danger (n.) mid-13th c., daunger, “arrogance, insolence;” c. 1300, “power of a lord or master, jurisdiction,” from Anglo-French daunger, Old French dangier “power, power to harm, mastery, authority, control” (12th c., Modern French danger), alteration (due to association with damnum) of dongier, from Vulgar Latin *dominarium “power of a lord,” from Latin dominus “lord, master,” from domus “house” (from PIE root *dem- “house, household”).
Modern sense of “risk, peril, exposure to injury, loss, pain, etc.” (from being in the control of someone or something else) evolved first in French and was in English by late 14th c. For this, Old English had pleoh; in early Middle English this sense is found in peril. For sound changes, compare dungeon, which is from the same source. (etymonline)
peril (n.) “danger, risk, hazard, jeopardy, exposure of person or property to injury, loss, or destruction,” c. 1200, from Old French peril “danger, risk” (10th c.), from Latin periculum “an attempt, trial, experiment; risk, danger,” with instrumentive suffix –culum and first element from PIE *peri-tlo-, suffixed form of root *per- (3) “to try, risk.” (etymonline)
alarm (n.) late 14th c., “a call to arms in the face of danger or an enemy,” from Old French alarme (14th c.), from Italian all’arme “to arms!” (literally “to the arms”); this is a contraction of phrase alle arme.
Alle is itself a contraction of a “to” (from Latin ad; see ad-) + le, from Latin illas, fem. accusative plural of ille “the” (see le); with arme, from Latin arma “weapons” (including armor), literally “tools, implements (of war),” from PIE root *ar- “to fit together.”
The interjection came to be used as the word for the call or warning (compare alert). It was extended 16th c. to “any sound to warn of danger or to arouse,” and to the device that gives it. From mid-15th c. as “a state of fearful surprise;” the weakened sense of “apprehension, unease” is from 1833. The variant alarum (mid-15th c.) is due to the rolling -r- in the vocalized form. Sometimes in early years it was Englished as all-arm. Alarm clock is attested from 1690s (as A Larum clock).
alarm (v.): 1580s, “call to arms for defense,” from alarm (n.) or from French alarmer (16c.), from the noun in French. The meaning “surprise with apprehension of danger” is from 1650s. Related: Alarmed; alarming. (etymonline)
warn (v.) Old English warnian “to give notice of impending danger,” also intransitive, “to take heed,” from Proto-Germanic *warōnan (source also of Old Norse varna “to admonish,” Old High German warnon “to take heed,” German warnen “to warn”), from PIE root *wer– (4) “to cover.” Related: Warned; warning. (etymonline)
safe (adj.) c. 1300, sauf, “unscathed, unhurt, uninjured; free from danger or molestation, in safety, secure; saved spiritually, redeemed, not damned;” from Old French sauf “protected, watched-over; assured of salvation,” from Latin salvus “uninjured, in good health, safe,” which is related to salus “good health,” saluber “healthful” (all from PIE *solwos from root *sol- “whole, well-kept”). For the phonological development of safe from sauf, OED compares gage from Old North French gauge.
From late 14th c. as “rescued, delivered; protected; left alive, unkilled.” The meaning “not exposed to danger” (of places, later of valuables) is attested from late 14th c.; in reference to actions, etc., the meaning “free from risk,” is recorded by 1580s. The sense of “sure, reliable, not a danger” is from c. 1600. The sense of “conservative, cautious” is from 1823. It has been paired alliteratively with sound (adj.) from c. 1300. In Middle English it also meant “in good health,” also “delivered from sin or damnation.” Related: Safeness.
safe (n.) “chest for keeping food or valuables” safe from risk of theft or fire, early 15c., save, from French en sauf “in safety,” from sauf (see safe (adj.)). Spelling with -f- is by 1680s, from influence of safe (adj.). (etymonline)
The second installment of the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series is fantastic! Set during Halloween and the trials and tribulations that plague a household with a five-year-old during said month of the perpetual sugar rush, Miriam finds herself juggling her on-air cooking show career with her mother-in-law’s demands upon her time. So when a body magically appears on her front lawn, amongst the fake plastic tombstones, our intrepid sleuth decides to sit this mystery out. Until…You’ll need to read the book to find out what happens next!
I enjoyed reading Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking very much. The food, the hook of this cozy, is written seamlessly into the story — adding to the narrative without detracting, distracting, or diverting one from the actual focus of the story — murder. (And if you enjoy this particular subgenre of mysteries, you understand how difficult this feat can be to achieve.) Above and beyond, watching Miriam making dishes I’ve not attempted before in her home kitchen (in my mind’s eye) makes them feel more accessible and far less daunting to attempt in my own kitchen.
(Don’t ask me why I find guava paste intimidating. I just do.)
Now, unlike Mangos, Mambo, and Murder, whose final pages succumbed slightly into the realm of saccharin (which one could ignore because the rest of the book was so splendid), Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking does not possess this flaw. Even featuring both Halloween and Thanksgiving between the pages, Reyes found an outstanding balance between the holidays and criminal intent.
However, because this is a review, I need to point out a minor flaw (again) in the final few pages. The penultimate summing up felt a tad muddled, in so far as untangling which crimes we could attribute to whom. Though, to be fair, I could’ve been so excited to find out whodunnit I skipped a few crucial deductions…But I don’t think so. That said, I think the slight tangling of plot threads has more to do with Reyes furthering an ongoing storyline from Mangos, Mambo, and Murder than anything else. And this minor flaw will in no way impede me from picking up this tome up for a reread in the near future or politely throwing money at my local bookseller when the next installment is published!
From the Office of Fair Warning: I do need to tell you that you do need to read Mangos, Mambo, and Murder before Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking as the latter narrative builds directly upon the bones of the former and gives away the solution to the first mystery in the second. Which, again, makes sense as background nefariousness is afoot in Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking that will hopefully burst into the foreground in Reyes’s next book!
I don’t have a review this month, but wait! Wait now. I have what I believe is a relatively good reason.
