pamelad's overflow categories
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25 books to go in the main challenge, but my favourite categories are full or nearly so, and some categories are missing altogether. I definitely need more Crime categories, so here they are.
1. British and Irish Crime
2. US crime
3. Rest of the world Crime
I will add more categories as they become necessary, which reminds me
4. Freebies and cheapies on the Kindle
No numerical goals for this overflow challenge, but I'll keep count.
1. British and Irish Crime
The Lemur by Benjamin Black 3.5*
The Bittermeads Mystery by E.R. Punshon 3* (ebook)
The Anglo-Irish Murders by Ruth Dudley Edwards 2.5*
The Second Shot by Anthony Berkeley 4* (ebook)
Conjurer's Coffin by Guy Cullingford 3*
No Grave for a Lady by John and Emery Bonett 3.5*
Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery by Anthony Berkeley 3.5* (ebook)
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson 3.5*
An Unsafe Pair of Hands by Chris Dolley 2.5* (ebook)
Death in the House by Anthony Berkeley 3* (ebook)
Suddenly at Singapore by Gavin Black 3.5* (ebook)
Field of Blood by Denise Mina 4*
The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull 3.5* (ebook)
The Holm Oaks by P. M. Hubbard 4* (ebook)
No Tears for Hilda by Andrew Garve 3.5*
A Banner for Pegasus by John Bonett 4*
The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop by Gladys Mitchell 3*
The Wyndham Case by Jill Paton Walsh 3*
The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young 3*
Blood and Judgement by Michael Gilbert 3.5*
Dissolution by C. J. Sansom 4*
Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom 4*
Unholy Dying by R. T. Campbell 2.5*
Sovereign by C. J. Sansom 4*
Revelation by C. J. Sansom 4.5*
Death comes Staccato by Gillian Slovo 3*
3. Crime from the rest of the world
Black Fly Season by Giles Blunt 3* Canada
Bury me Deep by Megan Abbott 4* US
1222 by Ann Holt 3.5* Norway
The Fields of Grief by Giles Blunt 4* Canada
The Scent of the Night by Andrea Camilleri 3.5* Italy
The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller 3.5* US
Coming Back by Marcia Muller 4* US
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich 3* US
Sing Me a Murder by Helen Nielsen 3*
The Cabinda Affair by Matthew Head 4.5*
A Stranger is Watching by Mary Higgins Clark 3.5*
4. Kindle freebies and cheapies
The Strange Crime in Bermuda by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding 3*
The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer 3*
She Faded into Air by Ethel Lina White 3*
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley 3.5*
The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer 3.5*
The Eyes around Me by Gavin Black 3.5*
The Deep End by Fredric Brown 3.5*
The Dead Ringer by Fredric Brown 3.5*
The Four Faces by William Le Queux 3*
Dead Man Calling by Gavin Black 3.5*
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey 3.5*
The Expensive Halo by Josephine Tey 3*
5. Non Fiction
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell 3.5*
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris 4.5*
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 4*
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson 4.5*
A World to Build by David Kynaston 4*
Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński 4*
Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison 3.5*
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson 3.5*
Family Sayings by Natalia Ginzburg 4.5*
6. Assorted non-criminal fiction
The Foundling by Georgette Heyer 3.5*
The Ponsonby Post by Bernice Rubens 3.5*
Sunflower by Gyula Krudy 4*
The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns 4.5*
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell 3.5*
The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki 5*
The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby 3.5*
One by David Karp 3.5*
Esprit de Corps by Lawrence Durrell 4*
The City and the House by Natalia Ginzburg 4.5*
After Midnight by Irmgard Keun 4.5*
Stiff Upper Lip by Lawrence Durrell 4*
I received a kindle for Christmas and have been loving it. I look forward to seeing how you fit the Kinde category (I a working through To the Lighthouse right now).
The Anglo-Irish Murders by Ruth Dudley Edwards
Heavy-handed satire. Tiresome main character. Peurile plot. Not my sort of thing.
