Despite the title of this book, there is definitely nothing supernatural going on here. But I knew that already when I decided to read3.8, rounded up.
Despite the title of this book, there is definitely nothing supernatural going on here. But I knew that already when I decided to read it (and my thanks to both the author and to Pegasus for my copy!!) -- and it turned out to be a good novel of historical crime fiction that should appeal to anyone who enjoys this genre. Personally, I used to read this genre all of the time, outgrew it, and moved on. But this book sounded like it might be good and it was.
The year is 1889, and it's only two weeks before the closing ceremonies of that year's Expedition Universelle. A year earlier, London had been in the grip of fear because of the horrific acts perpetrated by Jack the Ripper, so when a female torso is discovered in a city sewer, the police want to catch the murderer as quickly as possible to stifle any rumors that the Ripper has crossed the channel and set up shop in Paris. The chief inspector of the Sûreté, Paul Feraud, knows that he needs his best man for the job -- and that just happens to be Inspector Achille Lefebvre. Only thirty, Lefebvre is "a new breed of detective," one who believes in applying modern investigative techniques in his work. But he gets lucky: the autopsy report reveals a clue that points Lefebvre in a particular direction even though someone is doing his level best to put the frame on someone else, and the report of a missing woman gives him a potential lead on who the victim might be. But while he's working hard to make sure he gets everything right, his rival in the police department has his own ideas about how to bring a quick end to the case, one that could definitely incite mob violence in a city where the divisions caused by the Dreyfus affair are still fresh and are still on everyone's mind.
The Devil in Montmartre is set in the Paris of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, where the whirling skirts of can-can dancers mesmerize the customers of the Moulin Rouge, where the small boîtes serve as meeting places for professionals and street people alike, a place where art and artists flourish. The author easily captures this atmosphere and the beautiful parks with their gardens visited by tourists from America and England; in contrast to the beauty and excitement of the city, he also takes his readers into dirty back streets and alleys and out into areas controlled by the city's criminals, places that most visitors never see. It's also very obvious that the author put in a LOT of time on research, especially in the area of police work and contemporary investigative methods. Putting that together with his character construction, it's impossible to believe that this is his first mystery novel. Trust me -- I've read enough first novels to feel qualified to judge. On the other hand, and this is probably more on my end rather than his since it isn't all that obvious, I figured out the who quite early into the story. I wasn't overly keen on the romantic parts either, but that's a personal thing and an area where I tend to find myself in the minority. However, I will say that the book made for fun reading. So have a good time with it.
Hopefully there will be a sequel some day, but in the meantime, The Devil in Montmartre should especially appeal to fans of historical crime fiction or historical fiction in general. It's lighter than my normal crime preferences, but there is definitely a good central mystery to be solved, and even though a headless torso may make some people maybe want to think twice about picking up the book, the violence is not anywhere near graphic nor is it overused or used gratuitously in any way. That in itself is commendable these days. I think Mr. Inbinder has done a fine job here with his first mystery novel. I hope it's only the first of many. ...more
Written in 1939, They Rang Up the Police by Joanna Cannan is quite frankly, unlike any other mystery novel from this period I've read so far in my lonWritten in 1939, They Rang Up the Police by Joanna Cannan is quite frankly, unlike any other mystery novel from this period I've read so far in my long mystery/crime-fiction reading career. It has a psychological aspect to it that is just downright chilling, but one which I can't explore by writing about it since basically it would give away the entire show all at once. It's a book where I ended up with nothing but total sympathy for the murderer, something that rarely happens and as I noted on the crime page of my online reading journal, just felt right to me. There is a lot of craziness in this novel that masks what ultimately turns out to be a downright heartbreaking story where justice just might have been served in its own way.
This book is #3 in my ongoing quest to read obscure crime-fiction novels written by unknown or forgotten women authors, and so far, I've had extremely good luck. They Rang Up the Police is not just another English country house mystery, and it's my favorite of the three so far. Trust me. Even if you think you've read them all, there are still some surprises to be found in this genre. It also ain't Agatha Christie by any stretch of the imagination.
Okay - the more I think about this, the more it's getting to me. ...more
I actually read this under its American title, Dark Prophecy, which was published by M.S. Mill Co., 1945. It's part of an ongoing project I've taken oI actually read this under its American title, Dark Prophecy, which was published by M.S. Mill Co., 1945. It's part of an ongoing project I've taken on, one where I'm finding and reading the work of obscure women writers, beginning in my favorite field of crime fiction/mystery. Talk about obscure -- while researching this author, all I could find on her is the following:
real name: Doris Marjorie Bumpus born: 1905 number of books: eight, published between 1945 and 1956
One would think that a crime writer with eight novels under her belt would be more widely known, but I've scoured the internet and have come up with absolutely nothing other than what I've written here, absolutely bupkus on Bumpus. If anyone at all has any information about this author, please share -- I would love to know more.
