Warning! If you have not yet read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, then you will not want to read this book before doing so--unlessWarning! If you have not yet read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, then you will not want to read this book before doing so--unless you want the plots spoiled. Robert Kuhn McGregor and Ethan Lewis have no compunction about giving away virtually every clue and unmasking every villain in the novels and (most) short stories of the well-known mystery writer while expounding the Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey. They assume (rightly, I believe) that anyone plunging into their literary critique will be well-acquainted with the ins and outs of Sayers's works.
MacGregor and Lewis fully examine the plots of the Wimsey novels, tying them firmly to both the events in Britain and the world during the "Long Week-End"--the period between the two World Wars--and to the life of Dorothy L. Sayers. They find themes and events in the fictional life of Lord Peter, and later Harriet, and use them to understand Sayers's views on love, marriage, the evolving place of women, and the social changes which are rapidly shaping Sayers's world. They also reveal how each of the Wimsey novels play upon different mystery conventions--from the thriller to the time-table focused crime to the how-dunnit. Sayers worked hard at her craft and used it consciously to explore her own views as well as to comment on (and sometimes criticize) the methods and conventions of other Golden Age mystery practitioners.
For readers of Sayers's work, there may be little to surprise in the examination of the novels themselves, but the historical groundwork, social critique, and background on Sayers herself is interesting and useful for anyone who wants to understand her work better or see it in a different light.
Although the edition I found at my local library's used bookstore is out of date, it was interesting to read through and see the variety of bookshopsAlthough the edition I found at my local library's used bookstore is out of date, it was interesting to read through and see the variety of bookshops available in London in 1999. It also makes me sad to know how many of these shops are no longer in business. I only hope that when I finally manage to make a trip to England the rest will still be going strong. I'll have to get the most up-to-date guidebook then....more
My Take: This is going to be fairly short. Book Clubbed caught my eye on the New Arrivals shelf at the library. I mean, what's not to love? A mysteryMy Take: This is going to be fairly short. Book Clubbed caught my eye on the New Arrivals shelf at the library. I mean, what's not to love? A mystery bookstore owner as amateur sleuth. With a cat named Miss Marple. A corpse killed by a fallen bookcase. A clue in a family Bible. Books everywhere you look. I was in need of just six more library books to fulfill the I Love Library Books reading challenge and this seemed like a perfect entry--a quick, cozy read.
Yeah...no. At first I thought that maybe the reason I wasn't connecting with Tricia Miles and her sister Angelica (and about 95% of the rest of the characters) was because I hopped on the Booktown Mystery Train at stop number 8, but a glance through other less favorable reviews by readers who have been on board from the beginning lead me to surmise that it wouldn't have mattered much. Tricia apparently has been in a weird funk from her divorce (and other man troubles) all along. She's being stalked by her ex--I don't care what anyone says. The fact that he watches her every move from a window that looks down on her store and straight across from her apartment is very creepy. And, it's not enough that she's got hang-ups over men. She's also got her troubled relationship with her mother.
Quite honestly, living inside her head and seeing the other characters from her point of view is no treat. She's labeled a goody two-shoes, but she's not particularly charitable in her thoughts about most of the others. When tragedy strikes at the end, I'm not even invested enough in her character to feel terribly sorry for her. The most sympathetic characters--in my opinion--are her employees. Unfortunately, we don't see nearly enough of them. And let's not even talk about the dialogue...mostly flat, almost always at cross-purposes, and sometimes I'm left thinking "what-the-heck?" because the subject has just been changed abruptly for no discernible reason.
The good points? Decent mystery and plotting, although not enough clues displayed so the reader could possibly arrive at the solution on their own. Booktown atmosphere is also a plus. But not enough good points to entice me into reading any more of the series.
Mr. Howard Crenshaw travels east from California to wrap up the estate of an uncle. But while he is there the reclusive, friendless man is diagnosed wMr. Howard Crenshaw travels east from California to wrap up the estate of an uncle. But while he is there the reclusive, friendless man is diagnosed with leukemia and passes on himself. The doctors at the hospital see nothing wrong with the lonely gentleman paying everything up front and getting his affairs in order well ahead of time. The only person interested in his affairs is Pike, a man of all work who acts as his companion/valet/light nurse until he can no longer avoid the hospital.
But unknown to Pike and the doctors, Mr. Crenshaw had made one friend while at his uncle's estate--Miss Idelia Fisher. He and Miss Fisher shared a taste for literature and he let her borrow a battered old edition of Shakespeare which contained The Temptest and a few odd markings in the passages. When Miss Fisher tries to return the book, she finds that Crenshaw has been admitted to the hospital and no one will allow her to see him or will tell her anything about his condition.