In a few days, I’m having a knee replaced. I know, right? I needed this back when the shop was going strong, but I’m very good at putting off things I don’t want to think about.
So anyway, Things have had to be done to make this work. Like, say, renovating the bathroom from tub to shower. Don’t you just love the paneling we found behind the tub wall?
But it was successful, and we’re quite pleased. However, much of my time during this process was keeping Mazikeen from freaking out every time the contractor walked through the door. You’d have thought he was a bunny or something.
Despite Mazkeen’s hyper-vigilance, we did get it done.
She does love protecting me. In fact, the other day while I was at the bathroom sink taking my multitude of pills, the heater kicked on, and she placed herself at my back, leaning against my calves, ready to take on whatever that new sound was – provided I’d guard her too. She really is a sweetheart.
But anyway, the shower now has bars and a chair, the toilet is all gussied up to make sitting there easier, and we’ve rearranged furniture to give me unobstructed access to the floors, since I’ll be walking a lot, I gather.
The weather is nice and cool down here in sunny New Mexico, and I think I’m going to enjoy my new knee during the upcoming holidays, although I’m using it as an excuse NOT to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. *huge grin*
Happy November, everyone, and remember not to eat all yesterday’s candy at once. Take your time. But don’t wait too long! Have you noticed that Christmas candy’s already on sale?
I hate to say I was disappointed in Joe Ide’s Marlowe novel but I simply kept groaning at what he was doing.
I suppose it isn’t that big a deal to bring Marlowe into today’s world but The Goodbye Coastchanges much about Marlowe’s life. First, he dropped out of the LAPD training after a very short time and became a PI. In Chandler’s books, he was an investigator for the DA before going private. That isn’t a huge deal. But then he saddles Marlowe with a father who is a cop but suspended due to drinking, never really recovering from the death of his wife. The family trauma/drama set off my soap opera alarms and they buzzed throughout the book.
But the worst part for me was describing characters by the actors or celebrities they resembled. I found that lazy. There is so much about today’s world in the book that there’s no way for it to age well, no way for it to become timeless, as Chandler’s have.
Ide is a good writer and he’s got a feel for similes. In that way, the sentences sparkle as Chandler’s did. He described a piece of fast-food orange chicken as looking like a burnt ear. OKAY! But the writing isn’t enough, to me, to save the novel from the weaknesses of how he’s presented the rest.
I was SO looking forward to reading this. The day I found out it existed I went out and bought it. Sorry I did. If you want to read it, wait for the paperback. But I hope other contemporary authors will continue to write new Marlowe novels. He’s too great a character to say goodbye to.
I believe Fran and I directed interested folks to John Connolly‘s 2020 on-line project called “The Strange Sisters”. In the midst of the first covid wave, it was to be a short story written and posted on-line in real time, that is as he wrote it daily, not once it had gone through the publishing mill. As interesting plan, he would create the story as he went, not knowing where it would go.
Now he’s released a new book called The Furies. It’s not a novel, but a volume with two “short novels”: a reworked “The Strange Sisters”, which he notes in an afterward is twice the length of the original; and “The Furies”, a new short novel.
Both are Parker stories, both full of the odd Maine characters we’ve come to know, as well as visitors. If you read “The Strange Sisters” on-line as we did, it’s worth reading this expanded version. And “The Furies” has Parker working to help two women who are at the end of their options. Both are a delight, even when dealing with otherworldly issues. Though Halloween has passed, don’t let that keep you from the on-going creepiness that is Charlie Parker’s world. You’ve got Louis and Angel to keep you safe…
opisthography (n.) “the practice of writing on the back of anything,” 1715, from Greek opisthographos “written on the back,” from graphos “writing” (from graphein“to write” (see -graphy) + opisthen “behind, from behind, at the back,” from opi, a variant of epi “on it, at it” (see epi-). (etymonline)
scrawl (v.) From the 1610s, “write or draw awkwardly and untidily,” a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from a specific use of Middle English scrawlen “spread out the limbs, sprawl” (early 15c.), which might be an alteration of sprawlen (see sprawl (v.)) or crawl (v.). Some sources suggest a contraction of scrabble. Related: Scrawled; scrawling.
The noun in the sense of “piece of unskilled or inelegant writing” is by 1690s, from the verb; the meaning “bad style of handwriting” is by 1710. (etymonline)
chirography (n.) “handwriting, the art of writing,” 1650s, from chiro– “the hand”+ –graphy “writing.” Chirograph “formal written legal document” is attested from late 13c. in Anglo-French, from Latin chirographum, from Greek kheirographia “written testimony.” Related: Chirographer; chirographic. (etymonline)
cacoethes (n.) “itch for doing something,” 1560s, from Latinized form of Greek kakoēthēs “ill-habit, wickedness, itch for doing (something),” from kakos “bad” (from PIE root *kakka- “to defecate”) + ēthē- “disposition, character” (see ethos). Most famously, in Juvenal’s insanabile scribendi cacoethes “incurable passion for writing.” (etymonline)
Ready to retire, four women (of a certain age) are treated to a boat cruise by their former employers as a reward for their exemplary service. A vacation which they enjoy right up until one of the group spots a former colleague on the same boat.
The only problem — Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie’s former job title: Assassin.
Deanna Rabourn’s tale is a rollercoaster ride of the first water! Blending together the librarians from Gunpowder Milkshake, the general premise of Burn Notice, and Lana’s origin story from Archer — you’ve now got an inkling of the wild ride between the covers of Killer’s of a Certain Age.
Seriously, I couldn’t put Killers of a Certain Age down.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who needs a fantastic, fast-paced read for the bath or a holiday. Seriously, I love how these women outwit, outmaneuver, and outshine their pursuers using experience their younger counterparts don’t yet possess…
Plus, it was just lovely to sit down for a few hours and read a book from cover to cover — especially when Raybourn penned such a satisfying ending!
Keep an open mind
I had just finished watching the series “Madam Secretary” when I picked up State of Terror. Now, if you were going to write a thriller involving the Secretary of State, and you wanted a fast-paced, well plotted book with intriguing characters, who would you have author it? Be fair, be honest, who knows their stuff?
