Mystery archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: Mystery


7th July, 2008
Speed reviews: part I
— Love @ 08:43 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Book Blowout, C, Classics, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, History, Lifestyle, Mystery, Religion, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex, sexuality & gender, Speed reviews, Swedish, To Be Read, Young Adult

Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.

The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235 British
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
C

Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253 British
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
B

Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410 British
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
C

Med uppenbar känsla för stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128 Swedish
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
C

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230 British
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
C

Ingen behöver veta; Christina Wahldén, swe, 139 Swedish
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
C

Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217 Swedish
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
B

Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335 British
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
C

Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255 British
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
C

Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256 British
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
C

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255 British
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
C

Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228 Swedish
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
C

Vadå feminist; Lisa Gålmark, swe, 188 Swedish
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
D

Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia Strömberg, swe, 312 Swedish
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
C

*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.


22nd May, 2008
Strong Poison; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 11:48 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Historical, Mystery

Strong Poison; Dorothy L Sayers Strong Poison
by Dorothy L Sayers
British
English
261 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104350-5

First line:There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

Back cover blurb:
Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancé died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman’s noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent—as determined as he was to make her his wife.

Thoughts: The back cover blurb lies. Harriet Vane was never engaged to the murder victim in this novel, and that’s the truth. I’m just sayin’.

This, then, is the story where Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane first meet. And it’s brilliant. Not as fantastically brilliant as Murder Must Advertise, Unnatural Death or Whose Body, but still loads better than a lot of things out there.

Here’s a few quotes from Wimsey’s first meeting with Harriet Vane, in which he’s just proposed to her:

“I wish you wouldn’t sound as if you thought it was rather funny. I know I’ve got a silly face, but I can’t help that. As a matter of fact, I’d like somebody I could talk sensibly to, who would make life interesting. And I could give you a lot of plots for your books, if that’s any inducement.”
“But you wouldn’t want a wife who wrote books, would you?”
“But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people. Though of course, clothes and people are all right too, in moderation. I don’t mean to say I object to clothes.”

“People have been wrongly condemned before now.”
“Exactly; simply because I wasn’t there.”
“I never thought of that.”
“Think of it now. You will find it very beautiful and inspiring. It might even help to distinguish me from the other forty-six, if you should happen to mislay my features, or anything. Oh, by the way—I don’t positively repel you or anything like that, do I? Because, if I do, I’ll take my name off the waiting-list at once.”
“No,” said Harriet Vane, kindly and a little sadly. “No, you don’t repel me.”
“I don’t remind you of white slugs or make you go gooseflesh all over?”

“[…] It’s my hobby. Not proposing to people, I don’t mean, but investigating things.

Because this is not the best Wimsey-book, I don’t want to give it an A rating, but since it’s still brilliant and all, a B is a must.


6th May, 2008
Hästen från Porten; Carina Burman
— Love @ 15:40 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery, Swedish

Hästen från Porten; Carina Burman Hästen från Porten
by Carina Burman
Swedish

Swedish
354 pages
Albert Bonniers Förlag
ISBN: 978-91-0-011729-0

First line: För andra gången kom jag till Philadelphia.

Back cover blurb:
Han hette Djinn. Åtminstone var det så hon kallade honom, succéförfattarinnan Euthanasia Bondeson, när de möttes i den syriska öknen.
Det fanns varken lugn eller inspiration där i hettan, där sanden letade sig in överallt och städerna mest bestod av ruiner. Återigen måste Euthanasia Bondeson utreda ett försvinnande. Sökandet leder henne till den myllrande storstaden Konstantinopel, på gränsen mellan väst och öst.
I ökensol och bland mörka gränder möter Euthanasia mystiska resenärer, tvetydiga poliser och tillmötesgående haremsdamer. Det är mars 1853, och den nyfikna författarinnans svärmeri för antiken måste stå tillbaka för den alltmer påträngande politiken. Under andningspauserna mellan överfall och utredningar gör hon även förvånande fynd inom erotiken—men ingenting förbryllar så som Djinn, den vackraste arabhästen av dem alla.

Very short synopsis in English: Euthanasia Bondeson, amateur detective and writer of fiction, has left Europe for the Middle East. In the Syrian desert, she meets Djinn, the most gorgeous of horses, who soon thereafter disappears. Stolen, as far as anyone can tell, but why and by whom? Miss Bondeson’s investigations take her back to the border between East and West, to Constantinople, where she suddenly finds herself involved in political intrigue.