A mutual friend had mentioned biblio-sleuth Henry Gamadge and that when queer things happened Gamadge could sometimes make sense of them. So, she takes her puzzle to him. Gamadge no sooner takes up her case than they find out that Crenshaw has died--most definitely of leukemia. But little "queer things" continue to crop up and when Miss Fisher is bludgeoned on her doorstep and Gamadge barely escapes the same fate in his own home, he knows that there is more to the mystery of Mr. Crenshaw and his oddly marked Shakespeare than meets the eye.
Once Gamadge really starts digging--and brings in a private detective agency and an FBI agent to help--he finds that Mr. Crenshaw wasn't nearly as alone as it appeared. There's a wife who shows up to identify the body (and make sure the will is all in order) and a step-niece who seems more attached to her uncle than the "grieving" widow. The doctor who was initially called into the case also benefits substantially--through a rather hefty fee, and who knows what kind of influence the mysterious Mr. Pike might have had on the dying man. All-in-all a pretty puzzle for Elizabeth Daly's sleuth in Book of the Dead.
I really enjoy these light mysteries starring the genteel Henry Gamadge. This one takes place during war-time with gas rationing, a distinct lack of men, dim-outs (no street lights, etc.), and mention of Gamadge's "other" jobs--on call for war work. And Gamadge seems a little more sombre and business-like as a result. I still enjoy him as an investigator, but he comes across as a bit stiff and not quite as personable. Perhaps its because Clara is out of town and isn't there to soften him...not entirely sure. Nicely plotted and the other character are well-rounded. Various reviews I've read indicate that the solution was telegraphed (even though one reviewer said that some of the clues were kept up sleeves), but I must confess that the telegraph lines must have been down in my area, because I didn't get it. That may also be because things are rather hectic here at the moment (gearing up for another round of classes at the university--new student orientation and so on). But, whatever, the reason, Daly managed to keep me mystified until the end...which is more fun than having no mystery left at all. Good solid read.
In You Can Write a Mystery, award-winning author Gillian Roberts gives aspiring crime writers practical advice on how to produce a marketable mysteryIn You Can Write a Mystery, award-winning author Gillian Roberts gives aspiring crime writers practical advice on how to produce a marketable mystery novel. Included is everything from "The 15 commandments for mystery writers" to instructions on how to pick your detective and how to decide which kind of story is for you--a cozy or police procedural; a spy thriller or romantic suspense? There are also the seven Cs that good books should never do without--characters, conflict, causality, complications, change, crisis, and closure. She gives tips on how to hide the clues (in plain sight) and how to make those red herrings tempting enough to distract. There are pointers on research techniques and helpful hints on how to develop a manageable writing work ethic, find your style and voice, and construct a killer plot line.
Roberts if very generous with her advice and extremely helpful to the writer wanna-be (that would be me!). Reading the book makes me anxious to get back to my (very) rough draft and see if I can't get myself from wanna-be to full-fledged author. Wish me luck!
This is a decent little mystery reference book with some interesting information. However, I am a little perplexed by a supposed mystery expert who geThis is a decent little mystery reference book with some interesting information. However, I am a little perplexed by a supposed mystery expert who gets several fairly common (to mystery readers) facts wrong. Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe are private investigators--they get paid for most of their investigations--therefore, they are not amateurs. Sherlock Holmes made his startling return from the dead in "The Empty House" not The Hound of the Baskervilles. Pam & Jerry North (of the Lockridge mystery series) had several cats over the long series of books--in addition to Martini (which according to Mr. Pearsall is the only cat), there are Gin, Sherry, Ruffy, Pete, Toughy, Stilts and Shadow. Lord Peter Wimsey was a Major in World War I, not a Captain. I could go on. It makes it a bit difficult to take the author's word for it on the information that is new to me, when he is mistaken on several counts throughout the book. There is plenty of correct information, though, so I'll take it in stride.
It is an interesting read and there is a good smattering of quotes from some of the big name books. (I love quotes!). Two and 3/4 stars--rounded to three on Goodreads.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is an absolutely delightful book. It is one of those rare things--a book that is not a vintage mystery that, ha84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is an absolutely delightful book. It is one of those rare things--a book that is not a vintage mystery that, having now read it from the library, I simply MUST get my hands on and own as soon as possible. Yes, it's that good. It speaks directly to the soul of every book lover.