Hillary Rodham Clinton knows the ins and outs of being Secretary of State. Whatever you may think of her, she knows her stuff.
Louise Penny has proved time and again that she can write a gripping novel filled with real people.
Together, they created State of Terror, and honestly, now is the time to read it.
I want to sit down and talk about this book with you face to face so you can see my enthusiasm. But it’s good that I can’t, because I’d give away spoilers. For our plot purposes here, let me just say that Ellen Adams was a harsh critic of now President Doug Williams during her media mogul days, so it was a huge surprise when he appointed her Secretary of State. Adams handed off her media empire to her daughter and accepted the position, where her first assignment failed miserably. Let’s just say this did not displease President Williams.
But when bus bombs happen in a couple of European cities, Adams and Williams have to work together to figure out where the next target is. One of Secretary Adams’ people in the Pakistan office gets a clue, and the race is on.
“The most amazing thing that has happened in my lifetime is neither putting a man on the moon nor Facebook having 2.8 billion monthly active users. It is that in the 75 years, 7 months, and 13 days since Nagasaki, a nuclear bomb has not been detonated.” – Tom Peters
The more I read this book, knowing HRC‘s insider knowledge of Washington politics and its back door dealings, combined with Louise Penny’s astonishing ability to put you right in the heart of the story, the more terrifying it became. And watching current news cycles both in the US and around the world, this book becomes more relevant every day. I had no idea.
Which is not to say it doesn’t have moments of levity. Some of the characters will jump right into your heart. Betsy Jameson, Secretary Adams’ good friend and counselor is one of them. She’s the “Mrs. Cleaver” below, because she looks so ordinary and friendly.
“Steve Kowalski, Ellen’s head of Diplomatic Security, a longtime veteran of the service, turned in the front seat to look at Mrs. Cleaver as she combined and conjugated words that should never, really, have conjugal relations. The ensuing progeny was both grotesque and hilarious, as she turned nouns into verbs, and verbs into something else entirely. It was a display of linguistic gymnastics the agent hadn’t thought possible. And he’d been a Marine.”
You’ll get chills, and it’s possible that your sleep will be disrupted by this novel – and remember, it is just a novel – and with good reason. The possibilities given here are far too plausible not to be considered, and when a power team like this presents it to you, you pay attention.
Also, it’s a great thriller! Trust me, you want to read State of Terror now.
I was thrilled to find that Rinker Buck had a new book coming out. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey was one of the best books I read when it came out in 2016. I’ve given away at least a half-dozen copies. In it he builds a canastoga wagon and set off, powered by three mules, across the Oregon Trail. It is an outstanding book, jammed with history and interesting tidbits, and I was ready for a new adventure.
Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventuremirrors that earlier book but this involves first building a flatboat – the sort first used to navigate the Father of Waters – and then float it from the start of the Ohio River and down to New Orleans. Nearly everyone he discusses this plan with tells him he’s going to die. They’re all quiet serious. Perhaps it is hubris, or his own native mule-headedness, but he plunges on. It’s a daunting plan but you know he survived ’cause you’re reading the book.
Along the way you accumulate a flowing history of how the commerce and settlement of the country was enhanced by European-Americans moving West and following the waters. Of course, the current river is nothing like the unfettered highway of 200 years ago – just as the Oregon Trail no longer exists as it was when first blazzed. Buck is aghast at the garbage and trash (it often was, he says sadly, a “floating junkyard”). “And the river has been so contained and shaped so as to stay within it’s bounds that is in no way as wild as it once once. That’s not to say it isn’t dangerous; big storms along any of the rivers that feed it can make it swell and churn, and the commercial traffic is astonishing. Then, too, there are the weekend fools.
Like the junk that float by, so too does the awful history of our country – Buck does not shy from explaining the ways the waters helped to decimate the natives that had ruled and helped to spread slavery further into the landscape. Truly, life on the Mississippi is both a grand tale of human progress corrupted because of the costs that it charges on all who used it.
All Haunting is Regret
Don’t worry if you start Hell and Back and can’t figure out what is going on. Neither can Walt. Craig Johnson puts all of us – readers and characters – in a place that defies explanation and populates it with people who can’t possibly there. In fact, there are so many people from Walt’s past that I stopped reading the new book and re-read the previously three and it helped. It is a book overflowing with mystery and mysticism. It is a book unlike any of the previous Longmires, yet is is easily experienced as another in a long line of Absaroka County stories that are unique and comforting. Because at the center is Walt Longmire and he is trustworthy to all.
“Words are important, no matter what the language – they are perhaps one of the most powerful things we have. Words can preserve life or invoke death and should be handled with the same care as any deadly weapon.” Those are Virgil’s words, but the truth is Craig’s.
So starts an entertaining and convoluted story of the hunt for a Soviet mole in the CIA. Scads of books have been written about this hunt, the suspects, the battles over which Russian turncoat to believe, and the destruction and devastation the hunt caused to US intelligence. Blum’s book follows the investigation of Tennent “Pete” Bagley, a retired American spook who lived through that destruction and suffered from it. The circumstances of the mystery sail boat brings him back to the hunt and it unfolds like a well crafted whodunnit. Clues, red herrings, and blind alleys abound and, along the way, you see the Cold War games of both sides of the spy landscape.
If you’re interested in American history, Cold War history, CIA history – or even if you don’t think you are – pick up the books. It’s a great mystery, but all true.
Next up: a book that was released in Feb. but that I just discovered near the end of Sept – Fran has been yelling at me for years to read Joe Ide. So far I haven’t but I will now. To my knowledge, this is the third book the Chandler estate has engaged current authors to pen a new Philip Marlowe novel. First, in 2014, there was Benjamin (John Banville) Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, a follow-up to The Long Goodbye. In 2018, Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osbourne was released. In that, Marlowe is 72 and living in Mexico.
It’s one thing to search for new books by a favorite author. I’m not sure how you search for new books about a favorite character!
