Finally, it will come as no secret that we are no fans of Amazon. In fact, for years we’ve referred to them as SPECTRE due to what we feel is their nefarious practices. Now, with the news that Amazon is in talks to buy MGM for $9Billion, the circle comes around. MGM is the owner of the James Bond movies. If Amazon does buy the entertainment behemoth, SPECTRE will own SPECTRE…
If our counting is right, there were 52 mass shootings in April, 2021. In May – and the month isn’t over as this is typed – there have been 65, more than 2 a day. If it feels as if they’re happening all the time it is because they are.
Ever wonder what Winnie-the-Pooh would do if he found himself embroiled in a mystery? I believe H.F. Heard inadvertently gave us the answer in a Taste For Honey.
Admittedly, H.F. Heard didn’t intend to write an A.A. Milne pastiche. Heard intended A Taste For Honey to enter the Sherlockian canon of works. The driving force within the novel is a mysterious beekeeper who owns a surprising amount of knowledge in a diverse number of fields. And I concede Mr. Mycroft and his bees are intriguing.
HELPFUL HINT if you decide to pick up this title… If you know nothing about this book other than this review and the blurb on the back, I advise you NOT TO READ Otto Penzler’s introduction.
Until after you’ve finished the book.
Unfortunately, within those roman numeral pages, Mr. Penzler unintentionally spoils the biggest mystery in the book and its’ ending by making one fundamental assumption – the reader already knows how A Taste For Honey wraps up. Granted, it’s a reasonable assumption – as A Taste For Honey‘s original publication date was eighty years ago (1941) and is apparently well known in Sherlockian circles. However, if, like me, you’d never heard of this book prior to picking it up – take my advice read the introduction last.
In any case, back to Sydney Silchester – the reluctant companion pressed into service by Mr. Mycroft – who reminded me of that famous yellow bear.
Not only because his singular love of honey put him in the path of both a murderer and a detective. But because of his love of long walks, nature, his own company, and his overall reluctance to get involved with other people. And really, Sydney is a man of very little brains who (if it weren’t for Mr. Mycroft) would’ve become the villain’s second victim.
Undoubtedly, Heard didn’t intend for me to liken his narrator to Edward Bear. However, once it dawned on me, I couldn’t shake the notion! It added an extra layer of humor to an already excellent mystery I’d happily recommend to anyone who enjoys British and/or Sherlockian-style mystery.
(BTW – I’ve no evidence that even hints that Heard intended to mash together Winnie-the-Pooh and Sherlockiana. Though chronologically speaking, Pooh appeared in print (1926) well before A Taste For Honey was written. Additionally, Milne did pen a well-received locked-room mystery in 1922, The Red House Mystery – thereby getting on the radar of mystery readers and writers….so it’s possible, though not probable…right?)
Of course I want you to read the latest Joshilyn Jackson novel. I want you to read ALL of her work, so it’s no surprise that I want you to read this one, and the core reasons are just as compelling.
Can she create complex and believable characters? If anything, they only get better.
Can she tell an amazing and gripping story? Oh my goodness yes, and again, they just get better.
Will you find something to relate to? That’s her special gift.
Bree Cabbat was not raised in wealth. Her single mom firmly believed that the world was dangerous and a deeply scary place. However, Bree has found comfort and happiness in her marriage to Trey, and their two daughters are beautiful and headstrong and as challenging as pre-teens can be. Right now, though, Bree’s six-month-old baby, Robert, is the center of her world.
She figures she imagined the woman looking into her window, but is disturbed when that same strange lady appears in a parking lot, watching her.
And then Robert vanishes. It only takes the turn of a head, a few precious seconds, and Bree’s baby is gone. But Robert hasn’t been taken by some woman who longs for a child. No, Robert is being held hostage, not for money but for Bree to complete one simple task, along with her silence.
Here’s where my foggy brain caught up to my history of reading Joshilyn Jackson’s books. She tells one helluva tale, that’s indisputable. But what I hadn’t realized until Mother May Iis that she shines a powerful spotlight on social issues. The thing is, she does it in such a personal way that it’s easy to overlook how compelling and clever she is because you’re caught up in the sweep of the story.
If you need to have an issue addressed, look at one of Joshilyn Jackson’s books. From racism to privilege to domestic violence to dysfunctional families, she’s got it covered, and in a way that makes it personal but never preachy. She’s brilliant.
So yes, read Mother May I, and anything else by Joshilyn Jackson that you can get your hands on. Do it now.
“It was common for Negro Leaguers – especially those reared in the Southern states – to cherish the unfettered citizenship that Mexico offered them. Its perks were famously articulated by [Willie] Wells, the Devil himself (fondly regarded across the Spanish-speaking nation as El Diablo, which is inscribed on his Texas tombstone), who observed to Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier that ‘we live in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurants, and can go anyplace we care to. We don’t enjoy such privileges in the United States. We have everything first-class, plus the fact that the people here are much more considerate than the American baseball fan.’ … Monte Irvin, the future Hall of Famer, played only one season in Mexico before he was called away to World War II, but that season made a profound impression. ‘It was the first time in my life that I felt free.’” Irvin was 23 when drafted.
While it was way past time last year for Major League Baseball to incorporate the records of Negro League players into the statistics of those there were not allowed to play with, Lonnie Wheeler‘s new biography of the man reported by all who saw him play – black and white – to have been the fasted man who ever played baseball, points out the problems doing that .
“‘That Cool Papa Bell,’ recalled [Art] Pennington, speaking to Brent Kelley in Voices from the Negro Leagues, ‘I thought I could outrun him. I was young (Bell’s junior by twenty-one years), and Taylor would have us get out and run the hundred-yard dash. We would run, but all at once Cool Papa would walk on by me. And I thought I could fly in those days.'”
Black baseball was never covered with the specificity of white ball. The white papers rarely covered Negro League games and no papers devoted time or space to reliable box scores. Reconstructing Bell’s or any other player’s stats is a fruitless pursuit. So by not being allowed into the Major Leagues, their abilities were not documented as the white players had been, so it is now impossible to do side-by-side comparisons. They were robbed of playing time and then robbed of the proof that baseball uses to measure a player. Wheeler’s title points to this: The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell. There are some newspaper stories, the recorded testaments of his contemporaries, and still pictures, but no film of him flying around the bases. Bell scoring from first on a simple base hit was not odd, nor was stealing his was around the diamond. It is a crime that blackball was treated so poorly, but it isn’t a surprise.
Besides the racist cruelty and hatred they had to withstand, they were also relegated to inferior ballparks (one section of the book relates how one ballpark had tracks running through the outfield and play would be suspended for the trains to pass), uncomfortable travel means, and the indignity of outplaying white players in the off season but not being allowed to outplay them in the regular season. And nothing about this is different from what jazz musicians or any other black person confronted then – or now. But through it all, by all accounts, Bell kept his dignity, kept his attire fine, and was a roll model for all who came in contact with him. He loved the game and was not shy or reluctant to freely give pointers to anyone, whether it was on base running or drag bunting. As Wheeler points out as well, when the major leagues were finally ready to accept black players, those who were too old to be brought “up” worked to ensure the younger players’ statistics were stellar. These veteran players held themselves back while playing so as to highlight the younger players stats, and ensure they’d be taken by the white teams. Stylish and selfless that was Bell.
