Thoughts as soon as I have time. In the meantime, though, if you want this book (and you live in the U.S.), it is looking for a new home. I am cleaninThoughts as soon as I have time. In the meantime, though, if you want this book (and you live in the U.S.), it is looking for a new home. I am cleaning out my UK crime shelves this week and I have very little room for adding new books there. So please, someone, take the book! ...more
Before anyone gets all freaked about the dog on the cover smoking a cigarette, no animals were harmed (or caught s3.5
I love offbeat stuff like this.
Before anyone gets all freaked about the dog on the cover smoking a cigarette, no animals were harmed (or caught smoking) in this novel. The smoking dog represents just one scam run by a couple of very odd people who solicit money over the phone, telling selected callers that their help is needed to Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction (FBNA) -- referring to dogs who are used in research. Another selected group of unwary customers gets calls to support Prom Queens Anonymous (directed at fading beauties who never quite grew out of their prom queen days) while yet another specifically-targeted group receives pleas to support Orphans from Outer Space. So don't worry about the dog or go and boycott the book because the dog may incite teens to take up smoking -- nothing like that goes on here. But I just know someone will complain or take offense -- you heard it here, folks.
I laughed myself silly throughout the first half of this book and a little beyond. When I'd finished the book very very late last night, I took a look at what readers on goodreads had to say and discovered that I must have a strange, quirky sense of humor because not a whole lot of people found this book at all funny. Then again, I'm known for enjoying the unconventional and the strange. My point is that it's a novel that may not appeal to everyone, but if you like absurdity, snark and sarcasm, you'll find plenty of it here.
It's not so much the story but the characters that really drive this novel -- and there are any number of lunatics who populate this book. The two main cops have a serious "passive-aggressive" thing going on in their work partnership. Manny Streeter is crazy about karaoke and has spent a lot of money turning one of the bedrooms into a karaoke lounge complete with tables and rules; his partner, Benny Vikström really wants out of the partnership but finds that the only way out is to become a bike cop. He also catches a lot of flak on the job when people joke about him being a "famous Swedish detective." The scam artists at Bounty Inc.(the perpetuators of FBNA) are just insane but they have given the main character Connor a job working for them and say they are prepping him to take over the business. Even the bad guys (but moreso their wives) are sort of silly, with one exception, a crazy lunatic named Chucky. There's also a homeless guy who thinks he has a tail every time he gets through a bottle of Everclear. Then there's Connor himself, the guy who through no fault of his own ends up in more than one situation he's having trouble keeping under control. There really isn't one sane person in this book and when you combine them all what you get is a rather crazy mix of characters who keep things beyond lively. Oh yes - and then there's the murder mystery.
Now the downside to this book is that even though it's terribly clever, at the end it was like I was watching a movie. It's like the novel was really fun up to that point, but the ending had all of the trademarks of those films that feature the hapless hero and all of the crazies in his/her orbit. I could actually see things playing out in my head exactly to form. If you've read this book you'll know precisely what I'm saying; if not, well you will. I would like to think that the author did this on purpose, but who knows. So the bottom line is this: as the dustjacket blurb notes, it is an "entertainingly absurd" novel, and it made me laugh out loud for most of the book. I don't know that I'd say it's a novel for everyone, because clearly some readers couldn't get into the humor of it all. I say if you come into it with no expectations, making your mind a blank slate and not worrying about the whole mystery/crime/plot thing, it will probably make for fun reading. I have this tendency to favor the unconventional, so it was a good book for me....more
A is For Arsenic is most definitely a niche read, but it's a must-have for diehard Christie fans. I count myself in that category, and so does the booA is For Arsenic is most definitely a niche read, but it's a must-have for diehard Christie fans. I count myself in that category, and so does the book's author, Kathryn Harkup: she's described on the back-cover blurb as a "chemist, author and Agatha Christie fanatic." She combines all of these attributes in this book which focuses on fourteen different poisons (arsenic through Veronal -- alpha by poison) used by Christie to kill off several of her victims in her novels and short stories.
After a brief introduction in which we discover (among other things) that Agatha Christie was a trained apothecary's assistant (dispenser) with an incredibly in-depth knowledge of poisons, Harkup wastes no time getting into the meat of this book.
Let's take the opening chapter, which happens to be "A is for Arsenic." Each entry follows pretty much the same pattern, so I'll just offer a brief look at the first. The Christie title she associates with arsenic is Murder is Easy (aka Easy to Kill). Harkup start with a short summary of the book (no spoilers) then moves into "the arsenic story," which gives a bit of info about the history of this poison, "long the preserve of the rich and powerful." This particular part also goes into past crimes where arsenic was the poison of choice, as well as how scientists came up with tests designed to prove forensically that arsenic was used. From there it's "How Arsenic Kills," which gets into arsenic's chemistry, the symptoms one might show when poisoned with it, and the resulting consequences and effects on the body. The next section asks "Is there an antidote?" followed by "Some real-life cases." [As a sidebar, I'll just mention that Harkup mentions one of my favorite cases here, that of Madeleine Smith, the Glasgow poisoner who got away with murder.] Then we move to "Agatha and arsenic," where the author goes back to Murder is Easy, once again spoiler free.
As an added bonus, there's an entire appendix in the back, "Christie's Causes of Death," which is a table listing each story or novel written by Christie: the UK title, the murder method of choice, followed by the American title. If you want to see a sample photo, click here.
The only drawback I can see with this book is that each chapter has a subsection about the science of the particular poison -- scientific jargon that I'll admit goes over my head at times. I'll also admit to skimming through many of these sections precisely because I am a liberal arts person, and science mystifies me at times. However, aside from that aspect, the book is one I'd highly recommend to anyone who is a true Christie devotee, and it's a very welcome addition to my quickly-growing collection of crime-fiction reference books. ...more
for plot, etc. feel free to click here. Otherwise, continue.
The very short preface to this novel states the following:
"Listen. This is a wild one. M for plot, etc. feel free to click here. Otherwise, continue.
The very short preface to this novel states the following:
"Listen. This is a wild one. Maybe the wildest yet. It's got everything but an abortion and a tornado. I ain't saying it's true. Neither of us, brother, is asking you to believe it. You can lug it across to the rental library right now and tell the dame you want your goddam nickel back. We don't care. All he done was write it down like I told it, and I don't guarantee nothing."