Just FYI: I have a longer writeup about this novel at my online reading journal's crime page - aka in some quarters as "Big Bertha's book blog." Feel free to go and take a look. Or stay here & get it in short form.
Dark Prophecy reads like an English country-house murder mystery with a little hint of romance thrown in. The main character of this story is Valerie Beech, formerly of Abbott's Rest, but now living in a bedsit in London and a "hard-up business girl" in the city. She receives an invitation to a weekend party at Wayfarers, the home of Frank and Carol Logan; Frank was once Valerie's fiancé until Carol stole him away. She decides to go, and although she's a bit uncomfortable at first, things go well for a while until hostess Carol receives a death threat in the mail. But even a death threat won't stop the festivities -- Carol throws a lavish costume party. While everyone is having a good time, Carol decides to play a trick on one of her male guests. She asks Valerie to exchange costumes with her -- and while Valerie is reluctant, she decides to play along with the gag. While she's waiting for a signal to come downstairs and rejoin the party in her new garb, someone takes the opportunity to get rid of Carol in the room next door. There's a large cast of potential killers -- and first on everyone's list, of course, is Valerie.
What's really interesting about this book is what's not there. While the book's publication date is 1945, there's very little in the way of clues as to when the action in this novel actually takes place. My assumption is that it's set during the 1940s, however, I may be wrong here. There's pretty much nothing here that touches on World War II: the men at the house are all young, none of them have any wartime or post war-involvement issues, and the war isn't even brought up anywhere. While Valerie is obviously from an upper middle-class background and Wayfarers is filled with people who seem to be quite well off (at least one guest is an artist whose wife lives in London while he paints in the country), the only hint of any class issues is Valerie's father's financial problems that have set her apart from her former neighbors and sent her to London to work.
The wording of the book will make you work a little harder while reading (but it's not nearly as stilted, for example, as something by John Dickson Carr), and the story takes pretty much forever after the murder to get to the solution. It's also a little too much romance for my taste, but to her credit, it's less simpering-heroine-type stuff than I expected. When all is said and done, however, Alan reveals that basic human nature doesn't change underneath the trappings of the well-kept lawns, the at-home tennis courts, and the Rolls Royces of the rich.
If you can find a copy, and if you're a diehard classic British mystery fan or a fan of country-house murders looking for another author to read, I'd say give it a try. I plan on trying to hunt down some of her other works to add to my library of obscure women crime/mystery writers. The fact that Alan is herself such an enigma actually appeals to me and makes me want to read more of her books. Definitely not a novel for those who want a quick read. ...more
Since this book is so widely written about and you can find all manner of opinions about it by googling, the only review I'm going to give this book iSince this book is so widely written about and you can find all manner of opinions about it by googling, the only review I'm going to give this book is this:
Blood Meridian is gut-tearingly brutal, depressing, raw, shocking, and yet, I could hardly tear myself away from it. It is easily the best book I've read in I do not know how long -- and it's going to be tough, if not impossible, to find another one that is even close to this good in the future. It is not for the squeamish, and it is certainly not for readers who do not want to put in hours and hours of time because quite frankly, it is hard and demanding work. There were times I had to put it down and walk away, but after I got past whatever I was feeling at the moment, I couldn't wait to get back to it. But as gut punching as it was, it was all worth it. Tread carefully.
Of all possible fields of history from which to choose, polar exploration in its heyday is my favorite subject. When I was a kid I waa 4.5 rounded up.
Of all possible fields of history from which to choose, polar exploration in its heyday is my favorite subject. When I was a kid I was fascinated with explorers and would spend hours upon hours reading about them. In the realm of polar expeditions, I got my start reading Roland Huntford's The Last Place on Earth, a true account of about the rush to the South Pole, and what turned out to be a race between Amundsen and Scott to plant their respective country's flag. It was in that book where I first heard about the Fram and about Fridtjov Nansen, and I remember being quite impressed that Nansen had such foresight in building the perfect ship. In this current book, author Charles W. Johnson provides not only a look at Amundsen's expedition in the Fram, but also at the two other epic expeditions of the ship, its creation, the men who called it home for years on end, and its eventual fate.