It begins in October of 1949 when Hanff, a poor proofreader and budding scriptwriter, first writes a letter to Marks & Company in London. She is in search of inexpensive antiquarian books of good quality--something she can't find in her native New York. What begins as a search to quench her literary thirst turns into a twenty-year correspondence with Frank Doel (and other staff members at the British bookshop). Although Helene writes often about her dream of visiting London one day, the two never meet and their correspondence becomes a lovely friendship based on their common love for the written word.
This is a charming book that immediately won over this long-time bibliophile. I can certainly understand Helene's raptures over receiving a perfect copy of a book long sought after. I share her horror at finding that Marks & Co. wraps its shipments in pages from dismantled books (although I am dismayed to discover she had no problem tossing some of her lesser valued books in the trash to make room for more beloved books). At just 100 pages, it seems hard to believe that two personalities could take such a firm hold on the imagination. It is wonderful to read these letters from an era when one could get three antiquarian volumes (yes, THREE) for about $5.00 (and it doesn't make me too envious....). Once I get my hands on my very own copy I will most definitely be rereading to discover any gems that were overlooked on this go-round. Five stars--absolutely.
H. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The One Hunderd Best Books (1987) gives mystery readers his highly authoritative list of the best in crime andH. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The One Hunderd Best Books (1987) gives mystery readers his highly authoritative list of the best in crime and mystery fiction to that date. Is it a subjective list--of course. Any list of the best of anything is going to be subjective. But Keating is a well-respected mystery author in his own right as well as a critic for The Times and has a pretty fair knowledge of the genre. We may quibble over the lack of one of our favorites or the submission of a novel of which we just can't quite see the value, but over-all mystery fans should be pleased with Keating's offerings. The most useful part of this collection goes beyond the list itself. Keating gives each selection a two-page synopsis--making the case for its place on the list as well as whetting the appetites of those who have not yet read these books. I was pleased to see how many of these novels I have already read and how many I would probably include on my own "Best of" list. A reference book that every mystery lover should want on their shelves. Four stars.
The Mystery Lovers' Book of Quotations by Jane Horning (ed) is a lovely book of snippets from some of the world's great crime and mystery authors. TheThe Mystery Lovers' Book of Quotations by Jane Horning (ed) is a lovely book of snippets from some of the world's great crime and mystery authors. There are quotes from the creators of such characters as Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes, from Miss Marple to Miss Silver. There are thoughts on the detection of crime and the mind of the murderer. There are musings on the psychology and emotions and the nitty-gritty bottom line. We hear echoes of The Godfather and the Nameless detective. Horning has done a terrific job capturing well-known authors as well as writers who may have been well-known at one time, but few modern readers may recognize. My only quibble--she quite often describes an author by citing their most famous work--and the proceeds to give us quotes from other novels. I would have liked to have seen at least one quote from the novel/s mentioned. But it's a minor quibble--four stars for a great reference book. I do love me some quotes.
John Baxter's A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict is a deceptive little thing. I went in expecting a book about books and about someone witJohn Baxter's A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict is a deceptive little thing. I went in expecting a book about books and about someone with an all-consuming passion for books. Which this is...more or less. Actually more less than more. This is a far cry from 84, Charing Cross Road or The Yellow-Lighted Book both books that wonderfully represent the book lover and collector and their relationship to the printed page.
Baxter takes us on a meandering tour of his life--long, boring bit on his childhood which leads up to his discovery of science fiction which launched his love for books and his fledgling attempts at book collecting. We follow him through a bit more book collecting then we get side-tracked by movies and the theatre and collecting screenplays and whatnot. Lots of fixation on Graham Greene and Kingsley Amis and his ways and means of getting hold of autographed copies of their works. Yeah, we can tell he loves books, but it seems far more important for him to name drop all the famous people he met and got autographs from and to to tell us how much he paid (or how little, as the case may be) for spectacular first editions of tasty little literary tidbits. Which might impress me more if he didn't come across as so darn full of himself. His writing is good, but not congenial. The words flow nicely from the pen (or the keyboard...), but they don't compel the reader to keep reading. I started and stopped and started again so many times that I wondered if I were ever going to come to the end. It starts well, lags terribly in the middle 200-50 pages and ends well. I did enjoy the lists of collectible books and the responses from his literary friends to the question "What would you save if your house were on fire..." Overall--just barely decent with ★★ given for pretty prose with bursts of interesting nostalgic book-collecting instead of compelling memoir about a book lover (which is what I hoped for).