Hard to believe that the time has flowed so quickly, but today marks five years since we locked the doors on the Seattle Mystery Bookshop as an operating business for the last time. Sure, there was lots of work left to do – counting the inventory, boxing it up, dismantling the shelves, the computers system, and packing it all out of the space – but Sept. 30, 2017 was the end of the road.
Seems as if there should be noirish terms to apply.
Amber, Fran and I would still get together for lunch now and then. But then Fran moved out of state, Amber moved out of town, and now we keep in touch electronically, as we do with you.
We miss one another, we miss being together, we miss being around books every day and knowing about what books to look forward to, and we miss talking about the books we love with readers looking for a new book to love.
But nothing good lasts forever and it was grand while it did.
school (n.): [place of instruction] Middle English scole, from Old English scol, “institution for instruction,” from Latin schola “meeting place for teachers and students, place of instruction;” also “learned conversation, debate; lecture; disciples of a teacher, body of followers, sect,” also in the older Greek sense of “intermission of work, leisure for learning.”
This is from Greek skholē “spare time, leisure, rest, ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed; learned discussion;” also “a place for lectures, school;” originally “a holding back, a keeping clear,” from skhein “to get” (from PIE root *segh- “to hold”) + -olē by analogy with bolē “a throw,” stolē “outfit,” etc.
The basic sense of the Greek word is “leisure,” which passed to “otiose discussion” (in Athens or Rome, the favorite or proper use of free time), then it came to be used for the place for such discussion.
The Latin word was widely borrowed (in addition to Old French escole, French école, Spanish escuela, Italian scuola; Old High German scuola, German Schule, Swedish skola, Gaelic sgiol, Welsh ysgol, Russian shkola).
The meaning “students attending a school” in English is attested from c. 1300; the sense of “school building” is by 1590s. Sense of “people united by a general similarity of principles and methods” is from 1610s; hence school of thought (by 1848). As an adjective by mid-18th C., “pertaining to or relating to a school or to education.”
School of hard knocks “rough experience in life” is by 1870; to tell tales out of school “betray damaging secrets” is from 1540s. School-bus is from 1908. School days is from 1590s. School board “local committee of education” is by 1836; school district “division of a town or city for the management of schools” is by 1809. (etymonline)
learn (v.): Old English leornian “to get knowledge, be cultivated; study, read, think about,” from Proto-Germanic *lisnojanan (cognates: Old Frisian lernia, Middle Dutch leeren, Dutch leren, Old High German lernen, German lernen “to learn,” Gothic lais “I know”), with a base sense of “to follow or find the track,” from PIE root *lois– “furrow, track.” It is related to German Gleis “track,” and to Old English læst “sole of the foot” (see last (n.1)).
From c. 1200 as “to hear of, ascertain.” Transitive use (He learned me (how) to read), now considered vulgar (except in reflexive expressions, I learn English), was acceptable from c. 1200 until early 19th C. It is preserved in past-participle adjective learned “having knowledge gained by study.” Old English also had læran “to teach” (see lere). (etymonline)
study (v.): Early 12th C., “to strive toward, devote oneself to, cultivate” (translating Latin occupatur), from Old French estudiier “to study, apply oneself, show zeal for; examine” (13th C., Modern French étudier), from Medieval Latin studiare, from Latin studium “study, application,” originally “eagerness,” from studere “to be diligent,” from PIE *(s)teu- (1) “to push, stick, knock, beat” (see steep (adj.)). The notion appears to be “pressing forward, thrusting toward,” hence “strive after.
From c. 1300 as “apply oneself to the acquisition of learning, pursue a formal course of study,” also “read a book or writings intently or meditatively.” From mid-14th C. as “reflect, muse, think, ponder.” Meaning “regard attentively” is from 1660s. (etymonline)
class (n.): c. 1600, “group of students,” in U.S. especially “number of pupils in a school or college of the same grade,” from French classe (14th C.), from Latin classis “a class, a division; army, fleet,” especially “any one of the six orders into which Servius Tullius divided the Roman people for the purpose of taxation;” traditionally originally “the people of Rome under arms” (a sense attested in English from 1650s), and thus akin to calare “to call (to arms),” from PIE root *kele- (2) “to shout.” In early use in English also in Latin form classis.
Meaning “an order or rank of persons, a number of persons having certain characteristics in common” is from 1660s. School and university sense of “course, lecture” (1650s) is from the notion of a form or lecture reserved to scholars who had attained a certain level. Natural history sense “group of related plants or animals” is from 1753. Meaning “high quality” is from 1874. Meaning “a division of society according to status” (with upper, lower, etc.) is from 1763. Class-consciousness (1903) is from German Klassenbewusst. (etymonline)
Sad note: we just learned that Seattle mystery writer Frederick D. Huebner died on December 31, 2019. He was a great writer, a great friend of the shop, and one of the very few people who ever bought one of JB’s paintings. Sorry we didn’t know it at the time to pay tribute then.
recess (n.): 1530s, “act of receding or going back or away” (a sense now obsolete), from Latin recessus “a going back, retreat,” from recessum, past participle of recedere “to go back, fall back; withdraw, depart, retire,” from re– “back” (see re-) + cedere “to go” (from PIE root *ked– “to go, yield”).
Meaning “hidden or remote part” is recorded from 1610s; that of “period of stopping from usual work” is from 1620s, probably from parliamentary notion of “recessing” into private chambers. Meaning “place of retirement or seclusion” is from 1630s; that of “niche, receding space or inward indentation in a line of continuity” is from 1690s.(etymonline)
I gardened, did laundry, baked cookies, made the bed betwixt chapters…and yet, I still devoured the pages in less than twelve hours!
The thing is, Nonna Maria occupies the space between Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. Driven by neither cold logic nor the belief in the baseness of people’s motivations — Nonna Maria serves at the pleasure of her fellow islanders. Intervening when asked, she combines island gossip, a decade’s worth of past experiences, and her own leg work to solve whatever problem presented to her — relying on a plethora of friends, a legion of family members, and occasionally the Carabinieri to catch the culprit (and have her back during perilous situations).