Thoughts: I’ve been waiting for this book. I would’ve got it the second it was published, if I hadn’t made that month one of the two of my embargo on book buying. The moment the embargo was lifted, however, I made it down to the bookshop to procure it. Of course, they didn’t have it in, so I had them place a special order and the week after I popped ’round to pick it up (at a discounted price, I might add).

I then proceeded to read it in one sitting. Now, it’s not as good as my favourite in the series (Babylons gator, now out in English as The Streets of Babylon, which is set in London, 1853 and has molly houses and all sorts of other good stuff), but it’s still more than just okay. An old favourite of mine, from the first book, is back, which was nice, and even though this installment is not quite as queer as the previous two, it still has its moments.

Now, I’m not sure if it was intentional, or if it’s just my mind going places it shouldn’t, but I get disturbing “sailor and his goat”-vibes à la Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander from a certain character. Probably it’s just my mind. I certainly hope so. (Talk about omnisexual, though.)

What else? There is a wonderful moment of not-so-subtle mocking of Jan Guillou’s Arn books (which I don’t ever plan on reading—yuck!) that had me laughing out loud.

To conclude: yes, good book! (a B rating, methinks), but not quite queer enough (though certainly queerer than I was lead to expect by other reviews) and if the author ever finds out about my sailor and his goat”-vibes, I shall be most cross. I’m just sayin’.


12th March, 2008
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 19:18 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Historical, Mystery

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Dorothy L Sayers The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

English
243 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104354-3

First line: “What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this morgue?” demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the ‘Evening Banner’ with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.”

Back cover blurb:
Ninety-year-old General Fentiman was definitely dead, but no one knew exactly when he had died—and the time of death was the determining factor in a half-million-pound inheritance. Lord Peter Wimsey would need every bit of his amazing skills to unravel the mysteries of why the General’s lapel was without a red poppy on Armistice Day, how the club’s telephone was fixed without a repairman, and, most puzzling of all, why the great man’s knee swung freely when the rest of him was stiff with rigor mortis.

Thoughts: While not a bad book in any way, this is still not one of the best Wimsey novels there are. I would say more, except that I am writing this to catch up with my reviews and I’ve still got a few more to go and am quite tired already. So brief I shall be!

What I can say is that Mr. Murbles, Wimsey’s solicitor friend, is quite an amusing character:

“Bless my soul,” said Mr. Murbles. “Let us go at once. Really, this is most exciting. That is, I am profoundly grieved. I hope it is not as you say.”

So yes, my lack of proper review concludes with a B rating.


10th March, 2008
Unnatural Death; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 20:55 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, English, Historical, Mystery

Unnatural Death; Dorothy L Sayers Unnatural Death
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
280 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104358-1

First line: “But if he thought the woman was being murdered—“

Back cover blurb:
The wealthy old woman was dead—a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of amour—staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Thoughts: I realise this might not sound like much of a book, if judged by its back cover blurb, but I have come to the conclusion that, apart from Murder Must Advertise, this is my favourite Wimsey mystery.

I am in the habit of keeping a pad of transparent Post-It notes in different colours by my side whenever I’m reading a book, so that whenever I come across a paragraph (or just a sentence) that I really like, and might want to quote in a later review, I can stick one on the page for easy access later. I average somewhere between five and ten notes in a really good book and less if it’s not all that special. After I turned the last page of Unnatural Death, I went back and counted all the Post-Its I’d stuck in it. There were twenty-three of them. Suffice to say, there was a lot to like about it!

One thing that holds true to the entire series of Sayers’s mysteries, not just this installment, is that the resolutions, and the process of getting there, relies so much on forensic evidence. I’ll grant you that I haven’t read a terrible lot of mystery from this era of late (apart from Sayers, I’ve mainly read Christie, Marsh and Quentin Patrick, and those were mostly a while ago), but I have the definite impression that they don’t generally deal with forensic evidence (finger printing, shoe prints, fibers &c) in at all the same manner. This is most certainly a point in favour of Sayers, at least in my way of thinking, and probably a big reason why I like her novels so much.

Another reason, of course, is her characters. In this book, we meet not only Lord Peter Wimsey himself, but also Detective-Inspector Charles Parker, Miss Alexandra Katherine Climpson, and others.

Miss Climpson is quite the character and any part of the story she’s involved in is invariably a hoot to read, her letter-writing especially.