The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer
To quote Barzun and Taylor:
The Doctor's adventures may entertain once, partly because of well-contrived suspense, partly because of one's enjoyment of one's own folly in believing what one is told, for example the presence on Wimbledon Common of a menagerie of lethal creatures kept by htis sinister Chinese.
And that's not all! Fungal spores that germinate instantly and are immediately lethal; a drug that drives a man mad with one injection; a drug that mimics death. Fortunately, for every drug there is an antidote. The Doctor is "the greatest fungologist the world has known."
Madly racist, and entertainingly nutty. 3*
Free ebook from Manybooks.
The Second Shot by Anthony Berkeley
A puzzle from one of the greats of the Golden Age. Eric Scott-Davies, philanderer, seducer and all-round cad, is shot during a house party. All the guests have excellent motives, but Scott-Davies definitely deserves a bullet, so noone wants the murderer, whoever he or she is, to be punished. When it looks as though the police have chosen him as the perpetrator, the prissy narrator, Cyril Pinkerton, calls in his old school friend, Roger Sheringham, to save him.
An entertaining crime novel with many twists and turns. Recommended. 4*
This was an ebook from Amazon, well worth its $3.99 price tag.
She Faded into Air by Ethel Lina White
Ethel Lina White wrote the book on which the film The Lady Vanishes was based.
Two women vanish in this book, which is not as good, but readable.
There are two of Ethel Lina White's books on Gutenberg Australia. I had to fiddle around in Calibre with the formatting of this one before I could read it.
Conjurer's Coffin by Guy Cullingford
Middle-class Miss Milk takes a job as a receptionist in a down at heel Soho hotel patronised by music hall performers. In her innocence, she is caught up in a murder.
There wasn't a lot of plot, and the characters were two-dimensional. The middle-class people were clean, while the theatricals were grimy. The hotel employees, were not only grubby, but burdened with appalling grammar, ludicrous accents and arithmetical ineptitude.
It was readable, but I wouldn't recommend it. I've deleted half a star for snobbery. 2.5*
No Grave for a Lady by John and Emery Bonett
Lotte Liselotte, a once-famous German actress, friend of Hitler and Goering, is found buried in the sand on a beach in the Channel Isles, near an expensive hotel. Quite a few of the hotel guests have motives, including the author whose first, about to be published book features a main character just like Lotte, the publishers themselves, who face bankruptcy if the book is not published, and the fiancee of the Scottish knight who has become besotted with Lotte. The jovial Professor Mandrake, television scientist, joins forces with a troup of small boys to solve the crime.
Light, entertaining and well-written. 3.5*
Another for the British Crime category.
Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery by Anthony Berkeley
Another light, entertaining mystery from Berkeley. Sheringham is an irritating characer, not just to me, but to the other people in the book! He imagines that he is in competition with the very capable Inspector Moresby from Scotland Yard to uncover the murderer of Elsie Vane, who has dived off a cliff into the ocean.
Worth a read. A cheap ebook from Amazon. 3.5*
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
In 1975 a dead prostitute is found in her flat. Her death is interwined with Jackson Brodie's investigation; he is searching for the history of an adopted woman in New Zealand who has just found out that her birth and adoption certificates are fakes.
The narrative hops back and forth between 1975 and the present, and of course to the death of Brodie's sister Niamh. Hate to sound callous, but I've had enough of Niamh's death. Brodie's turned into a caricature: the man with the tragic past.
This book is an improvement on One Good Turn because some of the characters have altruistic motives. It was an engrossing read.
Black Fly Season by Giles Blunt
This Canadian police procedural started well. A young woman is behaving oddly in a bar so the local policeman takes her to hospital, where doctors find that she has a bullet wound in the head.
Unfortunately the main character is a serial killer (subtract half a star) who practises a rare and revolting form of Voodoo. Tripe!