I know Barnes & Noble placed Nonna Maria in their cozy section. Probably because there’s not much in the way of on-stage bloodletting…However, there’s still plenty of death, thugs, threats, and mystery to satisfy any reader without relying on a shoehorned in themes like cats, gourds, cookies, Santa, quilting, dumplings, or crafting to generate interest in the story.
I cannot recommend Nonna Maria and the Case of The Missing Bride highly enough. Set in sun drenched Southern Italy, this mystery is everything I didn’t know I wanted to read over and over again this August!
Louise Penny isn’t afraid of tackling difficult subjects. She never has been, even before her collaboration with Hilary Rodham Clinton, about which I’ll write in another post.
But in The Madness of Crowds, she delves much deeper into a dark place that most of us would really rather avoid. I don’t want to get into specifics because of spoilers, but she taps into a collective awareness that no one wants to look at, but of which we have all glanced at.
All the regulars are back, and this is really not a stand alone. To get the full impact, you need to have read all the books that have come before, beginning with Still Life. There are new, compelling characters here, ones who will remain with you forever, and there are the ongoing delights. Rosa has expanded her vocabulary, and is teaching it to the children, much to their parents’ dismay. There is laughter and humor, compassion and passionate humanity, and all of it stems from people being people, in the best and worst possible ways.
I really cannot recommend Louise Penny’s writing strongly enough. They do need to be read in order, and once you have experienced the world of Three Pines, even if you’re not a fan of police procedurals, you’ll want to visit this village time and again, I promise.
Finally, finally, after toooo many decades, I read Fredric Brown’s The Fabulous Clipjoint. Published in 1947 – and winning the very first Best Novel Edgar – it’s a lively and raucous story of a young man and his uncle who undertake an investigation into a murder – the young guy’s father and his uncle’s brother.
This is the first in a series to feature Ed and his uncle Am (short for Ambrose). Am is a carny and the pages are jammed with the hardboiled jargon of the late 40s AND carnival lingo. Am also makes for a good investigator. His years sizing up “marks” at the carny give him an edge when talking to those involved.
Here’s one line that I found particularly sharp. Uncle Am says to his nephew, “I’m not worried about going to hell, Ed, but I begrudge the money the ticket costs.”
A bonus is the introduction by Lawrence Block who takes you on a tour of his reading as a young man.
A year or so before the shop closed, a man came in one afternoon and introduced himself: James Grady. Now, maybe you have to be a “certain age” to have reacted as Fran and I did. Six Days of the Condor was published in 1974, which means I probably read the paperback in 1975 when it came out. The movie version, Three Days of the Condor was released around the same time. I’d read a number of his books over the years, Old Dogs was one that stands out.
We chatted awhile and he explained that he had an idea for a thriller that took place on a train going from Seattle to Chicago and was in town to start his research. We talked about the long history of train mysteries and showed him our list in the Yellow Notebook that we refereed to when people came in asking for one. I kept my eyes alert for his book, and it’s out now.
James Grady’s This Trainfeatures an odd cast of characters who first see one another in the Seattle train station. At first, they’re “named” by their visual shorthand. As the trip progresses, you learn names and details. You can tell that some are a bit shady but, if you’ve been reading thrillers as long as I have, you know that anything is possible from any one character.
The fun, of course, is finding out who is who and if you’re suspicions were correct. You find that the short-hand descriptors from the start – the guy in the camel-colored cashmere coat or the young woman with the intense red hair – are also accurate descriptors of their personalities.
And then, or course, why are all of these people on this one train and what about the SWAT team, and the guy who always lugs around the beat-up satchel? Well, find out yourself. It’s a great ride!
This debut by Dwyer Murphy got great reviews. The New Yorker promoted it, and the cover carries a one-word rave by Walter Mosely. As a bonus, An Honest Living is billed as a bibliomystery and who isn’t looking for the next John Dunning? So I got a copy right away.
This is very much a New York Novel. The lawyer who narrates the story is certain to tell you what street he’s on, where he turns, where he eats or drinks, details about the neighborhoods, and so on. In that, it reminded me very much of the Scudder books by Lawrence Block. The City itself is a character.
The time frame was a bit puzzling. At one point, he looks someone up on-line and mentions Gawker – stopped publishing in 2016 but recently re-started- so I was unclear about when the book was set. Of course, that shouldn’t really matter, but when I first read that name it popped me out of the story. And that’s not a good thing.
And I can’t point to any good things. He writes well, the characters were interesting…
Overall, it was a very easy book to put down. I have no particular fascination for the minutia of NYC when it is a major component of the story. It read as if it was filler, in place of a plot – because the mystery, and the bibliomystery element, aren’t there. I don’t even think it is fair to call it a mystery for a number of reasons but I can’t tell you those and not ruin the story. Go ahead, give it a try.
nonsense (n.) “that which is lacking in sense, language or words without meaning or conveying absurd or ridiculous ideas,” 1610s, from non– “not” + sense (n.); perhaps influenced by French nonsens. Since mid-20th C., non-sense, with the hyphen, has been used to distinguish the meaning “that which is not sense, that which is different from sense,” not implying absurdity.
falderol (n.)also falderal, falderall, folderol, etc., 18th C. nonsense words from refrains of songs; meaning “gewgaw, trifle” is attested from 1820.
What We’ve Been Up To
A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder — Dianne Freeman
Familiarity breeds contempt…and when it’s your family?
Things can get explosive.
And explode they do (though not literally). When a murder, accusations of infidelity, thugs, and rivalries all come to a head at and after France and George’s much-anticipated wedding.
Seriously, if your looking for a light-hearted historical murder mystery that never takes itself too seriously — the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series is the one for you! Freeman does an excellent job of blending the time period, manners, and societal rules into an excessively readable mystery.
What I love the most about the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries (BTW – Frances is said Countess) is their funny. Not a slap you on the back hardy-har-har kind but wry, sly, and observational humor that one can relate to – especially if you’ve ever tried planning a wedding with the “help” of your family and/or in-laws.