“[…] WELL!!! The AUNT of these two girls came to pay a visit to Mrs. Budge’s girl this afternoon, and was introduced to me—of course, as boarder at Mrs. Budge’s I am naturally an object of local interest—and, bearing your instructions in mind, I encourage this to an extent I should not otherwise do!!
“It appears that this aunt was well acquainted with a former housekeeper of Miss Dawson’s—before the time of the Gotobed girls, I mean. The aunt is a highly respectable person of FORBIDDING ASPECT!—with a bonnet(!), and to my mind, a most disagreeable CENSORIOUS woman.”

“‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.’ Dear me! I wonder if it’s uncharitable to compare a fellow-being to Satan? Only in poetry of course—I dare say that makes it not so bad.”

There is a strong under-current of a lesbian love story. It’s never spoken aloud, but you’d be silly not to read it between the lines at all. Actually, there are two stories of this kind within the novel. One with a happy outcome, one with a disastrous end.

“‘Betty,’ she said, ‘I mean to be an old maid so does Miss Clara, and we’re going to live together and be ever so happy, without any stupid, tiresome gentlemen.'”

And so they did, and it was adorable, even if all we hear of it is in the recollections of the people who were around them.

Then of course there’s my darling Parker. My favourite will always be Wimsey, but Parker holds a special place in my heart as well.

Parker was one of those methodical, painstaking people whom the world could so ill spare. When he worked with Wimsey on a case, it was an understood thing that anything lengthy, intricate, tedious and soul-destroying was done by Parker. He sometimes felt that it was irritating of Wimsey to take this so much for granted.

The best thing about Parker is not him alone, though—it is how Wimsey and he address each other and act around one another.

“[…] Why this interest all of a sudden? You snub me in my bed, but you woo me in my bath. It sounds like a music-hall song of the less refined sort. Why, oh why?”

“It’s starting to rain,” observed Parker, conversationally.
“Look here, Charles, if you’re going to bear up cheerfully and be the life and soul of the expedition, say so and have done with it. I’ve got a good, heavy spanner handy under the seat, and Bunter can help to bury the body.”
“I think this must be Brushwood Cross,” resumed Parker, who had the map on his knee. “If so, and if it’s not Covert Corner, which I thought we passed half an hour ago, one of these roads leads directly to Crofton.”
“That would be highly encouraging if we only knew which road we were on.”
“We can always try them in turn, and come back if we find we’re going wrong.”
“They bury suicides at cross-roads,” replied Wimsey, dangerously.

“Bear up, doctor,” said Parker, “he’s always like this when he gets an idea. It wears off in time.”

Mind you, Wimsey on his own is not bad either.

“It’s quite all right,” he said apologetically, “I haven’t come to sell you soap or gramophones, or to borrow money, or enrol you in the Ancient Froth-blowers or anything charitable. I really am Lord Peter Wimsey—I mean, that really is my title, don’t you know, not a Christian name like Sanger’s Circus or Earl Derr Biggers. I’ve come to ask you some questions, and I’ve no real excuse, I’m afraid, for butting in on you—do you ever read the News of the World?”
Nurse Philliter decided that she was to be asked to go to a mental case, and that the patient had come to fetch her in person.

I would be fool indeed to quote you all of my favourite passages, but if you thought you’d be able to get away without a single one, well—more fool you! Just be glad I exercised at least some level of restraint (little though it was—I fear this review is even more fragmented and scatter-brained than is my usual habit).

I don’t think I really need to say it, as it should be pretty obvious by now, but Unnatural Death receives an A.

And that’s that for now.


15th February, 2008
Murder Must Advertise; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 13:26 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, Decades '08, English, Historical, Mystery

Murder Must Advertise; Dorothy L Sayers Murder Must Advertise
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1933).

English
356 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104355-0

First line: “And by the way,” said Mr. Hankin, arresting Miss Rossiter as she rose to go, “there is a new copy-writer coming in today.”

Back cover blurb:
When ad man Victor Dean falls down the stairs in the offices of Pym’s Publicity, a respectable London advertising agency, it looks like an accident. Then Lord Peter Wimsey is called in, and he soon discovers there’s more to copywriting than meets the eye. A bit of cocaine, a hint of blackmail, and some wanton women can be read between the lines. And then there is the brutal succession of murders—five of them—each one a fixed fee for advertising a deadly secret.

Thoughts: I think I might have mentioned it before, but just in case I haven’t, I feel I should state, for the record, that Murder Must Advertise is my favourite Wimsey book. It is also the first Wimsey book I ever read and the one I’ve read the most times. This was the first opportunity I had to read it in English, though, so it was a little bit like coming to it for the first time.

