus on the police procedural rather than the damsel in distress. McKee has generally had a damsel who needed rescuing in each of the cases, but they haven't been so very tense. I would have appreciated more focus on McKee and his efforts to discover the killer than to have spent so much time with Judith and her constant fear that Darlington would be arrested any minute. Decent mystery with a twist at the end.
The Japanese police are rather busy with a rash of seemingly motiveless murders--the stabbing of a political philosophy professor from Kyonan UniversiThe Japanese police are rather busy with a rash of seemingly motiveless murders--the stabbing of a political philosophy professor from Kyonan University, the poisoning of a popular Tokyo nightclub owner and songwriter, and the hit-and-run death of a recently elected member of the National Diet. In each case, the person who would benefit most from the death has a solid alibi and beyond that person, no one else seems to have reason them dead.
Natsuhiko Hino is the political science tutor who moves into the vacant professorship at the university. His fiancée, Chisako Tanaka, is worried. Worried because Hino has been different ever since his two-year scholarly trip to America. Worried because of his apparent ties to Aki Kiriu, the beautiful singer/songwriter whose career has soared since the death of her rival. And worried because he seems to be marking time that has nothing to do with the number of days until their marriage. She can't resist doing a little investigation on her own with the help of a reporter who has been covering Kiriu's story. Then when a fourth murder--close to home--occurs, an intricate plot is uncovered.
Misa Yamamura tells an elegant, but very formal story. Whether she has her characters bowing ceremoniously or not, the very writing makes it seem as though they are--continuously--which gives the story an odd feel, but that also may be due in part to the translation. The story is very smooth and the characters are interesting. Yamamura uses a half-inverted method for the plot. She doesn't tell you upfront who did it--but the the unfolding of the story makes it very obvious who and how. The real mystery to me was whether the police (who did not seem to handle the murder sites very professionally--but maybe that all happened "off-stage" as it were) would ever catch on to what was happening. The story is most interesting for its characters and for the peek at Japanese culture and relationships. http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/20... Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks
This novel is the seventh of nine in one of Erle Stanley Gardner's non-Mason series. It features Doug Selby who serves through most of the series as tThis novel is the seventh of nine in one of Erle Stanley Gardner's non-Mason series. It features Doug Selby who serves through most of the series as the District Attorney in fictional Madison City, California. The books follow him as he's newly elected to the position until he enlists in the military as intelligence officer during World War II and then sees him back as the D.A. once the war ends. The Selby novels work as a sort of antithesis to the Perry Mason books with Selby's biggest opponent, A. B. Carr portrayed as corrupt and unscrupulous while Selby, the D. A., is more concerned with justice and equity; not interested in his reputation as a prosecutor or about his image in the press.
The story finds Selby on a week's furlough before heading back to the war in the Pacific. He decides to stop in Madison City to visit with old friends--Sheriff Rex Brandon, reporter Sylvia Martin, and fellow-lawyer Inez Stapleton--and immediately finds himself drawn into mysterious circumstances. Inez is preparing to battle A. B. Carr in a lawsuit over a contested will. When Selby and Sylvia notice Carr meeting strangers at the train depot by way of white gardenias on their lapels and, later, a man who had ordered a white gardenia turns up poisoned in his hotel, Selby's instincts are on high alert. He's quite sure the mystery man was mixed up in Inez's current case, but how? Once the man is identified and it's shown that Inez herself had been in contact with him but will only answer "No comment" to any questions posed to her, Selby knows he's on to something. He plays a few spectacular hunches and manages to help Brandon arrest a killer, Stapleton win her court battle, and give Martin the inside scoop on a the story behind it all.
The D.A. Breaks a Seal was first published in 1946, but obviously covers some time earlier because Major Selby is headed off somewhere unnamed in the Pacific to, as his friend Brandon tells him at the end of the novel, "Clean up the Japs." So the war isn't quite over for Selby. There is also mention of difficulties for anyone wanting to travel purely for pleasure--a point of interest when Selby is investigating one of the gardenia-wearers and how she managed to travel by train to Madison City. Of course references to mass train travel and Pullman cars also give a hint to the time period, but overall the story has a rather timeless feel to it. You know you're reading about early- to mid-twentieth century, but beyond the mention of Selby's military service, there isn't much to nail it down tighter than that. A nice general period atmosphere to cloak this solid courtroom drama.
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the 'Crime of the Century' by Paula Uruburu (2008) tells the story of [FloAmerican Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the 'Crime of the Century' by Paula Uruburu (2008) tells the story of [Florence] Evelyn Nesbit who was a beautiful, popluar chorus girl, artist's model, and budding actress at turn of the century (19th to 20th) whose long-term liaison with renowned architect Stanford White led to her identification as "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing" as well as her involvement in one of the early 20th Century's most notorious murder trials. She rose from humble beginnings in Philadelphia to a model whose face and figure were used in newspaper and magazine advertisements, on postcards and calendars. Her celebrity hit before she was 18 years old. Once she started in the chorus, she found herself the object of many men's fantasies and the recipient of the attentions of "Stage Door Johnnies." Among her admirers were several millionaires, but she ignored them until Stanford White came along. He showered presents on her and her family and introduced her to a side life she only dreamed of. Then he seduced her. But his support--both financially and in the theatre world continued and she kept in touch with him.
When Harry Kendall Thaw, son of the very wealthy Thaw family of Philadelphia family, became interested in Evelyn, she had no idea that he had another agenda in mind other than making her his own through marriage. He had heard of White's association with her and he hated White with a passion. Thaw had no compunction about using the beautiful young woman to wreak havoc on the evil man he believed White to be. He married Evelyn in April of 1905 and just over a year later he took her to the Madison Square Garden rooftop theatre--the playground of her former lover--and shot White to death. White thought he was a hero for revenging his wife's innocence. Given his treatment of her and his behavior leading up to the murder, I'd say he was a bit crazy.
************* I have to say that I was disappointed in this. When I was looking for a true crime novel to read to fulfill a couple of challenges, the name Stanford White caught my eye. In 2012, I read a book of White's letters to his family and my comment at the end of that review was that "I think I would have been far more intrigued by one of the books which covered this high-profile murder than I was by the collection of letters." And here one of those books is. And I remain fairly un-intrigued. For all the billing on the cover about the "Crime of the Century"--less than one-third of the book is devoted to writing about the crime, trial, and aftermath (very brief info on the aftermath) combined. The rest of the book takes a very long and rambling (particularly for a non-fiction book) trip through Evelyn's early life and journey to become Thaw's wife. Uruburu is repetitive in descriptions and, most noticeably in the first half, given to writing sentences in which it sounds like she's producing the most adjectives with the most of syllables possible. Throwing $10 words around as my relatives used to say. All to no purpose.
She gives us a fair overview of the time period and attempts to represent Evelyn as a young woman misrepresented by history. But she never made Evelyn a real person to me and she never made me really care about her story. I was horrified by what she went through--but horrified on principal and because the events were, indeed, horrifying. Not because I made any real connection with Evelyn Nesbit as a person. ★★