Wheeler’s book is a lively story, told with spirit and no small amount of sadness for what might have been had the black ball players been allowed to play in the major leagues, had their accomplishments been recorded objectively, had America not been so mean and foolish. But then, that’s the story of American, a lively tale mixed with sadness for how great it should’ve been and what was missed. It’s a great baseball book and an honest American tale.
[and this brings us to our last word twister: in baseball, the foul pole is fair…]
eggcorn (n.) “an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context… eggcorns are sometimes also referred to ‘oronyms’… The term eggcorn, as used to refer to this kind of substitution, was coined by professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum in September 2003 in response to an article by Mark Liberman on the website Language Log, a group blog for linguists. Liberman discussed the case of a woman who substitutes the phrase egg corn for the word acorn, and he argued that the precise phenomenon lacked a name. Pullum suggested using eggcorn itself as a label… An eggcorn is similar to, but differs from, folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreens or puns.” (Wikipedia)
What We’ve Been Up To
Do you need a new addiction? I’m sure you do. On the upside, this habit’s less problematic than Sherlock’s 7% solution. However, it isn’t without cost.
A subscription box that sends you a mystery to solve every month!
So far, I’ve unmasked a stalker, solved a decades-old cold case, foiled a kidnaper, resolved an art heist, and unraveled several murders in Valley Falls. (The small town where these cases are set. You work for a P.I. firm that takes on all kinds of clients.)
One of the best things about each Deadbolt Mystery Society box, beyond the variety of crimes, is the wildly different types of evidence they supply, kinds of puzzles to solve, and suspects/witnesses/victims you meet.
The puzzles of which I write are sometimes sneaky, always challenging, and require a vast array of skills to solve. One time I created a comprehensive timeline in order to cross-reference events against alibis—another time, I widdled down a massive list of addresses to locate a suspect’s abode and played a board game. On top of the logic & math problems, pictograms, cryptograms…The Deadbolt Mystery Society uses such a wide assortment of puzzles across all their boxes; it keeps them from becoming predictable and your wits sharp!
If you haven’t guessed – I’m a fan.
They remind me vaguely of online hidden-object games like the Enigmatis series (I loved them), Yuletide Legends (an excellent holiday-themed game), or Dreamwalker (another I enjoyed playing). In so far as, no matter how urgent your case, you need to solve each and every puzzle provided to move closer to the penultimate solution.
However, unlike the hidden-object games, which use short animated clips to move the story along – Deadbolt Mystery Society employs QR codes.
More often than not, these QR codes send you to password-protected web pages, which require you to input the solution from one of the aforementioned puzzles in order to obtain the next clue! Keeping the investigator honest – as you can’t just guess the answers – you need to know them.
But once you surmount each hurtle, you are rewarded with a witness statement, diary entries, cryptic phone messages, eerie songs…the list goes on, and you never know what you’re going to uncover next – which is great fun!
(BTW – you need either a smartphone or tablet with a camera to solve each case. Otherwise, you’re dead in the water.)
Deadbolt Mystery Society says each case takes anywhere between 2-6 hours to solve, depending on your skill level and the number of people working together. I take my time and usually solve them in a week or two – depending on how much free time I can carve out (unlike books – I don’t rush thru these). I would recommend these for adults or teens working in tandem with an adult, as most of the puzzles are pretty tricky (by design).
Not sure you’re ready to sign up? The Deadbolt Mystery Society also sells individual boxes – if you want to try it out before committing to a subscription!
FYI: While the web pages, photos, and packets don’t explicitly show any gore, the scenarios themselves can have a high body count (this last month featured a serial killer) together with the puzzle difficulty level… I’m not sure I’d be comfortable gifting a subscription to any of my nieces or nephews under fifteen or sixteen.
A Walk on the Dark Side
I haven’t been reading a lot of noir lately, because things are noir enough in real life, even though I have puppies to help liven things up. Oh, and they do!
But as I was unpacking books, I ran into Lono Waiwaiole’s “Wiley” series. Well, the first two anyway. I haven’t unearthed the third one yet. The thing is, I have them, but I never read them. I like Lono as a person, JB and Bill raved about the books, so I knew I’d like them. I just never got around to it.
I just finished Wiley’s Lament. WHY DID I NOT READ THIS EARLIER? Holy cats.
Wiley is just kinda drifting through life. He’s living in a house owned by his old buddy, Leon, and he gambles to pay the rent. When he comes up short, Wiley leaves his home environs of Portland, OR, and wanders up to Seattle, where he robs drug dealers. He has nothing to lose, as far as he’s concerned.
“When I lose, I go to Seattle and find a drug dealer to rip off.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“I like the symmetry of it. Either I get the money, or it blows up in my face and I don’t need any money.”
“It sounds like you don’t really care which one it is.”
“I don’t,” I said. “That’s the key to the whole thing.”
But when Wiley’s estranged daughter is murdered, his interest in things comes sharply into focus. He blames his buddy, Leon, for Lizzie’s death, but it turns out things are much, much more complicated than what Wiley initially thought, and that drive to find out just what happened puts both Wiley and Leon on a dark and dangerous path.
Lono Waiwaiole‘s writing is dark, visceral, and deeply, profoundly human. Wiley and Leon and their associates are not the guys in white hats. They’re flawed and emotionally scarred, and it takes some looking to see the solid and faithful hearts beating underneath. But it’s there, and you care. Deeply.
And of all the characters I wish I could be, among a whole lot of wonderful and memorable people, I want to be Elmer. He’s a total delight to me. Granted, I want to be faster. Maybe I just want his wisdom.
I’m so sorry I took this long to read Wiley’s Lament, and I’ve got Wiley’s Shuffleclose to hand. If you haven’t read them, now is a good time.
Mike Lawson’s books have an subtle thrum to them, a smooth motion that seems to me to hum. They are the finest example of thrillers as, once they start, they don’t slow down. And though DeMarco is a classic reluctant hero, he never fails to see the case finished, even if he has to cut corners.
House Standoffis a departure for Lawson, this time playing with the strict rules of a whodunnit. Someone close to DeMarco has been murdered in a distant setting, and he’s not going to rest, as he warns the people he bangs into, until he finds out who pulled the trigger. Mike provides a number of suspects and seeds the stories with red herrings. The book works like a Manor House mystery, set in a small town in the Far West. And then he has the audacity of upend the rules. It is a stunning piece of work.