It's totally okay (encouraged, actually) to say what you really think in an Early Reviews review. (This does assume that one would not be rude or insulting toward the author or publisher.) Your review is fine, and based on the samples you gave, the writing does seem atrocious. Actually, that's the nice thing about book reviews - people who read them, trying to decide whether or not to read the book, get to see a variety of opinions on the book, so they get to decide whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.
It's also more difficult to be negative when all the other reviewers have been positive. If you're really uncomfortable with what you've written, you could go back and add some comments on some aspect of the book that you liked. My go-to positive comment is that I found a book entertaining.
I have reviewed a few ER books and I am brutally honest about them. I figure if someone is asking for my opinion, I will give it (nicely of course!). There is nothing wrong with your review - you weren't being malicious or anything. You had issues, you explained why they were issues and you backed it up. I think it's a great review :)
I've read several books lately that have been in need of editing. I think it is important for publishers to know that we are paying attention. I would have made a comment as well.
Thanks for your replies casvelyn, bucketyell and thornton. Very pleased to hear that you all support honesty in reviewing.
I'll be very interested to read the comments of the Early Reviewers still to come.
The Black Moth
Georgette Heyer's first book, written when she was nineteen.
John Carstares becomes a social outcast after being accused of cheating at cards, so he becomes a highwayman!
This is a free ebook from Manybooks.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell looks at exceptionally successful people like Bill Gates and The Beatles and comes up with theories on how they became so successful. Gladwell says it's not just talent. Other factors include the culture they came from, the time of year or the decade they were born and the social class of their families. I found it an entretaining read, but I've recently read Bad Science, so filtered Gladwell's evidence through the Goldacre filter and found it didn't stand up too well.
I was relieved to find that Australia has a low Power Distance Index, second only to New Zealand, so that when a plane is falling out of the sky because the captain has had a late night, the weather's bad and a few instruments have failed, the first officer and flight engineer aren't too intimidated to tell the captain what he should do to prevent the crash. Many crashes of Korean Airline planes could apparently have been prevented had the co-pilots been prepared to take control when they saw things going wrong.
Lots of interesting bits and pieces 3.5*
You take away half a star for serial killers? I generally add half of one!
Death in the House by Anthony Berkeley
This is not one of Berkeley's better books. The government is planning to bring in a bill that deals with unrest in India (how? not clear), but the ministers who read the bill's introductory speech have all dropped dead. It would not be the done thing to dispense with the speech because that would be cowardly.
This is a very silly book, rife with racism.
RidgewayGirl, you could add half a point for the serial killer!
Whispering Death by Garry Disher
This is the lates in the Challis and Destry series, which is set on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour south of Melbourne. Destry is in Europe on a course about sex crimes, so when a young woman is abducted and raped Pam Murphy fills the breach. Challis is being harassed by his superiors for telling the truth to a reporter about shortages of manpower and equipment. An armed bank robber is working his way to the Peninsula. A young woman cat burglar is being pursued by an interstate cop.
Another excellent police procedural from Garry Disher. Highly recommended. 4.5*
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
Based on the crime of Winnie Ruth Judd, the trunk murderer, Abbott's noir history reimagines the poverty, loneliness and desperation of three women trying to survive in the Phoenix of 1930, a corrupt city drenched in booze, drugs and vice.
A well-written, gripping account, but I put it down a few times because it is so depressingly sordid.
1222 by Ann Holt
When a train is derailed in a wild snow storm, the passengers are marooned in a mountain hotel. The occupants of the mysterious last carriage arrive at the hotel first and are hidden away on an upper floor of adjoining building, with armed guards outsde the door. Most of the remaining passengers are accommodated in the hotel, where they settle down to wait for the storm to abate and rescuers to arrive. In the night a man is murdered.
Hanne Wilhemson is one of the passengers accommodated in the hotel. Before a bullet in the spine confined her to a wheelchair, she had been a police inspector. She begins a murder investigation.
I was enjoying 1222 and thinking it deserved at least 4* until the very end. The mysterious last carriage sub-plot ended in confusion.
The Fields of Grief by Giles Blunt
A big improvement on Black Fly Season.