Wimsey is, as always, simply marvellous, and Parker still deserves his spot as my second favourite. Bunter, due to the nature of the story, does not make many appearances (if any at all. I’m afraid my memory’s a bit like a sieve), which is a bit of a pity, as I like him quite a bit as well and his and Wimsey’s working relationship is always a pleasure to read about.

Add to that the insight you get into the world of advertising (I believe Sayers herself worked in advertising at one point). It’s true that it’s the world of advertising in the 1930s, and if anything, things are probably even crazier these days, but there are a few passages in the book where Wimsey ponders the effects of advertising on people, and I think the questions he poses are still well worth asking.

Where, Bredon asked himself, did the money come from that was to be spent so variously and so lavishly? If this hell’s-dance of spending and saving were to stop for a moment, what would happen? If all the advertising in the world were to shut down tomorrow, would people still go on buying more soap, eating more apples, giving their children more vitamins, roughage, milk, olive oil, scooters and laxatives, learning more languages by gramophone, hearing more virtuosos by radio, re-decorating their houses, refreshing themselves with more non-alcoholic thirst-quenchers, cooking more new, appetizing dishes, affording themselves that little extra touch which means so much? Or would the whole desperate whirligig slow down, and the exhausted public relapse upon plain grub and elbow-grease?

I especially love the last two paragraphs of the book. They don’t at all deal with the story, so I could technically quote them here without terribly spoiling anyone, but I’m not going to. You will have to read the book yourselves (or at least look at the last page), to understand what I’m talking about. Perhaps you won’t even like them, but I do. A lot.

Instead, I shall proceed to quote a few other passages of the book. There is one in particular that I wish I could quote, because I laughed out loud at it, but unfortunately it isn’t funny unless you’ve read certain other bits of the story, so I won’t bother about it after all.

“And if I were you,” continued Garrett, “I wouldn’t mention Dean to Willis at all. There’s some kind of feeling—I don’t know quite what. Anyway, just thought I’d warn you.”
Bredon thanked him with an almost passionate gratitude.
“It’s so easy to put your foot in it in a new place, isn’t it? I’m really most frightfully obliged to you.”
Clearly Mr. Bredon was a man of no sensibility, for half an hour later he was in Willis’s room, and had introduced the subject of the late Victor Dean.

“You look as though you’d been shining up a pipe.”
“Well, I did shin down a pipe. Only one pipe—rather a nice pipe. It took my fancy.”

“Your narrative style,” said Parker, “though racy, is a little elliptical. Could you not begin at the beginning and go until you come to the end, and then, if you are able to, stop?”

To end this so-called review, I had better give the novel its rating. If you were expecting anything other than an A, I am afraid you are much mistaken, as an A it is. And if I know you well and you have not yet read this book, then you can rest assured that I will attempt to make you read it, if it’s the last thing I do. So there.


10th February, 2008
Clouds of Witness; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 11:54 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Historical, Mystery

Clouds of Witness; Dorothy L Sayers Clouds of Witness
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
279 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104353-6

First line: Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hôtel Meurice.

Back cover blurb:
Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt—until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket, and was Lord Peter’s brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey’s own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn’t enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be—a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt… a grieving fiancée with suitcase in hand… and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

Thoughts: There’s nothing quite like a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery to remove the bad taste of an exceedingly poor read such as Elyot’s By a Lady. If you then discover that the Wimsey novel you thought you’d read before was not, in fact, a re-read at all, you are quite happily surprised.

In other words, I thought I’d read this book before, but I hadn’t, which pleased me exceedingly, as it meant that I had undiscovered Lord Peter ahead of me!

I’m still utterly in love with the man, of course. Clouds of Witness isn’t exactly my favourite Wimsey novel, but it’s by no means bad at all and, as usual, provided me with quite an abundance of nice quotes. I shall only post the one, however.

“[…] I’ve lost him altogether.”
“It’s all right—I’ve got him. He’s tripped over a root.”
“Serve him glad,” said Lord Peter viciously, straightening his back. “I say, I don’t think the human frame is very thoughtfully constructed for this sleuth-hound business. If one could go on all-fours, or had eyes in one’s knees, it would be a lot more practical.”
“There are many difficulties inherent in a teleological view of creation,” said Parker placidly.

As for the rating, I think a B is in order. It’s a good read, great even, but like I said, not an absolute favourite.