He buffaloed me. I was sure I’d fingered the killer, but …
There are many series I have re-read many times. I think it is time to start the DeMarcos at the beginning. Sounds like as much fun as can be had between the covers of a paperback. Keep me occupied til he next new Lawson book.
bad penny (n): This proverb has lived long in the language. It derives from the notion that some coins were ‘bad’, that is, they were debased or counterfeit.
The ‘clipping’ of coins was rife in the Middle Ages, long before standardisation of the coinage was reliably enforced. This example from the reign of Edward I shows the degree of ‘badness’ that pennies then endured.
The term ‘bad penny’ was established enough in English by the late 14th century for it to have been used in William Langland’s famous prose poem The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, 1370-90: “Men may lykne letterid men… to a badde peny.”
to coin a phrase : Coining, in the sense of creating, derives from the coining of money by stamping metal with a die. Coins – also variously spelled coynes, coigns, coignes or quoins – were the blank, usually circular, disks from which money was minted. This usage derived from an earlier 14th century meaning of coin, which meant wedge. The wedge-shaped dies which were used to stamp the blanks were called coins and the metal blanks and the subsequent ‘coined’ money took their name from them.
Coining later began to be associated with inventiveness in language. In the 16th century the ‘coining’ of words and phrases was often referred to. By that time the monetary coinage was often debased or counterfeit and the coining of words was often associated with spurious linguistic inventions; for example, in George Puttenham’s The arte of English poesie, 1589: “Young schollers not halfe well studied… will seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin.”
Shakespeare, the greatest coiner of them all, also referred to the coining of language in Coriolanus, 1607: “So shall my Lungs Coine words till their decay.”
Quoin has been retained as the name of the wedge-shaped keystones or corner blocks of buildings. Printers also use the term as the name for the expandable wedges that are used to hold lines of type in place in a press. This has provoked some to suggest that ‘coin a phrase’ derives from the process of quoining (wedging) phrases in a printing press. That is not so. ‘Quoin a phrase’ is recorded nowhere and ‘coining’ meant ‘creating’ from before the invention of printing in 1440. Co-incidentally, printing does provide us with a genuine derivation that links printing with linguistic banality – cliché. This derives from the French cliquer, from the clicking sound of the stamp used to make metal typefaces.
‘Coin a phrase’ itself arises much later than the invention of printing – the 19th century in fact. It appears to be American in origin – it certainly appears in publications there long before any can be found from any other parts of the world. The earliest use of the term that I have found is in the Wisconsin newspaper The Southport American, July 1848: “Had we to find… a name which should at once convey the enthusiasm of our feelings towards her, we would coin a phrase combining the extreme of admiration and horror and term her the Angel of Assassination.”
shot in the dark: The term ‘shot’ has been slang for an attempt since the middle of the 19th century; for example, this piece from Joseph Hewlett’s comic work Peter Priggins, the college scout, 1841: “After waiting for a little while, Ninny… made a shot, and went so near the mark.”
‘A shot in the dark’ is simply a hopeful attempt to hit an enemy that you can’t see.
George Bernard Shaw seems to have been the first to use it metaphorically, in The Saturday Review, February 1895: “Never did man make a worse shot in the dark.”
Change is a tricky thing. Often uncomfortable, awkward, unsightly, and a difficult thing to manage gracefully. Whether it’s moving to a new house in a new city, purchasing a new car, or adopting a new pet, unexpected complications always seem to creep into the proceedings.
Books series are no different.
Any author worth their salt, who endeavors for a successful string of books knows – eventually – they will need to change things up. Otherwise, the series stales and stalls.
Elizabeth Peter’s efficiently handled this problem by sending Amelia Peabody to a different location in Egypt (generally speaking) for each installment. Patricia Moyes employed a similar tactic by sending her husband & wife team on vacation all over the world. J.K. Rowling sends her famous wizard off to school (or to defeat dark wizards every year.
In the case of Ashley Weaver’s A Deception At Thornecrest, she does the reverse – she sends Amory Ames and her husband Milo home.
And it works beautifully.
Over the past six books, neither member of our dynamic duo has spent much time at Thorncrest – so it’s the perfect place for Weaver to set her transition mystery. By mixing a bit of old with a bit of new, Weaver is all set to send our heroine into new and exciting directions in future books. Even better? She accomplishes this aim with such flawless skill it makes A Deception At Thornecrest a joy to read.
One of the most significant changes in Amory’s life? She’s about to become a first-time mother! A fact which both she and Milo are over the moon about, in their understated way. The only hitch in the giddy-up? During the annual Springtide festival, a stable hand is murdered…Amory, our remarkable amateur sleuth, is discouraged at every turn from investigating because of her “delicate condition”.
Fortunately for Lady Justice and us readers, Amory has zero interest in heeding their unsolicited opinions.
A Deception At Thornecrest was a compelling historical mystery, one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading from beginning to end. Even better, if you’re not interested in reading the previous exploited of our heroine and her husband (but I would highly suggest you do as they are lovely), you don’t have to! Because this is a transitional book, so long as you aren’t starting with numero uno, you can start with this installment and be alright.
Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about A Deception At Thornecrest.
It’s not her latest, but it’s the most recent one I’ve read, and holy cats, does J.T. Ellison have a twisty mind! Just one more reason to love her, honestly, just like you’re going to love Good Girls Lie.
The Goode School is an Ivy League feeder boarding school in Virginia, and there’s a long waiting list of girls hoping to be chosen. The Goode School accepts only 50 girls for each grade level, and each girl is properly and thoroughly vetted before acceptance. You know what I mean, right?
Ash Carlisle is a bit of an exception. She’s British, for starters. She was being considered before her parent suddenly died, and no one can say that the Goode School is without compassion.
However, Ash’s new classmates don’t take to her that well, and Ash has secrets, so she doesn’t want to make a fuss. The resulting dynamic of mean girls, vulnerable girls, and a certain amount of looking the other way by staff members leaves Ash in a precarious position.
Then things start to get really ugly. Even deadly.
J.T. Ellison attended a similar school, although it wasn’t as perilous, so her insights and knowledge about this setting give Good Girls Lie an added edge that, combined with J.T.’s fabulous writing, makes this novel deeply disturbing. And did I mention it’s twisty as all get out? You get to see events through multiple viewpoints, and very little of what everyone sees on the surface is real. Just like most social interactions, I suspect.
You don’t have to have attended a posh boarding school to appreciate Good Girls Lie, although if you have, I bet you’ll recognize some of the people. You’re in for a treat!
The title alone gave me hope that the book would answer some of my questions about why there have been so many serial killers in the last decade. Peter Vronsky is a Canadian with a PhD in criminal justice history. I saw that he’d written a couple of other books on the subject and this new one, American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000, seems the most promising to address my curiosity.
Why so many? Why now? Why do many not fit the profile we’re always told about? And most strangely, why do some seem to quit?