Now, you don’t need to read them in order….However, there are only four predecessors, so starting at numero uno, A Lady’s Guide To Etiquette and Murder isn’t too much of a stretch, and hopefully, you’ll laugh (or at least smile) as much as I did whilst turning the pages.
Okay, so hear me out
I don’t have a review, but I have a really good explanation. A couple of ’em, if I’m being honest. And one is legit book stuff!
The mother of a dear friend of mine passed away, and she lived near me. Her son and his wife, both of whom are great friends of mine, asked me to assess her books to see if there was anything worthwhile in there. We all figured probably not, but hey, you never know, right? And she was a pack rat, as was her late husband, so treasures were possible.
There were a couple of catches. One was that she lived near where we had originally moved to in New Mexico, which is now an hour away from where I now live, but is certainly much closer than the five hours away where Bill and Kate live. I have time and am certainly willing to help, so that was just a minor thing.
The bigger issue is that, while I’m pretty good at mysteries, I’m not so well versed at Southwestern history.
Like not at all. And it’s been educational.
There have been books, and pamphlets, and cookbooks, and all manner of things. Including Hillermans and Jances, which were easy enough. But mostly it was Southwestern stuff.
Boxes and boxes of books. It’s kept me busy, and it’s been immense fun.
But that’s why I haven’t reviewed anything.
Well, that and the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. But that’s not really a good reason. Assessing books, however, really is.
I’m going to try to have a review next month, but I’m planning on putting these books up for sale, and honestly, that may take a lot of time, so we’ll see what next month brings.
Oh, but it’s exciting!
After catching up on my Haller, Bosch, and Ballard, I picked up another from my always growing To Be Read Pile – Stephen Hunter’s Game of Snipers from 2019. Burned through it in two days, as one does with a thriller of this quality (please note I chose to not writer “of this calibre”. Swagger books are reliable fun. I don’t know about anyone else, but I skip over the nitty-gritty details of the guns in play and stick with the action. This one is as if one put the Day of the Jackal in the US with Swagger part of the team hunting the sniper. And thanks to David G. for keeping me supplied!
We’ve been watching a number of series that I’d recommend: “Dark Wind”, the adaptation of Tony Hillerman’s The Listening Woman, “Reservation Dogs”, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” with a wonderfully guilt-ridden Obi-Wan, “DB Cooper Where Are You”, and “Under the Banner of Heaven”. After watching that, I bought a copy of Jon Krakauer’s book on which it was based and burned through it. First of all, the series is quite accurate when it says “inspired” by the book. While the series is a good police procedural, it is largely fiction. Written in 2003, it is a deep dive into the Mormon faith and the fundamentalist offshoots. True it does center around a vicious double murder but it really is about people blinded by their faith and incapable or unwilling to look at the real world before them. While Krakauer does make a few faint parallels to Isis and other foreign “tribes”, the book felt more relevant to me when matched to Trumpism, and the true believers who know that they know to be truth and everyone else is just wrong.
Now, what I expect to be the last “major” book on Watergate (at least this year) is out: Jefferson Morley’s Scorpion’s Dance. I’d looked forward to this, as I thought his book on James Jesus Angleton, The Ghost, was quite good. But I found this book focusing on the lethal dance between President Nixon and CIA Chief Richard Helms to be oddly light. I suppose I was expecting something of the heft of Waldron’s or Graff’s and I found it short on depth. For instance, during the heat of August 1973, he glides over the details of the Saturday Night Massacre in one small paragraph and doesn’t use that weighted term. I certainly followed along because I knew the details and was hoping for new revelations. There was little of it. I would not recommend this to someone not familiar with that crucial and sordid history.
Yet there were a few bits new to me that I found interesting:
~ After his arrest, James McCord directed his wife and a neighbor, who was also a CIA officer, to burn papers and copies of transcripts of the DNC wiretaps. The damper in the fire place was closed, they filled the house with smoke, and had to explain what was going on to the fire department.
~ He never points to a specific rationale for the Watergate break-ins, but does repeatedly write about the salacious recordings that the bugs provided. It is the supposition of some – like Stanford – that a call girl ring was being run out of the DNC office and the bugs were to get dirt on the Dems. Indeed, the office of Larry O’Brien, the head of the DNC, never was bugged.
~Helms quoted a Nixonian threat as having a “devious, hard-nosed smell”
~ Sometimes it is just the way he phrases things: “In this perilous situation, Helms had one advantage that Nixon did not. For the president, it was illegal to conceal of destroy material evidence, suborn witnesses, or dissemble to law enforcement. Helms, not so much… As CIA director, Helms had discretion to hide certain activities from law enforcement. As the duly sworn president, Nixon did not. And that would make all the difference in determining who would fall first.”
~ I had not known that like JFK, LBJ, and Nixon, Helms had recording equipment in his office. Those recordings and transcripts were destroyed damn fast. Likewise, the day after Nixon’s resignation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been recording and transcribing their meetings since the end of WWII, destroyed all of those records.
~ After his fall, Helms was stunned by how Washington had deserted him. “‘ It was unthinkable that the Establishment would turn against Dick Helms’… He could not understand with all these powerful friends and with all these connections and with all these people who he had helped and become socially close to them and that retained positions of influence and power, that this could nonetheless be done to him…” This brought to mind the disbelief in the intelligence world after Philby defected to the Soviets. He was one of them, he was from their schools, they socialized and ate dinner and drank in the same clubs – this “Old Boy” network was the rot at the center of the post-war Free World. Those who belonged to it were deluded and took us down with them.
~ At Helms’ sentencing, the judge threw down the wrath of the bench at him: “If public officials embark deliberately on a course to disobey and ignore the laws of our land because of some misguided and ill-conceived notion and belief that there are earlier commitments and considerations which they must first observe, the future of our country is in jeopardy.”
What would that Judge, Barrington Parker, an African-American Republican appointed by Nixon, think of January 6th and The Big Lie that won’t die????