That little tongue-in-cheek blurb is signed by Karl Craven, the narrator and main character of this novel. His attitude toward women sucks -- he is the poster boy (and quite possibly king) of misogynists everywhere. Ex-football player and now PI, the only thing going for this fictional jerk in my opinion is that he was a fervent reader of Black Mask magazine. His creator was evidently a reader of Dashiell Hammett -- if you've read Hammett's The Dain Curse, you'll notice that there's a beyond-huge similarity between the two books: both take the reader on a wild ride centered around an odd religious cult. Here it is the titular Solomon's Vineyard taking center stage, a "religious colony," where they "raise grapes and hell." (just an FYI: it looks like Latimer may also have taken notes from Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice.)
The novel gets pretty out there sometimes, not just in terms of the masochistic sex (very un-noteworthy these days), but also in what's really going on in the town and more importantly, up at the Vineyard. To get through it, you absolutely have to leave whatever amount of PC-ness and modern sensitivities you have at the door. It's not for the faint of heart -- in this book misogyny and racism rule the day. If you're a plot-based crime reader, you'll also notice that this book starts moving into the incredulity zone pretty quickly and just sort of hangs there like an inversion layer until the ending.
Solomon's Vineyard is likely the most hardboiled (and icky) novel I've ever read and I'm hoping, judging from the short preface, that it's meant to be kind of a wisecracking, skewering take of that genre especially since it's pretty obvious that Latimer sort of "borrowed" elements from at least two other books I've read. All in all while I hated the main character, I did enjoy the novel. Once you pick it up, you cannot put it down.
It actually scares me that I just said that....more
I was considering reading this author's Butcher's Road (which grabbed me because of the synopsis), but decided that first I'd try some of the author'sI was considering reading this author's Butcher's Road (which grabbed me because of the synopsis), but decided that first I'd try some of the author's short fiction. To my surprise and delight, Like Light for Flies turned out to be a nearly-perfect collection of short stories, both in terms of the stories themselves, and in the lives reflected within which are just not pretty. There is a bleak mix of pain, loneliness and suffering embedded within these tales; as Sarah Langan most astutely notes in her introduction,
"Thomas' characters aren't refreshingly happy gay men. They don't share fancy condos and egg/sperm donors. We're not invited to witness their normalcy, and the kids are definitely not all right. No, these guys are veterans of a hate war. They're haunted; afflicted by their place in society, as represented by monstrous machines and devils at the door. What's worse, in Thomas' world, we're all fucked up. The heteros, the kids, the little old ladies, and even the family pet. We're flawed creatures, molded from a flawed God."
How very right she is -- and Thomas sublimely captures this point of view through his writing.
Twelve stories make up this collection (** denotes my favorites):
"Comfortable in Her Skin" -- not one of my favorites, but it did thoroughly whet my appetite for more "The Butcher's Block" ** "Testify" ** "The Dodd Contrivance" "Flicker" "Inside Where It's Warm" ** [sidebar]-- I hate zombie-ish stories but I loved this one. Absolutely. "Nothing Forgiven" ** "Fine in the Fire" ** -- After starting this incredibly sad story, I realized that I'd read it before; it's even better and more intensely disturbing the second time through. "The House in the Park" ** "Turtle" ** -- for me, one of the best in the book "Landfall '35: A Prequel to Parish Damned " ** "Tuesday"
Langan also mentions the darkness in "the world beneath this one," and that is exactly what the author reveals here. She also notes a "duality" present in Thomas' writing, saying
"...he wants to corrupt us, but also wants us to become richer people for it." He's a soul preacher."
If Like Light for Flies is representative of his longer work, I'll soon be making space for more books by Lee Thomas on my shelves. It is just superbly stunning. He can preach to me any time....more
I HATE star ratings (which is why so many of my ratings are blank) but I'll give it a 3.5 in case anyone actually cares.
Everyone is entitled to his orI HATE star ratings (which is why so many of my ratings are blank) but I'll give it a 3.5 in case anyone actually cares.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and god knows my choice in reading material is anything but conventional, but this book, as one reader states here, is anything but "rather boring and predictable." Au contraire -- it ends with an ironic twist that made me laugh out loud. I won't say what it is or how the book ends, but as I'm squirming in my seat wanting to yell at our heroine for being so daft, things changed in the blink of an eye. It's also a book that brings up some of the issues challenging women of the Victorian era, and beyond that, well, it's just plain fun. This is not a book one would take on as a piece of intense, serious literature, but rather a book to unwind with and just enjoy for what it is.
You can, if you so choose, read about plot etc. at the crime page of my online reading journal; I just want to make a couple of observations about the novel here. First, in the introduction to this novel, Mike Ashley notes that Mr. Bazalgette's Agent is quite likely the "first ever British novel to feature a professional female detective." Prior to this one, as he states, there were "quite a few" short stories to do so, but in general, most fictional detectives of the time were men.
Second, and much more interesting, prior to her appointment as Bazalgette's agent, the heroine, Miss Lea, finds herself in a very tight spot. She's had a brief stint as an actress, "until they discovered I could not act," at which point she is taken on as a governess by Lady Edward Jones. However, once her former career is made known to her employers, she is let go after two full years of service. It seems that Lady Edward Jones does not approve and is
"unwilling that Master Pelham Jones should imbibe any vulgar tendencies toward art..."
It seems that even though Miss Lea is obviously highly educated, she is also highly unemployable because of her past association with the stage. However, when called to work for Bazalgette, she refuses to take the small salary she is offered by her employers -- they want to pay her a pound a day; she most adamantly turns it down. Women, it seems, are very rarely hired on as detectives; when they are, it's purely temporary. As she states,
"...on the termination of this undertaking, I should be without an engagement from you, probably find it extremely difficult to return to more ordinary occupations, and have only earned a trifling sum to make amends for the embarrassment."
To her credit, she holds out for the better sum of thirty shillings a day, but she does recognize that she's pushing her luck here. It's a bit of a "you go girl" kind of moment, and I was rather proud of her.
It's little things like this (and much more I haven't touched on) that I appreciate about this novel. Mr. Bazalgette's Agent is a wonderful book if you are into off-the-beaten-path crime literature of the Victorian era. Instead of looking at the book as "outdated" or "out of touch" with the modern world, it should simply be appreciated for what it is in the context of its time.
More about the book soon. I got it in the mail yesterday, and after finishing up another book,I started and finished this one last night. I was goingMore about the book soon. I got it in the mail yesterday, and after finishing up another book,I started and finished this one last night. I was going to save it for my upcoming vacation, but I couldn't wait that long. ...more
And he does it again! I have yet to read a novel by Adam Nevill I didn't absolutely love.