Vronsky carefully explains what he sees as the roots – fathers who came back damaged from WWI, the great number of desertions by fathers during the Depression, and those effects on families and sons specifically. There were women who really should never have been mothers due to domineering personalities or mental health issues, the frequent element of head injuries and you have a pool ready for the birth of trouble. As youngsters, they were subjected to the social traumas of WWII, the revelations of horrors of the Holocaust, the dawn of the atomic age, and the movement of the population from the smaller towns where everyone was known to one another to the large cities and their anonymity, and evil can erupt. Mix in the interstate highway system… OK, so far I understand.
But he then begins to mix in the proliferation of true crime magazines in the 40s and 50s – when they’d begun in the 20s. I understand that many of the killers in the 60s, 70s and 80s mention them as formative with their lurid imagery. But I don’t see that had there not been these magazines, things would’ve been far different. It strikes me as a cheap target, like Bundy saying it all started with pornography.
Similarly, Vronsky puts blame on film noir and the pessimism and corruption they portrayed. He neatly glides by the fact that film noir was a direct outgrowth of the crime novels of the 20s, 30s and 40s. He doesn’t attempt a connection that the fiends were reading novels about sex and death, just looking at images of it. Municipal corruption was a massive menace well before the killers of the last half of the 20th C., but he gives little attention to the first half. I can make a couple of guesses as to why: killers could still travel around by jumping trains but the journalism may’ve lacked the ability to connect murders in different locales. He often points to the problem with killers crossing jurisdictions and police from one town/city/county/state not communicating with one another. Indeed, it still seems to be a problem – not every facet of law enforcement knew what was going on at the Capitol on January 6th, or 9/11.
Odder still, he spends an unnecessary amount of time and gory detail on crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer while mentioning that many others have been ignored in the study of serial killers. If we’ve never heard of them, he’s missed his chance to inform us.
But I could also guess that many killers in the century from 1850 to 1950 had easy outlets for their murderous ways – they had the Civil War where murder could easily be disguised as warfare, they had the Wild West where murder was cheap and easy, and they had the growth of Organized Crime where there were always opportunities for hired killers.
Over all, the book was interesting but frustrating. For an academic, he was flippant at time, snarky at others, and those instances felt out of place. It is one thing to be casual and entertaining. It is another to sound off key.
My largest question – why do some seem to stop – was answered in one quick paragraph about Gary Ridgeway: the thrill was gone. Really? That doesn’t feel adequate to explain why a monster who killed dozens of women would simply cease doing it. I hope to get an answer to that some day from a future author.
“This whole arduous process began with a monumental failure by the keepers of the public memory – the government and the press. Their failure remains with us. Over the past half century, this case has been filled with bitter arguments and wild conspiracy theories; government bodies papering over significant failures; junk science and ’eminence-based’ conclusions; sober, tenacious research and trumpeting blowhards. But over these same decades and despite many mistakes and reverses, a partial truth has been brought to light. That truth, however, leaves open many of the questions that should have been answered fifty years ago and in all likelihood cannot be answered now. Principally…who did it, and why?”
Another book that had great promise yet fell slightly short was Josiah Thompson‘sLast Second in Dallas. The philosophy professor who left academia to become a private eye in San Francisco had released one of the seminal books on the JFK assassination in 1967, Six Seconds in Dallas. It’s always been hailed as a scholarly work on the shooting and, while he stayed connected tangentially with the case, he’d published nothing else in the nearly 55 years since.
His new book is in the form of a re-examination and memoir. He situates his arguments amongst the developments in his life and the assassination evidence that has come out over the decades. He admits when he had something wrong and corrects it. It’s a fascinating thing to track.
Thompson has always focused on the evidence, the “what” of the case, not the “who” of the case. As the titles say, he’s focused on the seconds of gunfire in Dealy Plaza, not those who organized the crossfire or pulled the triggers. This narrow view allows him to delve deeply into what is known and can be proved and he does a masterful job of it.
“There is, however, one fact about assassination that has not changed in fifty years. It is its most obvious feature – the brutal effectiveness of crime… In this whole narrative, what was clear in 1966 is even clearer now. This was a highly sophisticated, devastatingly effective assassination: who bullets to the head and one to the back. Its very audacity is the most compelling feature. And speculation as to who did it and why must at least start with that fact.”
However, within those seconds of shots, he does allow some questions to go unanswered. He’s got four shots being fired. What accounts for that shallow wound in Kennedy’s back that didn’t penetrate far? The Dallas doctors could feel the end of the tract with their little fingers. What of the bullet or fragment or chip of cement that nicked James Tague? Tague and his wound are not mentioned by Thompson even as he has bullet fragments bouncing around the inside of the limo. Other than the gunman behind the picket fence, he’s non-committal about the location of the other shooters – one in the depository, the other… perhaps, like the identity of the participants, he’s leaving those questions to others. He also condescendingly dismisses the Garrison investigation, which was, after all, about the “who”s. That sounded unfair, tone-deaf, and short-sighted.
Still, Last Second in Dallas is a fascinating book and a worthy addition to my shelves of books on the assassination.
MASK OF SANITY – Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy—these serial killers were famous not only for their crimes, but their deceptively charming dispositions. This is what crime experts refer to as the Mask of Sanity. Coined by psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in his 1941 book, this describes the phenomena of psychopaths easily blending in with their peers because they don’t typically suffer from more noticeable mental symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.
While working the shelves of Seattle Mystery Bookshop, several series caused me no end of dismay when trying to space them out, so they looked pretty for you all!
Agatha Christie often clogged the classics section with the sheer variety of sizes publishers used to reprint her mysteries. Earle Stanley Gardner also had his moments of causing classic section consternation due to the sheer volume of books he wrote – 82 in the Perry Mason series alone!
M.C. Beaton and Alexander McCall Smith (in the general mysteries) eventually got their own sections due to the ever-expanding series.
However, there’s one writer who often lead me to tear my hair out – J.D. Robb.
Due to Robb’s overwhelming popularity, we needed to keep the majority of the In Death Series on hand at all times. Meaning? When Robb released a new book or we received a batch of used mysteries…We often needed to move entire rows & sections of books around, so Eve and her cohorts didn’t scrunch, encroach, or simply dominate the neighboring authors!
Now that Robb’s hit book number 51 in her In Death series, I shudder to think how we’d struggle to fit her prodigious output on the shelves!
Speaking of book 51, Shadows in Death…Robb delivers yet another page-turning, read-late-into-the-night thriller you can devour in a single (long) sitting. One that will leave Eve & Roarke fans with a pleasant taste in their mouths; as we learn more about Roarke’s past, watch Eve work with her team and visit Ireland!
Feeney had stars in his eyes.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the mystery’s culmination teetered on the edge of sensationalism. But really, it only ever teetered, but Robb never actually jumped the shark, so we’re still fine!
Did you know the Western tradition of a bride wearing white didn’t come about until Queen Victoria wore a white dress to her wedding in 1840? The trend soon caught on amongst the elite across Europe as it became a symbol, not of the bride’s ‘purity’ but her family’s wealth. (i.e., they could afford to purchase an easily ruined dress.) Prior to this point, brides wore all kinds of colors – red being a particular favorite.