For James Edmund Caan, born in NYC on March 26, 1940
For “Brian’s Song”, El Dorado, Thief, The Godfather, Rollerball, Misery, Cinderella Libery, The Killer Elite, Comes a Horseman, A Bridge Too Far, Gardens of Stone, Alien Nation, Eraser, “Poodle Springs”, and, of course, Elf.
dame (n.): c. 1200, “a mother,” also “a woman of rank or high social position; superior of a convent,” and an address for a woman of rank or position, used respectfully to other ladies, from Old French dame “lady, mistress, wife,” from Late Latin domna, from Latin domina “lady, mistress of the house,” from Latin domus “house” (from PIE root *dem– “house, household”). From early 14th C. as “a woman” in general, particularly a mature or married woman or the mistress of a household. Used in Middle English with personifications (Study, Avarice, Fortune, Richesse, Nature, Misericordie). In later use the legal title for the wife of a knight or baronet.
Slang sense of “woman” in the broadest sense, without regard to rank or anything else, is attested by 1902 in American English.
We got sunlight on the sand, We got moonlight on the sea
We got mangoes and bananas, You can pick right off the tree
We got volleyball and ping-pong, And lots of dandy games
What ain’t we got? We ain’t got dames!
Richard Rodgers, “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” 1949 (etymonline)
It’s a tricky thing to suss out who is awarded what each year when Buckingham Palace releases The Gazette. For those of us who don’t follow it, the initials attached to the various awards are as confusing as the bureaus outta DC. OBE? GBE? DBE?
We bring this up after the news that Ian Rankin is now SIR Ian Rankin. We could remember Dame Agatha and Dame Phyllis, and Sir Arthur, but who else? This sent us off on a quest for answers – and then we ran into the three-letter question.
To be given Sir or Dame, one must be a subject of the Queen. Hitchcock was born in England, as was Bob Hope, and Sidney Poitier was born in Jamaica, so they all were knighted. Spielberg is an honorary knight, as was Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Dames and Sirs are, or have been, awarded GBE, KBE, or DBE. If you want to know what the difference is, well do your own investigation. It’s pretty simple.
Sir Ian joins a healthy list of authors: Antonia Fraser, Hilary Mantel, Salmon Rushdie, Kingsley Amis, William Golding, Iris Murdoch, PG Wodehouse, JRR Tolkein, and Jorge Louis Borges, to name some in no particular order. Not many mystery or crime writers that we found right off.
A healthy list of writers declined the “honors”: CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Aldus Huxley, Robert Graves, JB Priestly, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Rudyard Kipling.
There are names that aren’t on any list. For instance AA Milne… Anyway –
Congratulations to Sir Ian, a great writer and a nice guy!
Words of the Month
knight (n.) Old English cniht “boy, youth; servant, attendant,” a word common to the nearby Germanic languages (Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Middle High German kneht “boy, youth, lad,” German Knecht “servant, bondman, vassal”), of unknown origin. For pronunciation, see kn–. The plural in Middle English sometimes was knighten.
Meaning “military follower of a king or other superior” is from c. 1100. It began to be used in a specific military sense in the Hundred Years War, and gradually rose in importance until it became a rank in the nobility from 16th C. Hence in modern British use, a social privilege or honorary dignity conferred by a sovereign as a reward, without regard for birth or deeds at arms. In 17thc.-19thc. a common jocularism was to call a craftsman or tradesman a knight of the and name some object associated with his work; e.g. knight of the brush for “painter.” Knight in shining armor in the figurative sense is from 1917, from the man who rescues the damsel in distress in romantic dramas (perhaps especially “Lohengrin”). For knight-errant, see errant.
The horse-headed chess piece so called from mid-15thc. Knights of Columbus, society of Catholic men, founded 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.; Knights of Labor, trade union association, founded in Philadelphia, 1869; Knights of Pythias, secret order, founded in Washington, 1864. (etymonline)
excrescence (n.): early 15c., “action of growing out,” from Latin excrescentia (plural) “abnormal growths,” from excrescentem (nominative excrescens), present participle of excrescere “grow out, grow up,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + crescere “to grow” (from PIE root *ker- (2) “to grow”). Meaning “that which grows out abnormally” (on a living thing) is from 1570s (excrescency in this sense is 1540s). (etymonline)
peep (v.1): “to glance, look from a state of concealment” (especially through or as through a small or narrow opening), mid-15th C., pepen, perhaps an alteration of Middle English piken (see peek (v.)). Hence, “to come partially into view, begin to appear” (1530s). Peeping Tom “a curious prying fellow” [Grose] is from 1796. (etymonline)
vote (n): mid-15th C., “formal expression of one’s wish or choice with regard to a proposal, candidate, etc.,” from Latin votum “a vow, wish, promise to a god, solemn pledge, dedication,” noun use of neuter of votus, past participle of vovere “to promise, dedicate” (see vow (n.)). Meaning “totality of voters of a certain class or type” is from 1888.
sufferage (n): late 14th C., “intercessory prayers or pleas on behalf of another,” from Old French sofrage “plea, intercession” (13th C.) and directly from Medieval Latin suffragium, from Latin suffragium “support, ballot, vote; right of voting; a voting tablet,” from suffragari “lend support, vote for someone,” conjectured to be a compound of sub “under” (see sub-) + fragor “crash, din, shouts (as of approval),” related to frangere “to break” (from PIE root*bhreg– “to break”). On another theory (Watkins, etc.) the second element is frangere itself and the notion is “use a broken piece of tile as a ballot” (compare ostracism).
The meaning “a vote for or against anything” is from 1530s. The meaning “political right to vote” in English is first found in the U.S. Constitution, 1787. (etymonline)
boggle (v.): From the 1590s, “to start with fright (as a startled horse does), shy, take alarm,” from Middle English bugge “specter” (among other things, supposed to scare horses at night); see bug (n.); also compare bogey (n.1), boggart. The meaning ” hesitate, stop as if afraid to proceed in fear of unforeseen difficulties” is from 1630s; that of “confound, cause to hesitate” is from 1640s. As a noun from 1650s. Related: Boggled; boggling; boggler (from c. 1600 as “one who hesitates”). (etymonline)
Once again, residents are plunging gleefully into Finch’s semi-regular ritual called the Moving-Van Vigil. Never heard of the tradition? Well, it’s where Finch villagers stake out a newly rented cottage and try to deduce who the newcomer is by the possessions as they’re moved from van to house….or what they can extrapolate from the labels on the cardboard boxes.