The body of Catherine Cardinal, is found at the base of a newly completed multi-storey building. Detective John Cardinal, Catherine's husband, cannot accept that Catherine killed herself, but because she had a history of being hospitalised for manic-depression, the case is closed as suicide. There have been too many unexpected suicides lately in the small town of Algonquin Bay, so Cardinal continues to to investigate.
Meanwhile, Cardinal's colleague Lise Delorme, is trying to find a young girl, the victim of a paedophile who has posted photos of her abuse on the internet.
The Langtail Press has re-released some vintage mysteries, many of which are available as ebooks. Suddenly at Singapore cost $3.99 from Amazon, and I downloaded it because I'd never heard of its author, Gavin Black.
It is a competent, well-written mystery, set in the sixties, a time of new nationalism in Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia was expanding its territory by force.
Paul Harris, the main protagonist, was born in Singapore and, with his older brother, runs a shipping business. The brothers are running guns to Indonesian rebels, so when Paul's brother is murdered, the military forces come under suspicion. Then again, there are business enemies and quite a few women who might have pulled the trigger.
I enjoyed the book for the exotic background of Malaya and Singapore in the sixties. I've been to both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, so was interested to read this slice of recent Asian history.
Not quite 4*. A solid 3.5* read.
Thanks for the review of The Fields of Grief. Giles Blunt has been on my TBR list for a long time but I haven't gotten around to any of his books yet.
By the way, I like your overflow categories idea. I'm in the same boat. I only gave myself two mystery/crime categories (Mysteries from the UK and Mysteries from the Rest of the World) and they're nearly full. I've also been sneaking mysteries into my other categories, when I've been able to fit them in.
mathgirl, Forty Words for Sorrow was prettty good too.
I had to change my Nobel Prize category because of the dearth of mysteries by Nobel laureates. In the end Edgar award winners rubbed shoulders with Nobel prize winners.
The Eyes around Me by Gavin Black
Paul Harris, ex-gun runner, is called to Hong Kong by his friend Ella, expatriate owner of a successful Scottish biscuit factory. When Ella is found murdered, he is the main suspect.
Harris paints a realistic picture of Hong Kong in the sixties. He is scathing about the expatriate community and sympathetic to the plight of the local Chinese. People smuggling is an important thread in the plot: people are desperate to leave Communist China and local businessmen are making a killing by providing the means of escape. Very topical for those of us in Australia who are observing the disgusting behaviour of both political parties towards refugees desperate enough to travel thousands of kilometres to Australia on ill-equipped boats.
A good read. 3.5*
Excellent value for 99 cents on Amazon.
The Help by Katherine Stockett
This book has too much Skeeter, whose story is trivial, and too much sentimentality. Despite the author's patent sincerity, the book patronises and stereotypes the maids whose story it tells.
I did not like it. 3*
Yesterday, one of our other librarians came to me and said that she'd had several students trying to find The Help but they couldn't find it on the shelves, and she couldn't either. I walked out to the stacks and picked it up off the shelves right where it was supposed to be. I don't know if the movie is influencing its use, if they are reading it for a class, or if they are just reading it because they are just getting around to doing so. I'm just glad we could find it. I've avoided reading it myself so far (although I do intend to do so at some point) because I'm afraid the book will reinforce a stereotype of my home state that I get so tired of seeing portrayed in literature.
Thornton, I can see why teachers would set The Help as required reading: it was an easy read and it is concerned with big issues. It's a shame that it isn't a better book. Stockett certainly reinforces stereotypes of Mississippi .
I'm surprised that the LT ratings are so high. There must be chords that it strikes in Americans to which an Australian is oblivious.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Skloot first comes across the HeLa cell line in a biology lecture, and wants to know more about the person behind the cells. The result is this book, which took her the best part of a decade to complete.
Henrietta's mother died when she was just four. Her father dumped his children on relatives so Henrietta was brought up by her grandfather, sharing a room with her male cousin, Day, whose babies she started having at thirteen, and who became her husband. Their fifth child was born just before Henrietta succumbed to the cervical cancer that killed her at thirty-one.