It wasn’t until prosperity hit the middle classes after WWII, helped along by the silver screen, that white wedding gowns became commonplace across the US and Europe.
In 1981 the tradition received a significant boost when soon-to-be Princess Diana walked down the aisle in a stunning ivory dress which sported 10,000 pearls, a 25 ft train, and a 153-yard tulle veil. As one-in-six people around the entire world watched the wedding – her gown inspired generations of brides.
Beyond the fact, it undoubtedly took some serious spine and determination to pull the weight of the dress down the aisle. The train and veil caused one wedding day hiccup. The designers failed to consider the size of the glass coach Princess Diana would ride in to St. Paul’s Cathedral. So, despite the bride’s best efforts, the dress became badly wrinkled on the ride over.
I know a few wrinkles in a dress doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but I know from experience, trying to create a perfect day – something like this can easily spin one out.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your view, Lindsey Norris doesn’t need to wait until the big day for something to go wrong! Not only did the guest list accidentally triple overnight – she and Sully find their officiant washed up on the beach of their wedding venue…dead!
So it’s a race against time as Lindsey & Sully work to solve a friend’s murder, find a new officiant, and expand their wedding venue – all before the big day!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading One For The Books.
The murder and the practicalities behind throwing a wedding provide an excellent counterpoint to well – the wedding. An event, which handled by a less deft mystery author, can edge towards the overly sweet – a trap McKinlay, thankfully, never falls into!
In addition, the possible motives of our cast of suspects are, for lack of a better word – intriguing. As no one, not even our victim, is innocent. It’s this tangled set of relationships, ones that neither Lindsey nor Sully ever suspected, and their revelations that make this mystery.
Then there’s The Lemon, Ms. Cole, who since announcing her aim to become Briar Creek’s next mayor – is endeavoring to loosen up and smile more….neither of which is precisely in her wheelhouse – thus adding an extra layer of sharp mirth to an already engaging read.
All in all, One For The Books was a fun, fast-paced, and diverting book I would recommend to anyone looking for a biblio-mystery or a fun way to escape an afternoon or two!
This last week we’ve met Squiddy, The Brownie Stealing Bench and Phoebe’s Silver City Operative!
One of the questions we routinely got at the bookshop was, “Have you read every book here?” It was generally accompanied with a laugh, although sometimes it was a serious question.
We always grinned and responded that there was no way to read all of them, and that we all had areas of specialty. The fact is, of course, that not only could we not have read all 10,000+ titles, but we honestly had so many new titles coming in every week, we didn’t even pretend to try.
That didn’t mean we couldn’t sell books we hadn’t read. A good working knowledge of the standards and classics worked well, and the quality of writing helped several series sell themselves.
That’s why I was pleased to finally get around to reading my first book by Charles Todd. I prefer to start at the beginning of a series, and I should have begun with A Test of Wills, but it turns out that I had an Advance Reader Copy of The Red Door, so that’s what I read.
It was obvious there were ongoing things I would have gotten had I started at the beginning, and I will enjoy filling in the backstory, but the delight of Charles Todd is that each story stands by itself. So I got to meet Ian Rutledge and his internal companion, Hamish, and I’m thoroughly hooked.
The Red Doorhas two inquiries, one concerning a street thief who attacked Rutledge on a bridge, and escapes. However the thief, known as Billy, becomes more aggressive, and it’s up to Rutledge to stop him.
But a missing person case takes precedence, since the Talley family is very important, and finding Walter Talley is deemed to be of utmost importance. Rutledge is given the assignment to find Talley, and to keep news of his disappearance out of the press, to protect the family’s privacy. What Rutledge finds in his investigation will leave death and sorrow as secrets are revealed.
The combined talents that comprise Charles Todd are wonderful, and I am looking forward to reading them all. The depth of understanding they bring to our shell-shocked hero steeped in the times and turmoil of Great Britain in the wake of the Great War makes this book, and I can only assume all the rest, absolutely compelling.
Have we read them all? Not even hardly, but it’s great to start in on some of the ones I know I missed!
Piblokto: a condition among the Inuit that is characterized by attacks of disturbed behavior (as screaming and crying) and that occurs chiefly in winter
No one is entirely certain what causes piblokto (and some scholars in recent decades have expressed doubts that it actually exists at all), but what is fairly certain is that it sounds like a nasty way to spend the winter. Imagine if you had not only to perform through your normal routine of shoveling the walk outside your house and navigating the many additional layers of clothing that winter necessitates, but in addition had to do all this while in a state of hysteria.
“When an Eskimo is attacked with piblokto indoors, nobody pays much attention, unless the sufferer should reach for a knife or attempt to injure some one.” Robert Edwin Peary, The North Pole, 1910
Northern Nanny: A cold storm of hail and wind from the north in England. Many northern nannies hit the UK in the 17th and 18th century, during a period known as the Little Ice Age. This led to the Thames freezing over on several occasions, and when the ice was thick enough, as in 1620, giant carnivals called ‘frost fairs’ were held on the river.
It’s no secret that I love a well-written pastiche, and in Leonard Goldberg’s The Art of Deception, you’ve got just that – a well-executed pastiche….sorta.
The sorta is on account of the fact these mysteries are based upon the canon of Sherlock Holmes. However, the man himself is absent, as he passed away many years before these tales – leaving behind Dr. Watson, Ms. Hudson, his methods….and a daughter.
Who is just as bright, clever, and quick-witted as her father.
But here’s what I love about this series, Goldberg blends the familiar features of the original text into his new narrative with such a deft hand you’re able to recognize them for what they are, but they don’t feel crammed in. Even better? He doesn’t splice them in very often. Just enough to give flavor, but not so much he dilutes the current mystery Sherlock’s daughter, Dr. Watson, and his son are investigating.
Speaking of which, the case under investigation in The Art of Deception…
A madman, for reasons unknown, is stalking and slashing Renaissance paintings – exclusively of women. When the madman decides terrorizing galleries in the West End isn’t enough and breaks into the home of man fifth in line for the throne…well, Lestrade calls on Sherlock’s daughter, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Watson for help.
The Art of Deception is a great book. One I, unfortunately, managed to polish off in two days. (I am absolutely terrible at putting a book down when I’m enjoying it. In fact, I would’ve finished it off faster, but work, sleep, and packing got in the way!)
If you’re looking for a solid, fun and fast mystery with a Sherlockian in feel, I’d recommend you read The Art of Deception!
(BTW, you don’t need to read them in order to understand what’s happening in this book – Goldberg does an effortless job of catching the reader up.)
Some of you might have been put off by the fact that a good part of Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven, was presented as a dystopian novel, and I suspect in these days, knowing that the world collapses in this instance is because of what is known as the “Georgia Flu” won’t help. But Station Eleven is much, much more than that, and if you ask anyone else who’s read it, they’ll agree.