It's nighttime and it's very quiet. I'm sitting at4.5 stars
And he does it again! I have yet to read a novel by Adam Nevill I didn't absolutely love.
It's nighttime and it's very quiet. I'm sitting at the table in the breakfast room and all I can hear is the tick tick tick of my neon pink pig barbeque clock (don't ask) coming from the pantry room off my kitchen. I'm in the middle of page 400 something of this book and suddenly the phone rings and I actually felt myself jump out of my chair. I'd say that's a pretty good indicator of the book's intensity -- it grabbed hold of me and just wouldn't let me go.
82 Edgehill Road, London is an older Victorian home where a young woman named Stephanie has taken a room. The rent is dirt cheap, which is good, since Stephanie works temping when the agency actually has any jobs for her. Stephanie lost her mom at an early age, and that was bad enough, but her father remarried and stepmom turned out to be something of a lunatic who has it in for Stephanie for no good reason. After Stephanie's father dies, she stays with her stepmother, but things got so bad that she had to leave. Now she's on her own, having left her boyfriend, and finds herself at the point of poverty. The price of the room is unbelievably low, so 82 Edgehill Road becomes her new home. Right away she notices something is wrong -- from under the bed she hears the sound of plastic crinkling, she hears women crying, a voice coming through the fireplace, and when someone unseen joins her in her bed, she decides she can't spend another day in the house. Sadly, she's forked over what little money she has for the room and the landlord refuses to refund her deposit; soon we discover that he's doing everything he can to keep her from leaving. She tries to get help from friends, but everyone's been hit hard economically and no one has enough cash to help her out. Her situation gets increasingly worse, but when she meets the landlord's disgusting psychopath of a cousin, living in the house turns into something akin to a nightmare. So Stephanie is stuck while the strange occurrences continue and escalate, and as time passes the situation gets beyond bad to the point where for Stephanie, death just might be preferable.
The supernatural terrors of this novel are creepy enough, but Nevill adds in some very real-life horrors that intensify Stephanie's experiences. The media (and some social media-ites as well) and its relentless attacks on her character point to the tabloid-ish tendencies to blame the victim:
"It was the media that had driven her into what two doctors had called 'emotional breakdowns', not the house... Her best defence had been the screaming of her own story straight into the maelstrom of competing voices; the opinionated and ill-informed voices that always knew better.. But she would never forgive the world for what it had done, nor trust it again. Because of how it had interpreted her without restraint or remorse, for the purposes of its own entertainment."
There were times in the first half of the novel where I found myself wondering whether this house was actually haunted or whether Stephanie's own mental state brought on her terrors; it's to Nevill's credit that he can keep his readers guessing at every turn. What I really loved about this novel is that this story is just downright scary in a very "old-school" kind of way, while staying very much grounded in modern times. So if you need splatter, gore and sick pornography to get your horror jollies, you just won't get it here. Part one was definitely the best of the book, although obviously it remains creepy enough for me to jump out of my chair while reading part two.
Super super super book -- any novel that can make me jump from the ringing of a telephone is one well worth reading. Huzzah. Keep them coming!...more
This book proves that in terms of storytelling ability, Marsh was not a one-note kind of guy. Inside The Seen and the Unseen is an eclectic mix of a dozen stories encompassing the supernatural, the mysterious, and good old-fashioned crime as well as a wide range of characters. I enjoyed them all (maybe not equally), but my favorites are "A Psychological Experiment," "The Photographs," "A Double Minded Gentleman" and "The Houseboat."
The other stories are also quite good, although I will say that I wasn't so enamored of "The Assassin," which seems sort of out of place in this volume, but that's just me. The saddest story in the collection has to be "The Violin," while the funniest is most definitely "A Pack of Cards."
I absolutely cannot get enough of Richard Marsh -- name your favorite comfort food and his work is its literary equivalent....more
This is the 18th installment in Camilleri's Montalbano series, and from day one I've thoroughly enjoyed each and every book. That hasn't changed, althThis is the 18th installment in Camilleri's Montalbano series, and from day one I've thoroughly enjoyed each and every book. That hasn't changed, although it does seem to me that Camilleri has taken a more serious direction this time around. Salvo is still Salvo though, still eating at Enzo's trattoria, still taking time to meditate on his rock, and still getting in trouble with the ladies while Livia isn't around. This time it's his new neighbor, the knock-out Signora Liliana Lombardo.
As usual, Montalbano's strange dream opens the novel, interrupted (thankfully) by a call reporting that a bomb has gone off somewhere. No one is hurt, thank goodness, but trying to discover who set it off and why is the squad's major challenge. As the investigation proceeds, Liliana is doing all she can to seduce the Inspector both publicly and privately, leading Salvo to question her motivation. Not that he's not an attractive man, but still -- even to him she's overdoing it. While the bombing investigation proceeds, Salvo finds himself under fire from his TV-reporter nemesis Ragonese, but when things start to escalate and dead bodies start turning up, Salvo realizes that someone really has it in for him. By the time things come to this point, the hunt is on for exactly who this might be, and more specifically, why Salvo himself has become a target. He is, in short, "faced with a a series of occurrences without any apparent reason behind them."
Reading this novel, you might notice that this book isn't quite as funny or as critical as the past installments have been and that here the focus seems to be much more on trying to connect the dots between a series of strange crimes. At the same time, the story has all the same characters, relationships, and dialogue that together with Montalbano's quirkiness have kept me reading through eighteen books. I think what I enjoy most about this book beyond the usual craziness and the convoluted crimes is Camilleri's flair for catching the people whom one might run into on the streets. There's a great scene (184,185), for example, where an old man is sitting in a building's courtyard, smoking a pipe, complaining that he doesn't talk to his daughter because she doesn't want him smoking inside the house. The old guy is just so perfectly captured here that you can't help but laugh, especially when he punctuates his complaints by spitting "a clot of dense brown material that looked like prune jam."
PLEASE do not let this book be your first introduction to Camilleri's novels -- you will have missed precisely what makes these books so wonderful and so worth the wait for each and every new book. Getting back to the oddball combination of realistic crazy people in these books is the highlight of each installment. I will be SO incredibly bummed when this series is over. ...more
the brief version; you can look to my online reading journal here for more.