In the fifties, shocking things were happening in medical research. One scientist, for example, was injecting cancer cells into patients without their knowledge. Another infamous project studied untreated syphilis in black men. In this climate, Henrietta and her family were treated badly by the scientific establishment. Medical ethics form an important strand of Skloot's book.
But rather than waffling on, I'll refer you to qebo's excellent review, dated Aug 7, 2011.
The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller
Sharon McCone has been hired to investigate a series of bombings of her husband Hy's security company, RKI. A man with a limp has been seen running away from a few of the bombings, so McCone starts her investigation with the partners, including Hy, in case the reason for the bombings lies in their past. She uncovers an unsavoury episode in Hy's past, which puts their marriage at risk.
Another solid effort from Marcia Muller, though Sharon seems even more humourless than usual. 3.5*
Coming Back by Marcia Muller
Sharon McCone is recovering from a bullet to the head. In the previous book, which I haven't read yet, she was a victim of locked in syndrome, but she has made enormous progress towards a full recovery. Her husband, family and colleagues are treating her like a child and driving her crazy, so Sharon is questioning her own abilities. When her fellow out-patient goes missing, however, Sharon pulls herself together enough to investigate the crime.
I've given this one an extra half star because the baddies are the evil fringe of the political right wing.
I've given this one an extra half star because the baddies are the evil fringe of the political right wing.
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
All the usual suspects team up for the latest Stephanie Plum caper. Entertaining, but same, same.
I love those books, but do wonder if I could just reread an earlier installment instead of the newest one. But I guess they're popular because they're reliable. Stephanie will always do wacky things, have wacky adventures with other wacky people and be eternally torn between Ranger and Moretti.
Field of Blood by Denise Mina
There are two Paddy Meehans, Patricia, the eighteen year-old "copy boy" at a Glasgow daily, and Patrick, the safe cracker wrongfully imprisoned for murder. Their stories run in parallel, linked by the theme of wrongful arrest. The Irish are at the bottom of the heap in eighties Glasgow and don't get a fair shake from the police.
The young Paddy wants to become a journalist, and with the brutal murder of a little boy she gets a chance at a great story.
Sunflower by Gyula Krudy
Written in just after WWI, Krudy's poetic novel looks back to an earlier pastoral Hungary. There's not much plot; Krudy seems to float in the landscape then suddenly to descend upon a character. His characters aren't trivial people living mundane lives; they're wild, passionate and strange.
Glad that you enjoyed the Denise Mina book. I still have that one to look forward to at some point. I'll probably finish the other series first though.
The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns
The vet makes the lives of his wife and daughter a misery. He's violent, abusive and vicious. When his wife dies he moves in a woman he met at the pub, and Alice's life becomes even more unhappy. She does, however, have an escape, a special talent that removes her momentarily from her unhappy life.
A strange, unsettling book that ends with a jolt.
Highly recommended 4.5*
Reporter, Sam Evans, is given the job of writing a sob story about the accidental death of a teenage boy under a roller coaster car. Something about the death arouses Evans' suspicion, so he investigates further and finds more questionable accidents, all of which could have been caused by the same person.
Worth reading 3.5*
The Dead Ringer by Fredric Brown
This is the sequel to brown's Edgar Award winning The Fabulous Clipjoint and, while not as good a mystery, is well-written and features the same likeable main characters, Ed and Am Hunter. The mystery is set in a carnival, where the young Ed is helping his uncle Am run a sideshow.
Worth reading 3.5*
A World to Build by David Kynaston
This is the first volume of Kynaston's Austerity Britain, covering the years 1945 to 1948. The Labour Party has been swept into power by a working class still recovering from the devastation of the Depression. Many soldiers will not be demobilised for another two years.
Kynaston's book makes clear the enormous gulf between the working and middle classes and the callous disregard for the sufferings of the unemployed during the Depression. That's what impressed me the most. There's a great deal about rationing, shortages and the Black Market; rationing became even more severe after the war as Britain increased exports to pay war loans.