When the movers finish hauling their last box, the villagers disperse and chew over their tentative conclusions for three full days, thereby giving their new neighbor breathing space to get the cottage in some semblance of order. Then they descend en masse, casserole dishes in hand, to welcome the latest addition to Finch’s thriving village life.
Violators of this rule are given the hairy eyeball, publicly snubbed, and met with stony silence.
Lori and Tommy are willing to face the consequences when they witness Mr. Windle (the latest unwitting participant of this nosey tradition) in a moment of extreme melancholy, whereupon the two start worrying that the newest addition to Finch means to do himself harm….
Aunt Dimity & the Enchanted Cottage is an excellent addition to the series! It shows Finch and its penchant for nosiness at its very best. Demonstrating how a community bands together to ensure one of its’ own stays safe and remember those who earlier inhabitants failed.
I would recommend The Enchanted Cottage to anyone who loves this series and/or to anyone who needs a lovely light mystery to escape the never-ending bad news cycle.
Now, all that being said — there is one essential detail to keep in mind….Do Not Readthe synopsis on the front fly-leaf.
Whoever wrote it did this book and the Residents of Finch a great disservice. First, this anonymous person in the publishing house made it sound as if the villagers completely dismissed Mr. Windle for rebuffing their advances of friendship. Now, anyone who knows anything about Finch KNOWS this would never happen. Especially if they think someone needs help.
Second, this unknown synopsis writer gives away a major plot point in the mystery. I mean…who does that? Albeit when you read the summary, you wouldn’t know, but the moment you start the book? It doesn’t take long to figure out that this faceless writer both told the truth about the mystery and misled you simultaneously.
If you can, take my word that Aunt Dimity & the Enchanted Cottage is a well-written, captivating entry in this murderless mystery series and is well worth your reading time.
Stories need to be told.
“Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for a chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They would take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David’s mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.“
John Connolly wrote that in the first few pages of his amazing book, THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, back in 2006. It was true then, and it’s true now.
If you haven’t read THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, first of all, you’re missing out on a classic fairy tale, not one that’s been Disney-fied but the truly grim ones, the real ones. Mind you, there’s laugh-out-loud moments to be found, but this is a dark tale for children and adults.
David, mentioned above, loves the old fairy tales, and found refuge in them when his mother died and his father remarried. World War II was breaking over London, and David goes to live in the country with his father and their new family. Isolated and lonely, David turns to books. But when a downed German plane crashes in the garden where David is exploring, a hole in the garden wall is the only potentially safe place David can go.
Except what’s on the other side of the wall isn’t the neighboring yard. It’s a world filled with all the stories he’s been reading, and unless he is very resourceful and quick, David could be stuck there. Forever.
I’ve told you about this book before, and it bears reinforcing my determination that you should read it, but that’s not the only reason I’m telling you to pick it up.
Here’s what John Connolly said in a recent newsletter:
For some time I’ve been working on a sequel to THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. I never really thought I’d write a sequel to that book, although I have returned to the universe of it with some short stories over the years. Nevertheless, I’ve had recourse to re-read the original over the last decade or so: first to give it a gentle polish for the 10th anniversary edition, and then, during lockdown, in order to write a film script based on it. (The script provided a way forward, I think, as well as indicating that there was too much material in the book for a two-hour film. The film company is now looking at it in terms of a possible television series, which would provide more scope for expansion, but I’ve done my bit as far as scripts for it are concerned.)
The polish for the anniversary edition, completed in 2016, probably provided the initial impetus, while the screenplay concretized some ideas I’d had. The result is that THE LAND OF LOST THINGS will be published in the autumn of either 2023 or 2024, but most likely the former. There’s some work to be done on it yet in terms of revision, but it’s coming into focus.
YAY! A film/series and a sequel? It doesn’t get better than that!
After watching the series “The Lincoln Lawyer”, I decided to go back to Michael Connelly’s series with Mickey Haller, Harry Bosch’s half-brother. I’d stopped reading that series after the second book in the series, The Brass Verdict, which is what the TV covered. 3rd was The Reversal – which features Bosch as working with Haller. The next in the series was temporarily out of print, so I spent the month catching up with Bosch, and the newest member of that universe, Renee Ballard: The Late Show, Dark Sacred Night, Night Fire, andthe Dark Hours. What the hell – if you’re gonna do it, just go overboard! Ballard and Bocsh make a great team. Each of their joint books contain at least one cold case that takes takes up most of the book, and sprinkled in are Ballard’s Late Show cases that work like mini-short stories. It’s a fascinating way to craft a novel. Won’t be another Bosch and Ballard until early November, so not it is back to Haller and the fifth in that series, The Gods of Guilt.
Finally, a personal plea: if you’re not happy with the way the country is going, the way every American’s right to privacy has been eagerly stripped away by the minority, you must resolve to vote in EVERY election. Yes, presidential elections are crucial, but so are all the local and state elections. Don’t like gerrymandering? Vote! Don’t like what the schoolboard is doing? VOTE! Don’t like what your state legislators are doing, or the governor? VOTE! If you’re registered but don’t vote, you’ve helped those who removed your – our – rights. If you’re not registered – register and vote in every election. Because, as you can see, it matters… Protesting is good, showing numbers and raising voices is good. “A few weeks before his death in 1895, Douglass was asked what advice he would give to a young black American. ‘Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!’ the old man answered.”
Remember – Black MEN in America were theoretically given the right to vote in 1870 but that was not enforced – again, theoretically – until the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That now seems to be under threat in many forums. WOMEN in America were not allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920! So, if you listen to Constitutional Originalists who want the things to return to what the Constitution said when it was written… ‘Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!’ and VOTE!