First, thanks so very much to Doubleday for my copy. Having no idea who ththe brief version; you can look to my online reading journal here for more.
First, thanks so very much to Doubleday for my copy. Having no idea who the hell was Iceberg Slim, I was in no great hurry to read it, but I'm so glad I picked it up.
It took author Justin Gifford over ten years to research and put together this book, and right up front he says that at "first glance" writing about a guy who'd been a pimp for twenty-five years might seem to be "an appalling choice for a biography," since we're talking about someone who "abused hundreds of women throughout his lifetime;" he also describes him as "one of the most influential renegades" of the past century. On the other hand, even though "he is practically unknown to the American mainstream," Beck went on to write a number of novels as well as his autobiography, Pimp: The Story of My Life. Robin D.G. Kelley, an historian whose work I respect, also notes in the New Yorker that it's not just in the mainstream where Iceberg Slim's work remains relatively unknown -- he states that he's "amazed" that "well-read people" are unfamiliar with Beck's writing as well.
As Gifford notes, Beck is a "mess of contradictions," --
"student at Tuskegee Institute, Chicago pimp with connections to the black mafia, amateur scholar of psychoanalysis, pulp paperback writer, family man, Black Panther Party sympathizer, Hollywood darling of the blaxploitation era, and godfather of hip-hop...all these things and more..."
and that this book "attempts to make sense of these seemingly incongruent identities."
Gifford moves chronologically through Beck's life, using Beck's writings as well as other primary sources to present his readers with a picture of this man, at times testing what Beck writes about himself "against the historical record." Readers also get a view of the huge number of challenges faced by African-Americans in America's cities from the time of the Great Migration up through 1992 and the Rodney King Riots; the author also takes his readers into the growth of African-American activism and politics in general, but more importantly, directly into how events shaped Beck's politics and his writing.
If you want nice-nice and sugar-coated life story, you are NOT going to get it here. Nor is it exactly "true crime," as I see that some people are regarding it. It is downright gritty, mean and in a lot of places, just plain ugly -- not solely in terms of the abuse of women, but also in white America's racist policies and tactics that kept segregation and the realities of Jim Crow an ongoing reality. Highly highly recommended; this is the sort of book I just love. ...more
**spoiler alert** you can read more here, but the truth is that I had a very mixed reaction to this novel.
On the one hand, the author uses a unique**spoiler alert** you can read more here, but the truth is that I had a very mixed reaction to this novel.
On the one hand, the author uses a unique way to tell her story, and that is through the ingenious and original use of music as a medium of language and other forms of communication in her future or alternative London. Her writing and her style are both amazing; her central focus on music is just beautiful. Unlike other readers, I had no problem getting into this book. On the other, once you get past style & writing ingenuity, it seems like I've read this book before in different forms. It's pretty sad when you're reading along, get to the midway point where, despite a couple of surprises, you realize that you pretty much know how it's all going to end.
Do not read this until after you've finished the book, but here's what I mean:
(view spoiler)[ 1. Oppressor group unhappy with how society is functioning decides to take control. 2. Said oppressor group comes up with plan to do so, creating a device that moves society back to simpler time and destroys memory. 3. Ways of new order reinforced several times a day through mass ritual. 4. Those who are able to withstand thus threaten new order are sought after and crushed. 5. Adolescent hero not knowing his inner powers discovers them with help of mentor (and another) who recognizes them. 6. Adolescent hero and mentor discover means of society's repression. 7. Adolescent hero, mentor (with help) brings down means of society's repression. 8. Hopefully life goes on. (hide spoiler)]
So, kudos for the originality, but that originality might have been matched by a more original storyline than what's been brought to the table here. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In this book, the author takes up the story of the 1527 expedition to "La Florida," the next potential jmixed reaction. read on. a 3.2 or thereabouts.
In this book, the author takes up the story of the 1527 expedition to "La Florida," the next potential jewel in the crown of Spanish King Charles I. The mission to claim this area was given to Pánfilo de Narváez; also on the expedition was Álvar Núňez Cabeza de Vaca whose account, Naufragios, is available widely in translation. The expedition, of course, is historical fact as is the presence of the titular "Moor," a slave named Estebanico, a Muslim African man who came to belong to expedition member Andrés Dorantes. Hundreds of men started out on this journey and only four of them (including Estebanico) lived to tell the tale.
But hold on a minute here. The fact is that in real life it was only the surviving Spanish explorers who offered narratives about their collective and individual ordeals. Although mentioned in Cabeza de Vaca's account, Estebanico did not leave any record of his own. In this book, the author corrects that omission, giving him the opportunity to tell his own side of things. Estebanico's perspective and his personal story drives the narrative, and this fictional account that brings the Native Americans onto the stage as strong participants holding their own against outsiders is very different than the "real" histories that have survived through time. He leaves no holds barred -- according to Estebanico, a number of expedition members engaged in the raping of indigenous women, in cannibalism, theft, and some of them even married Native American women even though they already had wives back in Spain. His narrative of sharing the often-horrendous trials and tribulations of the conquistadores not only offers an alternative history to the "official" accounts, but also gives him status as an early Muslim-African explorer in his own right. It's an incredibly interesting take on this expedition, but it is also an account of Estebanico's own interior, personal journey as a human being.
While it is a novel of historical fiction, the book can also be examined in the context of the power of storytelling -- while it's usually the conquerors whose narratives are passed on, there will always another side to things that never gets recorded. More importantly for this book, Estabanico finds that his own story is a means of retaining his dignity and the self that lies beneath his slave identity. However, the book is not without issues. First, the fact that there was no map to offer any sort of point of reference along the expedition's journey is frankly inexcusable. Second, I find myself totally in agreement with another GR reader who notes that Estebanico is pretty "uni-dimensional." It's so true -- he's really just too good, too our-time modern thinking and too squeaky clean to be entirely credible. Another thing that really bugged me sometimes was that although we're talking about the 16th century here, the author tends to imbue some of her characters with 21st-century sensitivities, and frankly, it doesn't always come off well.
So once again I'm left with a mixed reaction. It's an interesting story that kept me turning pages, I loved the historical aspects and the author's focus on the power of storytelling, but her (in my opinion) somewhat flawed portrayals sort of lessened my enthusiasm for the novel as a whole. I'd say try it for its historical fiction value and for Lalami's ability to give voices to those otherwise who have had none in the past. ...more
plot and more at my online journal's crime page -- here.