Despite Kynaston's rather dreary writing style, this was fascinating history of the immediate post-war years.
Oh, no! I'm fascinated by how Americans made it through the Great Depression and can't stop reading anything, fiction or non-fiction, on the subject. And now you remind me that the rest of the world was involved. I will never finish all the books there are to read!
RidgewayGirl, you have me thinking now about Australian fiction set during the depression.
Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński
Today's paper reports that in Bahrain 22 medical staff have been jailed for up to fifteen years for treating Shiite protesters injured during an uprising against the Sunni government. In Shah of Shah's Kapuściński explains why the Shiiites are always in opposition, tracing the their history back hundreds of years to the schism with the Sunnis.
Kapuściński spent many months in Iran, in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. He interviews men tortured by the Shah's police and builds up a shocking picture of life under a cruel and oppressive tyrant. He tries to piece together the reasons for the revolution: how did men and women, who had suffered in fear for decades, find the courage to overthrow the Shah?
Highly recommended 4* (I've deducted half a star for what seems like a clunky translation.)
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Jason Taylor is thirteen. His parents argue, he's beset by bullies, he writes poetry, and he stutters. Black Swan Green chronicles a year of Jason's life in the village of Black Swan green.
I didn't get too caught up in Jason's dilemmas and thought it was all a bit trivial, but the book was quite readable. 3.5*
Got one for you, Ridgewaygirl. The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland.
During the Depression, unemployed men took to the roads looking for work. They carried swags, their belongings rolled up in a blanket, so were called swaggies, or swagmen. Niland travelled with his father, and used these experiences in The Shiralee, the story of a man trudging the roads with his little daughter, Buster.
The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull
Edward is a fat, effeminate, self-absorbed loafer. He lives with his domineering aunt, who gives Edward an allowance only while he stays with her. When the aunt plays a nasty trick on Edward, he decides to murder her in a way that will look like an accident.
This comic, thirties crime novel was well-written and amusing, but the characters were so nasty that I kept putting the book aside.
This is an ebook from the Langtail Press, available cheaply on Amazon.
The Four Faces by William Le Queux
This free ebook is from ManyBooks.
With the help of a schoolboy, a detective and a friend, Michael Berrington tries to bring to justice a gang of murderous international jewel thieves. This is an entertainingly ludicrous mystery: the detective is a master of disguise who can fool even best friends and relatives; the schoolboy breaks complex cyphers; the criminals hypnotise their victims; the hero is threatened by a cobra, shot at and imprisoned, and frequently awakes from unconsciousness not knowing where he is.
Great Black Kanba by Constance and Gwenyth Little
The best thing about this forties mystery is the Australian setting. A young American woman is on her way to Perth by train, accompanied by a family who may or may not be related to her. A suitcase fell on her head and she has amnesia! A light and amusing read. There's not much plot, but plenty of entertainingly antiquated Australian slang, cups of tea, and interstate rivalry with Victorians as the butt the joke.
No Tears for Hilda by Andrew Garve
Hilda Lambert is found dead, with her head in the oven and the house full of gas. Her husband George is accused of the crime, and the evidence looks damning. Max Eastman, an army comrade of George's, sets out to find the real murderer. The more he finds out about Hilda, the more loathsome she seems, a woman born to be murdered. She doesn't do any housework, and she feeds her husband tinned soup! It's 1950!
A Banner for Pegasus by John Bonett
This fifties mystery comes highly recommended by Barzun and Taylor. A film crew has descended on a little English village to film the story of a local saint.
Entertaining, well-written cosy. 4*
Sing Me a Murder by Helen Nielsen
I've been looking for this book for a while, hoping that it might be a lost noir classic, but I was disappointed. The drunken playwright, Ty Leander, has lost his wife in a fire, hasn't he? He wants to die, doesn't he? The plot twists frantically:167 pages are just not enough for its ludicrous convolutions. The characters are uniformly unpleasant.