26th January, 2008
Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 23:08 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Decades '08, English, First in a Series, Historical, Mystery

Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers Whose Body?
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1923), First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
212 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104357-4

First line: “Oh damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Back cover blurb:
The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Thoughts: It would appear that I have gone and done it again. Read a book I was certain was a re-read, only to find that it wasn’t, I mean. I was utterly convinced that Whose Body? was a re-read, and thus felt a little bit of a cheat for including it in so many challenges, but I couldn’t in fact remember a thing from it. Now, I know that if I did read it before, it was upwards of seven or eight years ago, but I still refuse to believe I would have no recollection of it at all. After all, Lord Peter Wimsey is not the sort of man you forget just like that.

If it sounds as though I’m complaining, rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth! I am utterly, utterly pleased to find that there was more Lord Peter for me to discover. It is not exactly a treat you are given every day.

My copy of the book (a handy paperback that’s been lugged around everywhere with me this week, as I have had very little time to actually sit down and read, but have been determined to sit down and read all the same, wherever and whenever that might have been) is full of little blue post-it notes sticking out where there are passages I liked especially much (mostly funny and/or snarky ones). I don’t usually quote the actual books in my reviews (apart from the first line, obviously), but I figured I would make an exception for Lord Peter and post a few things I adored (I will attempt to make all of them non-spoilery, so not all my favourites are included. In fact, most aren’t).

“[…] if I sacked you on top of drinking the kind of coffee you make, I’d deserve everything you could say of me. You’re a demon for coffee, Bunter — I don’t want to know how you do it, because I believe it to be witchcraft, and I don’t want to burn eternally.”

“[…] That’s all,” said Parker abruptly, with a wave of the hand.
“It isn’t all, it isn’t all. Daddy, go on, that’s not half a story,” pleaded Lord Peter.

“Never mind,” said Parker, soothingly, “he’s always like that. It’s premature senile decay, often observed in the families of hereditary legislators. Go away, Wimsey, and play us the ‘Beggar’s Opera’, or something.”

Quite obviously, my favourite character is Lord Peter Wimsey himself, mostly because he is magnificently snarky and simply wonderful, but there are other marvellous characters in these books as well. Parker, who is a police detective and a friend of Wimsey’s, and the Dowager Duchess of Denver, who is Wimsey’s mother and quite funny (though usually not intentionally so), are just two of them. I also have to mention Bunter, Wimsey’s man, because what sort of person would I be if I didn’t? The Wimsey books would be nothing without him, as he is Wimsey’s assistant in pretty much everything that he does.

But I ramble, and it’s getting late, so I’ll end this review (if it can even be called that. I’m not entirely sure anything I write in this blog properly could be) with an A rating. It was an exceedingly nice surprise to find that I hadn’t read the book before, the mystery I thought was a good one (though I hardly dwelt on that in the review) and the characters even better.


7th January, 2008
Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas
— Love @ 19:56 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Back to History, English, Historical, Mystery

Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas Some Danger Involved
by Will Thomas
American

For the Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
302 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-5619-3

First line: If someone had told me, those many years ago, that I would spend the bulk of my life as assistant and eventual partner to one of the most eminent detectives in London, I would have thought him a raving lunatic.

Back cover blurb:
An atmospheric debut novel set on the gritty streets of Victorian London, Some Danger Involved introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar in London’s Jewish ghetto. When the eccentric and enigmatic Barker takes the case, he must hire an assistant, and out of all who answer an ad for a position with “some danger involved,” he chooses downtrodden Llewelyn, a gutsy young man with a murky past.
As they inch ever closer to the shocking truth behind the murder, Llewelyn is drawn deeper and deeper into Barker’s peculiar world of vigilante detective work, as well as the heart of London’s teeming underworld.

Thoughts: Sometimes, when you read the first line of a book, you just know that you’re going to end up loving the whole book. This one had one of those and I was not disappointed in the least. It reads very much like a classic Holmes-type detective story, but is in fact written just a few years ago.

And oh, Victorian London! It’s one of my favourite settings for books, I have to admit. All that grime and slum and, well, everything about it — I adore it. As for the story line itself, it was pretty good. It wasn’t obvious whodunnit, but there were a couple of clues that you could’ve picked up on (unless you’re as dense as me, of course), which is nice. I don’t like mysteries where the solution is too obvious, but neither do I like when it’s so surprising you still can’t see the clues even when you know the answer.