Let's face it...serial killer novels these days are a dime a dozen, so there has to be somethplot and more at my online journal's crime page -- here.
Let's face it...serial killer novels these days are a dime a dozen, so there has to be something to differentiate the good ones from the ho-hum and the same old same old. Author F.H. Batacan has found the way to do it. Her book Smaller and Smaller Circles is not your average hunt-for-the-serial-killer story, but rather a look at how politics, corruption, the power of the church, and the desire for power all get in the way of getting to the truth to save innocent lives. Heck, I got angry reading this book, and I don't even live in the Philippines.
The story is told via third-person narrative, interrupted every so often with the thoughts of the killer,whose identity remains hidden throughout the story. Truth be told, this is the gimmicky part of this novel, but fortunately, being inside the killer's head only lasts for a short time here and there. Most of the book centers on the ongoing investigation, but the author manages to weave a great deal of social commentary into her story. I will also say that for me, the discovery of the "who" was sort of an anti-climax, almost as if the author got to the point of having to tie the various storylines together but wasn't quite sure about how to do it. On the other hand, it really didn't matter because like most novels I really like, it's much more about the getting there than the actual solution of the crime. Ms. Batacan writes very well, lifting this novel well above most serial-killer novels that are on bookstore shelves as we speak. ...more
On the back cover, there's a blurb by Andrea Camilleri which reads
"Manzini devotes more space to his characters than to events, and the detective storOn the back cover, there's a blurb by Andrea Camilleri which reads
"Manzini devotes more space to his characters than to events, and the detective story is a pretext for talking brilliantly about Italian society."
and I would have to agree with him wholeheartedly. Set in the alpine mountains of Val D' Aosta in Italy, the book starts with a gruesome scene as a snocat operator is making his way in the dark down a mountain ski track heading into the village of Crest at the Champoluc ski resort. He's singing out loud, "hitting the high notes," while cheerfully listening to Ligabue on the radio. Suddenly, he realizes that the snocat has hit something. He gets out, and notices feathers being blown about by the wind. Still uncomprehending, he walks on, until he runs into an "enormous" red stain, "churned into the white blanket of snow." The next look he takes has him throwing up -- and this is where we meet Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone, who is awakened during a sound sleep and sent out to have a look. The discovery of a mangled body puts Schiavone in charge of a case that has any number of potential suspects once the dead person is identified.
Schiavone is not, I repeat NOT, your typical crime-solving Chief Inspector. For one thing, he has this bizarre habit of meeting a person and giving them some sort of animal equivalent in his head, genus, species, order, suborder. He's prone to ridicule those who serve underneath him if he finds them lacking. He is a definite ladies' man but at the same time, comes off as a misogynist; he is also prone to using violence or threats as a means of putting fear into people. He scoffs at the people of Val D'Aosta as they seem to be beneath him somehow, and quite frankly, he's crooked. Everything gets compared to Rome, where he'd previously worked before he was sent seemingly into exile where he is right now. The story of what happened in Rome has to wait until later in the story, but when it comes out, it does sort of give you an idea of why he became what I called an "asshat" in my reading status updates. However, he is very, very good at what he does even if you don't agree with his methods or you don't think that's how cops ought to work. By the end of the book, I actually felt kind of sorry for the guy.
In coming to understand him, something popped out at me right as the book was about to end, where the author describes him as someone who was
"...struggling to leave behind the ugliest things he'd lived through. Who was trying to forget the evil committed and the evil received. The blood, the screams, the dead -- who presented themselves behind his eyelids every time he shut his eyes."
He often finds himself in "a swamp," which "was always there," where
"... the boundary between good and evil, between right and wrong, no longer exists. And there are no nuances in the swamp. Either you plunge in headfirst or you stay out. There is no middle ground."
While the mystery itself is kind of run of the mill, as far as the bigger picture goes as Camilleri states, the focus is all on the characters. As he also notes, Manzini doesn't hesitate to draw attention to problems in "Italian society," which I'll leave the reader to discover. The bottom line to me is that while it is definitely tough to warm up to Schiavone until you see where he's coming from, I'm drawn way more to character than to plot so Black Run is most definitely in my wheelhouse. Personally, I think that readers who've given low ratings to this novel are looking more for a thriller sort of thing that they didn't get and that perhaps they've sort of misunderstood Manzini's emphasis on his main character. Oh well. I thought it was a fine debut series novel and I will definitely be waiting for the next one. ...more
A long, more fleshed-out look at this book can be found at my online reading journal here -- otherwise, carry on.
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes focuseA long, more fleshed-out look at this book can be found at my online reading journal here -- otherwise, carry on.
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes focuses on the lives of women in the UK from both working-class and privileged backgrounds during the 1950s. Using a number of different sources -- diaries, interviews, memoirs, archives, newspapers, periodicals, the web etc., -- Virginia Nicholson offers her readers a very up-close and personal look at how women dealt with "some of the conflicting pressures and strains under which they lived" during this decade. For some women, it was a time of "ambitions, dreams and fulfillment," while for others, their stories combine to present a "narrative of fears, frustrations and deep unhappiness." It is a spellbinding read; I hated having to put this book down for any reason.
Nicholson examines the "tug of war" that was the "daily reality" of life for women during this decade. As she notes, it was
"between society and the individual, prohibition and permissiveness, conformity and independence, passivity and ambition. Between identity -- and the empty shell."
It is through most of these stories of "fears, frustrations and deep unhappiness" that the author skillfully finds a connection between these women -- from factory workers to debutantes presented at court to Princess Margaret -- that of being hemmed in by their family backgrounds or the expectations of society. These women faced a number of "conflicting pressures and strains," encountered through sexism, class pressures, the reality of married life based mainly on the expectations of their spouses, and in the case of an immigrant from Jamaica, the realities of racial prejudice.
One of the most interesting sections in this book is on education: since "society had determined that woman's place was in the home," and that "getting your man" was mattered most, a great deal of emphasis in a young woman's education went into preparing them in skills appropriate to their married futures. For example, many girls had to take classes in such useful courses as "dairying, horticulture, cookery, dressmaking, mothercraft, and housecraft." Some girls from "segregated working-class communities" such as mining villages in the northeast, were lucky if they could overcome their parents' ideas that education was wasted on girls, since "They only get married." As the author notes, for these families,
"Educational deprivation was cyclical; stay-at-home mums lacked the vision or understanding to see how better schooling might advantage daughters otherwise fated to follow in their footsteps."