Also, don’t be off-put when I tell you that it delves into the realm of Literature, because that sounds pretentious, and Emily St. John Mandel has managed to avoid pretentiousness by telling a fast-paced action story. The fact that it has solid literary worth is cleverly disguised.
Although I grant you, you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s King Lear. And Shakespeare in general, come to that.
Briefly, we begin on the eve of the Georgia Flu hitting the world (and this time the virus comes out of Russia instead of China, so see, that’s already one difference between fiction and reality. Aren’t you relieved?), with the collapse of legendary actor Arthur Leander onstage while he’s performing King Lear. The flu hits and within days, civilization as we know it is a thing of the past.
Station Eleven bounces back and forth between Arthur’s past and the future where one of the survivors of that fateful performance is now part of a traveling troupe of musicians and actors navigating the dangers of a new world littered with remnants and memories of the old one. And there are dangers aplenty, make no mistake.
Part of the deceptive charm of Station Eleven is that Emily St. John Mandel sucks you completely into her world, and you don’t see the power of her writing because it’s so beautifully understated. I finished it feeling like I’d been thumped over the head with a hammer that was lovingly encased in gorgeous velvet.
Oh, I know, I’m not making a lot of sense, which is why Station Eleven is a Trust Me book. Despite the dystopia and the flu, which I know sounds pretty awful to a lot of people right now, this is a book that should be on everyone’s TBR list, and honestly, I think it should be added to college level reading lists because Emily St. John Mandel’s weaving of stories is brilliant.
And it’s a page-turner too, with fabulous and complex people. And a dog. Trust me.
In response to the year we’re leaving, and in hopes for the year we’re entering, I’ll leave it to this line from a great series we watched in November, “The Queen’s Gambit” ~ MY TRANQUILITY NEEDS TO BE REFURBISHED
scruple (n.) A”moral misgiving, pang of conscience,” late 14th C., from Old French scrupule (14th C.), from Latin scrupulus “uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience,” literally “small sharp stone,” diminutive of scrupus “sharp stone or pebble,” used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, probably from the notion of having a pebble in one’s shoe. The word in the more literal Latin sense of “small unit of weight or measurement” is attested in English from late 14c. (etymonline)
fustigate (v.)”to cudgel, to beat,” 1650s, back-formation from Fustication (1560s) or from Latin fusticatus, past participle of fusticare “to cudgel” (to death), from fustis “cudgel, club, staff, stick of wood,” of unknown origin. De Vaan writes that “The most obvious connection would be with Latin -futare” “to beat,” but there are evolutionary difficulties. (etymonline)
cantankerous (adj.) “marked by ill-tempered contradiction or opposition,” 1772, said by Grose to be “a Wiltshire word,” conjectured to be from an alteration (influenced perhaps by raucous) of a dialectal survival of Middle English contakour “troublemaker” (c. 1300), from Anglo-French contec “discord, strife,” from Old French contechier (Old North French contekier), from con- “with” + teche, related to atachier “hold fast” (see attach). With -ous. Related: Cantankerously; cantankerousness. (etymoline)
I am presently killing my hands painting the interior of my husband and I’s new house…and have literally packed every single one of my books in preparation for moving (which is killing me as a bibliophile). So I haven’t had much spare time to read…I know excuses, excuses!
You’re going to get tired of hearing this.
I know, I know, but Louise Penny is great!
At least half of you are skipping this, aren’t you? Either you’ve already read it or you’re not a convert yet. Ha!
If you’ve never read Louise Penny, starting with her latest, ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, actually isn’t a bad place to begin. Granted, you won’t have the emotional ties that come with being in love with the series, but don’t worry. Once you’re hooked (and you will be), you’ll go back and start with STILL LIVES, and you’ll catch up.
ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE takes place in Paris rather than Three Pines, which is part of what makes it okay to begin here. Also, you get a lot of family history, which will help you understand some of the cloudiness about Gamache’s relationship with his son, Daniel.
There is a lot going on in this book. Armand’s relationship with Daniel, Armand’s relationship with his godfather, Daniel’s relationship with Jean-Guy. And we spend a lot more time with Reine-Marie, which is lovely.
Oh, and there’s murder. And attempted murder, and theft and burglary and corporate shenanigans. Everything you expect from Louise Penny.
Now, let me be frank. This is not my favorite of her books. I think the ending was rushed, and I’m not entirely sure her new editor gets Louise’s vibe. At times it felt a little clunky.
That being said, I still skipped all my chores to race to the ending, which quite literally haunted my dreams. I woke up from a nightmare about being in the middle of the final conflict. She’s that good. So when I say it felt clunky, understand that it’s still much, much better than many other authors’ work! It just felt rushed.
So there you go, yet another endorsement for Louise Penny, and yes, you absolutely should read ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE. And don’t worry, you’ll still be in touch with the Three Pines crew. I think you’re gonna love the ending, by the way. *wink*
foe (n): Old English gefea, gefa“foe, enemy, adversary in a blood feud” (the prefix denotes “mutuality”), from adjective fah “at feud, hostile,” also “guilty, criminal,” from Proto-Germanic *faihaz (source also of Old High German fehan “to hate,” Gothic faih “deception”), perhaps from the same Proto-Indo-European source that yielded Sanskrit pisunah “malicious,” picacah “demon;” Lithuanian piktas “wicked, angry,” peikti “to blame.” Weaker sense of “adversary” is first recorded c. 1600. (etymonline.com)
zombie (n.) From 1871, of West African origin (compare Kikongo zumbi “fetish;” Kimbundu nzambi “god”), originally the name of a snake god, later with meaning “reanimated corpse” in voodoo cult. But perhaps also from Louisiana creole word meaning “phantom, ghost,” from Spanish sombra “shade, ghost.” Sense “slow-witted person” is recorded from 1936. (thanks to etymonline)
bellicose (adj.) from the early 15th C., “inclined to fighting,” from Latin bellicosus“warlike, valorous, given to fighting,” from bellicus “of war,” from bellum “war” (Old Latin duellum, dvellum), which is of uncertain origin. (thanks to etymonline)
fear (n.) From Middle English fere, from Old English fær “calamity, sudden danger, peril, sudden attack,” from Proto-Germanic *feraz “danger” (source also of Old Saxon far “ambush,” Old Norse far“harm, distress, deception,” Dutch gevaar, German Gefahr “danger”), from PIE *pēr-, a lengthened form of the verbal root *per- (3) “to try, risk.”
Sense of “state of being afraid, uneasiness caused by possible danger” developed by late 12th C. Some Old English words for “fear” as we now use it were fyrhto, fyrhto; as a verb, ondrædan. Meaning “feeling of dread and reverence for God” is from c. 1400. To put the fear of God (into someone) “intimidate, cause to cower” is by 1888, from the common religious phrase; the extended use was often at first in colonial contexts:
“Thus then we seek to pu ‘the fear of God’ into the natives at the point of the bayonet, and excuse ourselves for the bloody work on the plea of the benefits which we intend to confer afterwards.” – Felix Adler, The Religion of Duty, 1950
I’m so sorry about last month. We’re moving from Washington State to New Mexico, which would be hectic at any time, but during COVID has been especially challenging. I can’t even begin to discuss the sheer volume of paperwork!