This was the first in a series and although I like it, I’m not sure I’ll read the following books. At least I’m not absolutely dying to.

For the moment, rest assured that the B grade I’m giving it is very well-deserved.


30th December, 2007
Lord John and the Hand of Devils; Diana Gabaldon
— Love @ 20:07 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery, Personal challenges

Lord John and the Hand of Devils; Diana Gabaldon Lord John and the Hand of Devils
by Diana Gabaldon
American

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

English
317 pages
Century
ISBN: 978-0-7126-8065-3

First line: Lord John Grey jerked his eyes away from the door.

Back cover blurb:
Diana Gabaldon, the New York Times bestselling author of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, delivers three tales of war, intrigue and espionage featuring the unforgettable Lord John Grey. In the heart of the eighteenth century, Lord John’s world is one of mystery and menace; where allies have the power to destroy him with a single blow. As he ventures into an ominous unknown, his companions are haunted soldiers, sinister family secrets and lingering memories of a fiery-haired Scot named James Fraser.

In The Hellfire Club, Lord John is drawn by an attractive stranger in the doorway of a gentlemen’s club, where he witnesses the shocking murder of a young diplomat. Vowing to avenge the death, he is lead into a maze of political treachery and a debauched underground society, the notorious Hellfire Club.

In The Succubus, Grey’s assignment to a regiment in Germany finds him caught between two threats: the advancing French and Austrian armies and the menace of a mysterious ‘night-hag’ who spreads fear and death among the troops.

In The Haunted Soldier, Lord John is called to testify in the case of an exploding battlefield cannon and is forced to confront his own ghosts. Knee-deep in a morass of gunpowder, treason and plot, he is haunted by a dead lieutenant and followed by a man with no face.

Thoughts: Lord John is back! And he’s still the Lord John I’ve come to love. Poor, poor man, though—he never seems to get a moments peace. Still, I suppose that is one of the things that makes me like the stories about him, because they are filled of adventure and mystery and other fantastic things. Mind you, I still am not fawning over Gabaldon’s writing. Her language isn’t fantastic, but she does get her point across and, of course, her characters are marvellous people, which is what’s made me stick around for so long.

One of the stories in this volume, I’d read before (it’s included in one of my two copies of Lord John and the Private Matter and, to be honest, the reason I have two copies of that book in the first place), but the two others were new to me, and I quite enjoyed them all.

This volume receives a B rating and it’s a well-deserved one.

Apparently, there is another Lord John novel in the works and you won’t hear me complaining about it! (Well, that is to say, unless I make a remark or two that it’s taking a little long…)


9th November, 2007
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade; Diana Gabaldon
— Love @ 23:21 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade; Diana Gabaldon Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
by Diana Gabaldon
American

English
504 pages
Century
ISBN: 978-1-844-13201-0

First line: To the best of Lord John Grey’s knowledge, stepmothers as depicted in fiction tended to be venal, evil, cunning, homicidal, and occasionally cannibalistic.

Back cover blurb:
It’s 1758 and Europe is in turmoil — the Seven Years War is taking hold and London is ripe with deceit. The enigmatic Lord John Grey, a nobleman and high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s Army, pursues a clandestine love affair and a deadly family secret.

Grey’s father, the Duke of Pardloe, shot himself just days before he was to be accused of being a Jacobite traitor. Now, seventeen years on, the family name has been redeemed; but an impending marriage revives the scandal. Lord John knows that as Whitehall whispers, rumours all too often lead their victims to the wails of Newgate prison — and to the gallows.

From barracks and parade grounds to the bloody battlefields of Prussia, Grey faces danger and forbidden passions in his search for the truth. But it is in the stony fells of the Lake District that he finds the man who may hold the key to his quest: the enigmatic Jacobite prisoner Jamie Fraser.

Eighteenth-century Europe is brought startlingly to life in this compelling adventure mystery.

Thoughts: I’m not sure if I actually like Diana Gabaldon’s writing or not. I like some of her characters exceedingly well, but the writing itself? It’s so hard to decide, and so hard, sometimes, to separate the two. Either way, Lord John is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters and I was very pleased to have him back.

Poor man, though; Gabaldon treats him abominably ill throughout the course of the book. He does get a few happy moments in the middle somewhere, but there aren’t many of them. I know I can be an angst whore, but sometimes enough is just enough. And I wish the sex scenes were more appealingly written.

All in all, this gets a B. I’ll most likely go back for a re-read later on. It is Lord John we’re talking about here, after all!