It's a shame when the hopes for a book outweigh the actual experience of reading it.
The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop by Gladys Mitchell
A pedestrian effort from The Great Gladys. It's one of her earliest, so perhaps she hadn't yet hit her stride.
A headless, dismembered body is found in a butcher's shop. The cackling, saurian Mrs Bradley investigates. Breezy and silly.
The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki
The second world war looms, but the Makioka sisters are concerned with social obligations, family ceremonies and marrying off the two youngest sisters, Yukiko and Taeko.
A wonderful book, full of the minutae of life in a middle-class family in the Japan of the thirties.
Highly recommended 5*
@ 64 -- That sounds really interesting! Adding to the TBR list...
The Cabinda Affair by Matthew Head
Hooper Taliaferro is a US government employee in the Belgian Congo. His job is to accompany a newly arrived American lawyer to the tiny country of Cabinda to verify the delivery of load of mahogany. There's something very suspect about the arrangemen, and in Cabinda someone ends up dead.
Excellent mystery with an authentic, Graham Greenish atmosphere of heat, torpor and decay. Hopper is a delightful character, as are his fellow detectives, the irascible Doctor Mary finney and her vague, gentle missionary companion, Emily Collins. The book was first published in 1949.
Highly recommended 4.5*
Another trip back to the forties for Death of a Swagman by Arthur Upfield.
Napoleon Bonaparte, the half-aboriginal detective inspector, is called in to the little town of Merino to investigate the death of a stockman. Merino is near Mildura, on the Victorian side of the Murray River. Upfield's plots are often silly, as is this one, but his depiction of the outback is first rate. You can feel yourself breathing in the dust.
Not bad. 3.5*
The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
Shy, diffident Muriel Hammond tries to meet the expectations of her social climbing mother, but marriage eludes her. She is trapped in the stultifying existence of a young middle-class woman at home, helping her mother.
Muriel is such a drip! I had no sympathy for her, but fortunately she managed to pull herself together before it was too late.
This is a Virago Modern Classic, first published in 1924.
One by David Karp.
Dystopian fiction from the fifties.
The new state enforces happiness and conformity. Individualism is heresy as Burden, an academic, finds out when the state calls him in for an interview.
The blurb says it's a "brilliant piece of prophetic writing", which is overstating things a bit, but back in the fifties the McCarthy witch hunts were going on, so it may have been a brave book in its day.
Worth a read, even now. 3.5*
The Wyndham Case by Jill Paton Walsh
Ho-hum cosy crime, set in a Cambridge college.
Family Sayings by Natalia Ginzburg
Ginzburg's parents were anti-fascists in the Italy of the thirties. During WWII, Ginzburg and her children survived, but her activist husband did not. A fascinating look at a terrible time, from someone who lived through it.
Highly recommended 4.5*
Esprit de Corps by Lawrence Durrell
Diplomatic life in Belgrade in the fifties. Appallingly patronising towards the Serbs, and very funny.
Too short. 4*
After Midnight by Irmgard Keun
Keun was living in Germany in 1936, the time and place of this book. Hitler is already in power, and noone can be trusted. Where Han's Fallada's Alone in Berlin is set amongst working class people, Keun's characters are liberals and intellectuals. Her touch is much lighter than Fallada's.
Well worth reading. 4.5*
Unholy Dying by R. T. Campbell
First published in 1945, this is the first book in a series starring the amateur detective, Professor John Stubbs.
The eccentric Stubbs has Far Too Much Personality, in the tradition of Beatrice Lestrange Bradley and Henry Merrivale. A tiresome character indeed!
A Stranger is Watching by Mary Higgins Clark
A competent suspense novel, let down by a ludicrously tidy ending. I've given the book an extra half star for its strongly anti death penalty stance.
This year my plan is to read fewer books, and to enjoy some long, worthy, demanding books. I can't do a stepped challenge - would have to keep filling those twelve categories at a cracking pace - so am having a break from categories this year. I've started up a thread at Club Read.
Happy reading everyone.
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