But my 60 boxes of books are packed, so there’s that. And I unearthed books from my To Be Read pile that honestly I’d forgotten about, which brings me to Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It came out in 2018. I may be behind but I’m sincere in my efforts.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter spans time from about 1850 to 2017, with stops along the way. Our narrator is Birdie, also sometimes known as Lily Millington. She’s been around for a very long time. The other person we’re following mostly is Elodie Winslow, in 2017. Obviously their paths intertwine, but it’s how and why that is so fascinating.
Birdie, as Lily, was the model for an up and coming painter in the late 1800’s, Edward Radcliffe. She was and is a highly intelligent and curious and free-spirited young lady, with a shady past. Elodie archives records and memorabilia surrounding a different 1800’s person, James Stratton, as well as dodges her soon-to-be mother-in-law whenever possible.
How these two women’s lives overlap, along with so very many other people, is at the heart of the story, but make no mistake, this is a murder mystery. Frances Brown was murdered at Edward Radcliffe’s house in 1862, and everyone believes they know what happened.
They’re wrong. Almost no one does. And finding out what happened will keep you reading, I promise. Kate Morton is an accomplished author, and she manages the different voices skillfully and deftly. This is an absolutely lush novel, and I think it would be a gorgeous movie, but no film could ever capture the depth, the insights, the myriad layers of personality and history that are encompassed in this book.
As the weather darkens and the year winds down, I really do recommend The Clockmaker’s Daughter as a great fireside read on a blustery day!
While he’s written a ton a great books, I’ve always thought The Poet is Michael Connelly‘s best book. Granted, I’ve not read it in a couple of decades but it has stuck with me as singular – and I plan to re-read it very soon.
So I was excited to learn that his newest book, Fair Warning, brings back reporter Jack McEvoy and eager to read it.
While the plot is, as always, original and interesting, this was a boring read. A dud. (Even the cover is bad – his publisher put a raven on it and there is zero plot connection to the earlier McEvoy novels.) The writing was flat and uninteresting, McEvoy struggles with and inability to make intimate relationships work with women – as most of Connelly’s male characters do – and I finished it just to see how it’d end. I hadn’t read any Connelly books in years and I should’ve kept it that way. A sad comment about a favorite author and nice guy.
On the other hand – – –
“It was rampaging imbecility, and possibly unstoppable.”
“The boy looked up from the canal bank to see what he’d snagged, dialed 911, cut his
line with a knife, and walked away. It was the third dead body he’s found while fishing, but such was the reality of a childhood spent outdoors in Florida. It was a testament to the teen’s passion for angling that he’d never considered getting a new hobby”. Fiction or memory?
Not only is this about the usual insanity of Hiaasen’s Florida home state, it’s the insanity of the current year: covid, the election, the current occupants of the White House, MAGA fans who call themselves the Potussies (because these decadently wealthy women find “POTUS pussies” might risk their cherished places on the social registry), stripper poles in beach cabanas, tanning beds that must be test run, record-length pythons, violent texts about immigrants and howling mobs, and even a certain ex-governor. Oh, and fabulously expensive conch pearls.
“The whole place smelled like the exhaust vent at a Burger King”
The winter White House on Palm Beach island – Hiaasen has dubbed it “Casa Bellicosa” – is the scene of most of the action after Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons vanishes from a fundraiser. Soon we’re into a hunt for her involving the Secret Service, the local chief of police and a young woman who removes creatures from buildings and returns them to the wild. Angie used to be a wildlife agent but was sent to prison for feeding the hand of a poacher to an alligator. The only regret she had was that the poor alligator had to be shot.
Hiaasen does not lower himself to use the actual names of the President and First Lady – he used Secret Service code names of “Mastodon” and “Mockingbird” but he is otherwise scathing in his portrayal of the recognizable Leader of the Free World. As you might imagine. “Up on the TV screen, Mastodon wearing a vast beet-colored golf shirt that hung on his upper frame like an Orkin termite tent. His long-billed cap had been yanked down tight to keep his hairpiece moored to its Velcro moonbase during gusts of wind.”
The First Lady is treated with respect – though he gives her a fondness for a “a specific massage oil – eucalyptus and bacon mint”. She actually comes off as the only sane one in family. She may’ve even found true love!
I frankly didn’t care if the other passengers on the plane looked oddly at me for laughing out loud while consuming the book. How could you not?
A little something different in this months Words of the Month
Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. The sentiment has been attributed to many other minds. (thanks to Says You!, episode 2412)
The shop’s e-mail filter has snagged a number of messages as nefarious. They’re supposedly from US sources and the subject lines say something like “Only The U.S. Presidential Team Will Save United States from Doomsday Ahead” or “The Exceptional Benefits of The United States Presidential Team”. Makes me wonder if these are attempts by “outside actors” to influence the election. Usually, we just get sunglasses brags or Nigerian princes’ pleas in Spanish…
This is probably one of the most fun (only surpassed by the detective’s agency) and detailed builds I’ve finished so far in Lego’s mains street builds. With trees, flowers, a backyard garden and books – what more can you ask for?
Lego categorizes this as an Creator Expert build – so unless you have a kid with large builds under their belt or can follow instructions well – I’d work up to this set.
Charles Leerhsen‘s new biography, Butch Cassidy, was great fun. It’s full of interesting details – Etta’s first name was really Ethel but a typo in the Pinkerton’s file has forever changed that, and Sundance played the guitar well – who knew? I had not heard that Sundance’s mother’s maiden name was Place and that’s likely where Etta/Ethel got it. In fact, it may be we really don’t know her birth name.
I had not heard of the collapse of beef prices during the blizzard called the The Big Die-Up of 1886-87 (a 15-inch snowflake still holds the world record for size from that storm) and that massive affect on the Old West. I had not realized the size of hauls the Wild Bunch got from banks and trains, and, as staggering as those numbers are, it is astonishing how they were always out of money. “You could go broke in the Wild West being a bandit.” And I had not realized just how far and how often they’d travel, whether by horseback or, one assumes, train.
What Leerhsen does best it draw portraits of the outlaws and juxtaposes those against what we all expect from the famed movie. Indeed, while haunted and hunted by the law, they still did quite a bit of straight work – cowboying on ranches all along the eastern Rockies. He does a similar job relating their years in South America. Again, I had not understood how long they were there. Hollywood, again. But Leerhsen points all of that out, even to the degree which screenwriter William Goldman purposefully didn’t research Cassidy and Sundance and still he got their personalities and era right.