Yet, even for those who managed to make their way through university, the prevailing point of view was that educated women were "NOT sexy," or even perhaps "spinsters or (whisper it) lesbians."
And speaking of gay women, Nicholson also touches on these women who had to fly "under the radar" because of the "almost pathological fear of lesbianism" that existed during these times. In one case, a woman was committed to an "insane asylum" where after having confessed that she "had feelings for women," was sent for "aversion therapy," that "wrecked her for months."
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes also reveals a decade full of women's angst and emotional turmoil from the highest echelons of British society on down the ladder. The author quotes widely from several women she interviewed (and from other sources, many of these interviews and diaries) and adds in her own commentary to build a picture of the decade. She makes it clear that while some women seemed happy with their marriages and their lives, there were plenty of others who were not. She also manages to incorporate how communities were built among women for friendship and for support. But, as Nicholson also reminds us, the sixties were right around the corner, and things were on the verge of looking up -- and many of these same women laid the groundwork for a better life ahead for the next generation.
Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes is a captivating read. There are parts of this book where the author sort of rambles, and I felt several times that it could have been pared down quite a bit, but overall, it's a really good, well-written social/cultural history that I couldn't put down. I'm not from the UK, but the book certainly held my undivided attention and kept me turning pages. ...more
Had I read this book (the first in this series) before the author's The Cemetery of Swallows, it probably would have been the last one I would have reHad I read this book (the first in this series) before the author's The Cemetery of Swallows, it probably would have been the last one I would have read by this author. And that would have been a shame, because Cemetery of Swallows is so very good.
This book however was just too filled with murder scenes that depicted torture and frankly, outright depravity, just not my cuppa in any way shape or form. Every time there was another murder I'd become too afraid of how the author was going to top the last one -- some of these scenes are just so awful (children and even a baby) and nothing seems to be off-limits here. Just way too graphic and too over the top for my personal tastes.
However, around those horrific scenes, the author's writing has that literary, intelligent quality I crave when reading modern crime, so I'm sort of left with mixed feelings.
If you decide to read this one, caveat emptor , and don't say I didn't warn you. ...more
I'm in for a 3.6 rating or so. This book has to be a satire of gothic novels and yet fits in very nicely with the "city mysteries" genre of Early AmerI'm in for a 3.6 rating or so. This book has to be a satire of gothic novels and yet fits in very nicely with the "city mysteries" genre of Early American fiction. This book had me laughing in quite a number of places, cringing in others. It's also a twisted, sordid novel filled with debauchery, corruption, sensationalism and some of the most vile characters you'd never want to meet. It is rather a mishmash of genres, and ranks high in the melodrama department. More here at my online reading journal, but for now, here's a very general idea:
Monk's Hall is a "queer old house down town, kept by a reputable old lady, and supported by the purses of goodly citizens, whose names you never hear without the addition of 'respectable,' 'celebrated' or--ha--ha--'pious'..."
These are not the "outcasts of society," but rather "Here were lawyers from the court, doctors from the school and judges from the bench," one of the "vilest rookeries in the world." It is run by a deformed pimp who goes by the moniker of Devil-Bug, sort of reminiscent of the old Hellfire clubs, but here there are trap doors in the floors, bodies in the cellar, and all sorts of devilment going on in the rooms upstairs. The titular "monks" are made up of the above-mentioned pillars of society and while some are busy satisfying their physical lusts, gambling, or taking opium, others spend their time drinking, "flinging their glasses on high, while the room echoed with their oaths and drunken shouts."
I'm not going to go into plot -- there are three major ones, a number of smaller ones and some subplots stemming from the three big ones so it would be nearly impossible in the amount of space & time that I have. Suffice it to say that the book takes on several segments of Philadelphia society to expose the city's hidden hypocrisies, and Lippard really outdoes himself in lambasting Philadelphia's religious leaders as well as its media institutions, financial institutions and wealthy merchants.
The Quaker City is difficult to get into at first, but once I was past the first couple of chapters and caught on to how to read this book, it's actually quite fun. It's a dark novel filled with gothic elements including the secret mansion where members dress up in monk's cowls, take on different names, and convene for debauchery. It is filled with secret rooms, trap doors, secret burial vaults, fallen women and those brought there to face ruination. My guess is that this is another one that doesn't make it onto a majority of course syllabi for studying American writers, and that's a shame. For one thing, it is interesting that it was such a bestseller, offering a glimpse into what people were reading at the time; for another, it's Lippard's examination of a corrupt society and what makes it thus. A lot of the issues he uncovers -- the buying of justice in the courts, the double standard between men and women, the hypocrisy of religion and religious leaders, and the corrupt power of financial institutions to name just a few, are still with us today. Funny how some things don't change over time, while others make leaps and bounds -- i.e., the roles and status of women, to be specific here.
I certainly wouldn't recommend this novel to everyone -- I read a LOT of weird stuff and this is among the strangest -- but for those who are at all interested in more off the beaten path antebellum fiction, it just might provide a few hours of entertainment. It will also provide an eye-opening look at what lies under the surface of the pillars of Philadelphia pre-Civil War society as seen through the eyes of this author, "an espouser of radical causes" who "waged holy war against all kinds of social oppressors." I will say that if you're in it solely for the sleaze value you'd be better off with the stories in George Thompson's Venus in Boston and Other Tales of Nineteenth-Century City Life. ...more
I'm late to the Lafcadio Hearn party, having only read two stories in this collection before picking up this book -- "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi" and "Yuki-Onna," which have long been personal favorites. There are seventeen actual "Kwaidan" in this book, and then a section by Hearn called "Insect Studies," three compositions that in their own right are definitely worth reading. Ranging from out-and-out creepy ghost stories to monks roaming the countryside where various monsters, demons and other creatures seem to abide, there is never a bad note struck throughout the entire collection.
At seventeen stories, I'm not about to go into each one, but my favorites in this volume are "The Story of Mimi-nashi Hoichi," "Yuki-Onna," "Rukoru-Kubi," and "The Dream of Akinosuke." All are intense, and all are simply excellent.
The stories are short but their length doesn't affect their potency; by virtue of being stories that have been handed down over several centuries, the reader also gets a look at ancient Japan from different angles, from the world of the samurai on down to that of the lowliest peasant. It is a world of constant upheaval in terms of the physical world and also vis a vis the traditional social order. One major exception is "Hi-Mawari," a story that takes place in Wales, obviously penned by Hearn himself. After the kaidan section is finished, the reader moves into Hearn's "Insect Studies," where he dwells on butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. While you might be tempted to skip them, don't. They're absolutely fascinating, drawing on traditional folklore, etc. from Japan and China.