Regular readers engaged in histories of polar exploration who are already familiar with Fram's voyages will still find plenty to like about this book. The author picks up on some things Nansen glossed over in his Farthest North, the record of his voyage on the Fram. There are a number of original photographs as well as maps that the reader can reference. Interestingly, it was an article about a few remnants of the USS Jeannette expedition (the subject of Hampton Sides' current book In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette and a great read, by the way) that somehow ended up in a place far, far away from where they should have been that got things going for Nansen. An article written about the finds prompted another article by a Norwegian scientist studying polar currents. His article in turn caught Nansen's eye and after much scientific study, Nansen decided to build a "special ship" that could weather being frozen into pack ice. The idea was that the ship and its crew would be "carried by the same currents that carried the Jeanette's remains over the pole." As the author notes, the ship was to be a sort of "driftwood, of an extraordinary kind." With much careful planning, the Fram was born -- and she was to see two more major expeditions in her lifetime. Not only does the author detail these expeditions and the people who were involved, he also examines what else was going on in the field of polar exploration, north and south, at the time. So the reader ends up with a kind of general but not overwhelming or overdetailed history, also making it perfect for anyone with even just an interest in the field of polar exploration during the period which the author calls "the height of polar fever."
Granted, there are probably people who will take a look at this title and think that a book about a ship has just got to be duller than dishwater, but there's way more than just the ship under discussion here. It's a wonderful book, and by the way, the hardcover copy is beautiful and would make a great gift to someone who is interested in the subject.
Thank you to the publisher, and thank you to Librarything's ER program! ...more
Don't write a comment flaming me because I didn't love this book. I just didn't. Bottom line. I didn't hate it, but it's not going to appear on my perDon't write a comment flaming me because I didn't love this book. I just didn't. Bottom line. I didn't hate it, but it's not going to appear on my personal favorites list for the year. It's a very s--l--o--w buildup of a story to an ending that well, frankly, has been done before. The scenario is very different, but I think having read so much of Lovecraft (and the authors he's influenced over the years) sort of spoiled it for me, so in a way, it's not the author's fault that I didn't like this one as much as I might have. It's kind of like seeing a movie then going back to read the book -- you already know what's going to happen so there's less of an impact by the time the ending comes around.
Jamie Morton, a man in his early sixties, recounts his life story in this book, one that first took a strange turn when he met the Reverend Charles Jacobs at the age of six in 1962. Jacobs, as Morton notes, is his "fifth business," "the joker who pops out of the deck at odd intervals over the years, often during a moment of crisis." Jacobs has an odd hobby, working with electricity, and his "youth talks" with the kids of the Methodist Youth Fellowship often involved lessons where he used electricity or couched his lectures in electro-speak to illustrate the points he was trying to make. He was very well liked among the congregation, swelling its numbers to peak levels, and really made an impression when he used an electrical device to help bring back the voice of Jamie's brother Con after an accident that left him mute. All is well until the fateful day that the reverend's wife and little boy went out in their car and were killed. Afterwards, in his grief, Jacobs goes to the pulpit where he began "edging into blasphemy" by renouncing doctrine on the afterlife and by renouncing religion in general as the
"theological equivalent of a quick-buck insurance scam, where you pay in your premium year after year, and then, when you need the benefits you paid for so --pardon the pun--so religiously, you discover the company that took your money does not, in fact, exist."
The reverend is fired, of course, and leaves town, but it's not the last time Jamie sees him. Over the next several years, he will cross and recross paths with Jacobs, and a connection is made that will ultimately change Jamie's life and question his understanding of all that he has come to know as reality.
There is a veritable slew of literary influence to be found woven throughout this book -- Arthur Machen and Lovecraft are the big ones, but you'll also find in Jacobs a bit of Captain Ahab going after his white whale. Mary Shelley is definitely represented here (in more ways than one), as is M.R. James, Ray Bradbury, and I'm sure there are a few others that I've missed. There are also, as in many books by this author, bits and pieces of King's own life (and other work) to be found here. As usual, he starts out in small-town America, where the people in the community are your neighbors in the true sense of the word, making everything seem so normal and easygoing that you just can't wait to see what's going to provide the catalyst that changes everything. He also continues his theme of innocence lost, here with a major twist. When King is writing on religion and the whole spectacle of the religious-healing-tent-revival he is amazing, making the reader feel like he/she is right there in the crowd. But on the flip side -- it's so slow -- by page 299 I was thinking that ""maybe, just maybe, we're starting to get somewhere in this book. One can always hope." And frankly, I just didn't feel like the payoff was worth wading through Jamie Morton's entire life story. I see so many ways that this book could have been better, but oh well.
Perusing the normal book-related websites, it seems that people just can't get enough of this book, and the ratings are definitely high. I wouldn't be surprised to see Revival jetting into the top ranks of the NYT bestseller list soon, but for me, I'm doing that hand thing that means iffy. ...more