I realize that not everyone is going to admire these stories like I do, but I love all things Japanese and this collection was simply superb. It might just be a good opening into all sorts of kaidan for a novice reader, and there are several works available in English that would make for great follow-up reading.
I absolutely loved this book and I can't recommend it highly enough. ...more
Right off the bat, I will admit that this is not one of my favorite Highsmith novels. It's a departure from her usual stuff, which is okay, but she reRight off the bat, I will admit that this is not one of my favorite Highsmith novels. It's a departure from her usual stuff, which is okay, but she really wasn't all that terrific at putting together an existential whodunit novel which, when all is said and done, describes what I think she was attempting with A Game for the Living. I'm not the only one who has an issue with this book -- according to her biographer, Andrew Wilson, Highsmith herself "came to regard A Game for the Living ... as one of her worst novels," and she wrote in her Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction that this novel "was the only really dull book I have written."
As the book begins, you actually do find yourself in Highsmith land. Set in Mexico, two very different men are in love with the same woman, both are her lovers, and both are very civilized about the whole thing. She is also very accommodating; there are no fights between the two men (who are friends), and everyone seems to accept the situation as it is. But, when one of the men returns home from a trip and finds her dead in bed, things start to change. He, Theodore, is positive that the other man, Ramón, is Lelia's murderer -- after all, he knows that Ramón is prone to violent outbursts. Theodore has even come between the two a few times when Ramón was on the verge of hitting her. Ramón had also said that someday he'd "give her up" or "kill himself." Theodore also realizes that "between killing oneself and killing the object of one's passion was not much difference...Psychologically, they equated sometimes."
The two do a sort of mental and emotional dance wondering if the other one is guilty, and matters don't improve when Ramón decides to confess. But far from being the end of the story, his confession is actually just the beginning. The limits of friendship are constantly tested in this novel; Highsmith also uses the novel to explore the nature of guilt. It's also a book that examines religious belief (which I enjoyed) and art (which I also enjoyed). Yet, while many of these same themes are to be found in her other novels, looking at it as whole, the book as a whole is a kind of a trainwreck of poor plotting, very little in the way of character development outside of the two main characters, and a lack of intensity that for me is the hallmark of a Highsmith novel. And then there's that beyond-flat ending.
If my lack of enthusiasm is showing, there are plenty of reasons why. The biggest one is this: I didn't feel this book like I have the others. If you're a regular Highsmith reader, you know what I mean. I'm at the point where now I have to take breathers between reading her novels because they're so dark and so intense, but I didn't get that here.
I'd say try it but proceed with caution. Do not make this your first Highsmith novel or you may never go back to another one. Oy....more
"...I don't waste my time punching people on the nose. If I really don't like somebody, I kill him."
So sayeth Victor (Vic) VanAllen, the main characte"...I don't waste my time punching people on the nose. If I really don't like somebody, I kill him."
So sayeth Victor (Vic) VanAllen, the main character in Deep Water, although he says it in jest.
According to Highsmith, (as related by Andrew Wilson in his biography), Deep Water explores " 'the sniping, griping ambushing,' that can exist between people who are supposed to love one another, locked together 'in a ballet of the wearing of the nerves.' " Frankly, that phrase describes this book perfectly, but that "wearing of the nerves" is also a great way to describe how I felt during and after reading this novel. Once again, Highsmith had me feeling sympathetic toward a character not too unlike Tom Ripley; even though eventually I'm supposed to be outraged and shocked at things he does, it's still sort of difficult not to feel something for the main character in this book. I'm really starting to worry about myself here, and that is not a joke. If there is one thing at which Highsmith excels -- actually there are many things but for me this one is numero uno -- it is her ability to make a reader to see things from the points of view of the psychopaths who populate her books. To them, what they're doing makes perfectly good sense -- we may not believe in real life that murder is any sort of solution, but somehow it's like you can seriously understand why her people feel compelled to do the things they do. I often find myself rooting for these people to succeed -- and then I realize that I'm cheering on a murderer who has not one iota of conscience. But I can't help it. And that's why I'm a wee bit concerned.
The reason Vic comes across as a sympathetic character here is because of his wife, Melinda. Vic runs a small but very successful press that produces only a few books each year, beautifully bound but dreadfully dull. The books that come from his press tend to reflect Vic's character -- on the outside he is well put together, but inside he is dreadfully dull, for example, raising snails as a hobby, also into such pastimes as "bee culture" and "cheesemaking." Melinda, who doesn't at all share his interests, carries on with a number of men, flaunting them in Vic's face by either bringing them home and having them stay until the wee hours of the morning or not coming home because she's stayed with them; she also cares very little that their neighbors and circle of friends all get what's going on. Vic, whose philosophy is that
"everybody -- therefore a wife -- should be allowed to do as she pleased, provided no one else was hurt and that she fulfilled her main responsibilities, which were to manage a household and to take care of her offspring..."
realizes that because Melinda has a reputation for playing around, he's acquired a near-saintlike reputation among their acquaintances, which as Highsmith tells us, "flattered Vic's ego." However, he also admittedly has "an evil side," that he keeps "well hidden." For example, he takes near-joyous pleasure in telling one of Melinda's new boyfriends that he'd actually killed one of her previous lovers (referencing an actual murder that has been in the newspaper), a joke that turns into rumor and circulates through Vic's friends. It's not true, of course, but it sends the latest lover running and yet wondering. Vic outwardly turns a blind eye to what's going on with Melinda and her series of lovers, but inwardly he's seething -- and this being a Highsmith novel, that pressure isn't going to stay bottled up for long. When Melinda's latest boy toy is invited to play the piano during a neighbor's party, somehow he ends up dead in the swimming pool -- and Melinda begins to wonder if Vic may have had a hand in his death.
Deep Water is Highsmith's exploration of "the diseases produced by sexual repression;" as she notes (again from Beautiful Shadow),
"From this unnatural abstinence evil things arise, like peculiar vermin in a stagnant well: fantasies and hatreds, and the accursed tendency to attribute evil motivations to charitable and friendly acts" (101)
and once again, she takes her idea and runs with it, this time creating a nearly-perfect study of a marriage that's stagnating and deep in decline. Vic is almost too perfect -- a great dad, househusband, sympathetic employer, and perfect neighbor -- as opposed to Melinda, whose flaws we see from the outset. It is definitely not hard at all to feel pity for Vic as he puts up with his wife and her multiple affairs, and this is really where Highsmith gets into my head. I always seem to side with the "bad" guy; she makes it so easy to understand his point of view and actually feel a huge amount of sympathy for him.
Highsmith isn't for everyone, and as I'm discovering, it's becoming sort of necessary to space out reading her novels to maintain a measure of my own sanity. At the end of this one, I put the book down and walked away from it in a funk. She has this way of burrowing deeply into my skin as she burrows into the minds of others -- and it's not always a comfortable feeling, even though so far, I'm absolutely loving her work. It's not often an author can have that effect on me, but she manages to do so with every novel, at least so far.
definitely and most highly recommended. It will have you squirming in your seat as you read. ...more
a longer post at my online reading journal is here; read on for the condensed version.
Just briefly, Irrepressible is written by Emily Bingham, a greaa longer post at my online reading journal is here; read on for the condensed version.
Just briefly, Irrepressible is written by Emily Bingham, a great-niece of Henrietta Bingham's, and she literally tries to "unpack" Henrietta's story as the book moves along. She'd always known about her great-aunt, the one the family called "an invert" (read "lesbian") but in an attic of the family home, Emily Bingham discovered quite a treasure trove of Henrietta's belongings (including letters) that set her on the path to discovering for herself just who this woman actually was.
A pivotal event in this story was the death of Henrietta's mother when Henrietta was only twelve; Henrietta was there when it happened. Since that horrible and traumatic event, her father (often referred to as "The Judge") came to depend on Henrietta for emotional support even after he married a second and third time. As the author notes,
"Her mother's death before her eyes left an open wound -- an an opening for an unusually close partnership with her father that both empowered her and made her weak."
This strange sort of interdependence between father and daughter had a beyond-huge effect on Henrietta's life, a point that the author returns to time and again throughout the book. As one reviewer puts it, she became "an emotional surrogate" for the Judge's "adored dead wife" even through his two marriages, right up to the time of his death.
Henrietta's story is compelling and Emily Bingham has done an amazing amount of research about her great-aunt; sadly, information about her later life is rather lacking in terms of documentation. The author takes us slowly through Henrietta's life as she charmed and romanced members of the Bloomsbury set in 1920s London, started a long-term course of psychoanalysis with Ernest Jones at the behest of her then-lover (and her former English professor at Smith) Mina Kirstein who herself wanted to be "cured" of her homosexual tendencies. As it turned out, Jones became someone in whom Henrietta could confide about the "seductive ambivalence" toward the Judge, even though the psychoanalysis "did not banish the anxiety and depression that stalked her." We are privy to her various affairs with both men and women while in London during the 1920s, her desire not to constantly be at her father's beck and call so that she could have some measure of freedom, her unflagging support of her father when he became FDR's Ambassador to Britain just prior to the beginning of World War II and then her life, at least what's known about it, through the Judge's death and beyond. One of the key ideas in this book is that while Henrietta had a large measure of freedom in terms of same-sex affairs as a young woman as long as she didn't flaunt things (her father even gave his tacit approval to her lesbian relationship with a tennis star with whom she lived while he served as ambassador), but as times changed, shifting morals, homophobia, and Henrietta's status vis a vis her family's prominence in Kentucky added to her already-overburdened mental state and ultimately contributed to her mental deterioration.
While I loved the subject and while I was cliche-ingly glued to this book, there were times when I kind of did the odd eyeroll or two over the author's writing -- very minor quibbles, to be sure, but still a bit annoying. I will say however that the things that make this such an intense and compelling novel -- Henrietta herself, her family's history, her ongoing desire for the freedom to be who she wanted to be and the obstacles that so often got in the way, as well as her later tragedies -- far outweigh my niggles with the occasional writing issues, making for one hell of a good book.
Burn Witch Burn does have a certain similarity to the movie that stoleYou can find a more fleshed-out look at this book at my online reading journal.
Burn Witch Burn does have a certain similarity to the movie that stole its title (except for the addition of the commas) -- at the heart of the matter is a man who is forced to reassess his beliefs in the certainties of science when he comes head to head with the supernatural.
We first meet Doctor Lowell, "a medical man specializing in neurology and diseases of the brain," when he is called on by a "notorious underworld chieftain" Julian Ricori, "one of the finished products of the Prohibition Law." One of Ricori's crew is stricken with some very bizarre ailment, manifesting itself with strange symptoms. He eventually dies, but on examination, the doctor finds nothing that could have killed him. The case is so odd that he immediately reaches out to other doctors to see if any of their patients have manifested the same symptoms. When answers start coming in, Lowell is startled to see that a number of people have been in the same boat. After compiling a list of these patients, he (along with Ricori) starts his quest to track down the source of this horrific illness hoping to find even one factor they all had in common. Just as they're starting to make some progress the illness strikes again, this time hitting very close to home.
I won't divulge the meat of the story here, but let me just say that what happens in this book makes the Twilight Zone's Talky Tina look like a rank amateur (hint, hint). There's a lot of creepy stuff going on here -- looking at it from today's perspective, it's mild, even tame, but my guess is it had readers squirming in their armchairs back in the 1930s. It's a strange blending of mystery, pulp, and horror, and while I didn't care too much for it at first, as things progressed, I ended with up with an odd sort of appreciation for this book. First of all, looking past the silly horror parts, there are two main themes that develop out of this novel. One is the question of what it is that constitutes a human's soul; the second, as I've mentioned earlier, is what happens when science butts up against the supernatural. Second, since there are a number of mysteries that need to be solved here, the novel appeals to the part of me that loves these vintage books and just can't get enough.
But speaking of mysteries, we're left with one huge hole, and that is the motivation behind the work of the character Madame Mandilip (a name that cracks me up because she's described as having a visible mustache). We get a smidgen of her history, but we never fully quite understand why she does what she does here, and that's annoying. Seriously annoying.
Merritt is much better known for his "lost-race" novels and short stories which are just plain awful; at the same time one of my biggest guilty pleasures in life is my love for really crappy, really old pulp. Burn Witch Burn is much better than some of Merritt's other work so if you're at all interested you might want to give it a try. I'd say try not to judge it by modern standards if at all possible; just sit back, relax and enjoy. ...more