With a light and amusing style, he sets down things that you know about in a new way. About the massive explosion in the train heist in Wilcox, WY – so well destroyed a second time in the movie, the author tells us: “When Woodcock came to, he was pleased to realize that the crimson splotches all over his clothes came from a shipment of raspberries that the blast had turned into flying jam. The red stuff now coated everything in sight – and would later make the stolen bank notes and coins easier to identify”. Later, one of the gang would be arrested after spending one of the stained notes.
There are many, many amusing passages in the book. Wish I’d kept better track of them!
But there are a few flaws to the book. For one, it’d’ve been a great help to have a map of their locations in the Eastern Rockies and in South America. Much more useful than the usual photos that are not new. They road hundreds of miles, worked at this ranch or that ranch, circled back to this one – where was that one again? He also remarks often about how Butch’s fame as an outlaw grew but he doesn’t match that but noting how many bank or train robberies there were. From what he includes, Butch seems to be an occasional outlaw, not a desperado with a national reputation.
But that leads to one glaring fault of the book. Maybe he didn’t feel the need to present anything comprehensive due to the large number of books about Butch. Indeed, time and again he mentions the authoritative or exhausting book that Richard Patterson or Kerry Ross Boren, or the work of Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows. Maybe the helpful maps are in one of those books…
At any rate, I highly recommend this book. There’s lots about the time period and what their Old Wild West was really like and, best of all, as Leerhsen seems to agree, there are no intrusive, annnoying Burt Bacharach songs.
sibylline (adj.): From the 1570s, from Latin sibyllinus, from sibylla (see sibyl: “woman supposed to possess powers of prophecy, female soothsayer,” c. 1200, from Old French sibile, from Latin Sibylla, from Greek Sibylla, name for any of several prophetesses consulted by ancient Greeks and Romans, of uncertain origin. Said to be from Doric Siobolla, from Attic Theoboule “divine wish.”) thanks to etymonline
“Las Vegas was better off when it was run by the mob.” Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas, an 11-part true-crime podcast series produced by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in partnership with The Mob Museum, chronicles the mob’s rise and fall in Las Vegas through the eyes of those who lived it: ex-mobsters, law enforcement officials, politicians and journalists. [JB recommends]
July 16: Homicide at Rough Point: In the fall of 1966, billionaire Doris Duke killed a close confidant in tony Newport, Rhode Island. Local police ruled the incident “an unfortunate accident.” Half a century later, compelling evidence suggests that the mercurial, vindictive tobacco heiress got away with murder.
Need a good summertime read that will take you back to all the awkward moments of childhood? No? How about a book that takes you back to some of your best memories as a kid?
Sounds better right?
Remembering all those good times you had with your best friend at skating parties, talking on the phone for hours about nothing, summer vacations, or that one time you needed to exorcise a demon from your best friend’s soul? Yeah…not something everyone can relate to…but that’s precisely what Abby needs to do to save her best friend…
This book is an intensely fun read.
While it’s occasionally awkward and cringe-worthy (but in the best possible way), this uncomfortableness generated by the author adds a whole other layer to the horror/mystery/friendship story unfolding on the page. Seriously, I don’t know how Grady Hendrix did it – but episodes (minus the exorcism, demon, and animal sacrifice) feel as if he pulled them from my own experience – both the terrific and the embarrassing.
If you’re looking for a book to read under the covers with a flashlight, in the middle of the night – that will on occasion make the familiar nightly squeaks, creaks, and groans of your home sound new and strange… My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the book you’re looking for!
(P.S. Did I forget to mention it’s set in the eighties? In all, it’s spectacular Madonna influenced glory…)
Do you like getting mail? Do you relish writing letters? Do you enjoy mysteries? Have you ever dreamed of being an armchair detective? Now’s your chance! With a mail-based mystery series called Dear Holmes.
I’ll let Mr. Holmes explain your new employment (as he’s more succinct than I):
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Dear Holmes, and your new career as a consulting detective.
For the next few months, I will be handing some of my most challenging cases to you. My associates from around the world will write you each month with a challenging new mystery in need of solving.
Every week you will receive another letter with new details on the present mystery, bringing you closer and closer to the solution. I or Dr. Watson will receive the same letters, and reach out to the client to ask probing questions on your behalf.
Since we tend to receive some more peculiar cases, I will also make the knowledge of my network of experts available to you at times, to help shed light on some of the more perplexing details of the cases we encounter.
Your challenge is to solve the mystery before I do. Once I solve the case (at the end of the month), I will write you to share how I solved it. I sincerely hope you beat me to the task.
Are you ready to put your deductive skills to the test?
The game is afoot!”
Now you can email the solution to Mr. Holmes for his perusal – but in the monthly Featured Detective contest – people who post their solutions thru the mail are given extra points! (Plus it gives you an excuse to purchase some top drawer stationary!)
This is a fun and creative game that tests not only your deductive powers but your critical reading skills and the knowledge, you as a reader, have acquired of the era from which Holmes & Watson sprung.
I’ve only been a consulting detective for a month and I’m already hooked!
civil (adj). From the late 14 C., “relating to civil law or life; pertaining to the internal affairs of a state,” from Old French civil “civil, relating to civil law” (13th C.) and directly from Latin civilis “relating to a society, pertaining to public life, relating to the civic order, befitting a citizen,” hence by extension “popular, affable, courteous;” alternative adjectival derivative of civis “townsman” (see city).Meaning “not barbarous, civilized” is from 1550s. Specifically “relating to the commonwealth as secularly organized” (as opposed to military or ecclesiastical) by 1610s. Meaning “relating to the citizen in his relation to the commonwealth or to fellow citizens” also is from 1610s.
The word civil has about twelve different meanings; it is applied to all manner of objects, which are perfectly disparate. As opposed to criminal, it means all law not criminal. As opposed to ecclesiastical, it means all law not ecclesiastical: as opposed to military, it means all law not military, and so on. [John Austin, “Lectures on Jurisprudence,” 1873]
The sense of “polite” was in classical Latin, but English did not pick up this nuance of the word until late 16 C., and it has tended to descend in meaning to “meeting minimum standards of courtesy.” “Courteous is thus more commonly said of superiors, civil of inferiors, since it implies or suggests the possibility of incivility or rudeness” [OED].
Civil case (as opposed to criminal) is recorded from 1610s. Civil liberty “natural liberty restrained by law only so far as is necessary for the public good” is by 1640s. [thanks to etymonline]
widdershins (adj.) From the 1510s, chiefly Scottish, originally “contrary to the course of the sun or a clock” (movement in this direction being considered unlucky), probably from Middle Low German weddersinnes, literally “against the way” (i.e. “in the opposite direction”), from widersinnen “to go against,” from wider “against” (see with) + sinnen “to travel, go,” from Old High German sinnen, related to sind “journey” (see send). [thanks to etymonline.com]
For What It’s Worth: We are often stumped about where to place a link. Some stories are Serious and Cool and Book related. Where should it be placed? For instance, the above story about Black-owned bookshops being overwhelmed with support could go in all of them. (Way to go America!) An argument could be made that most all of these Book stories could, and maybe should, go in the Serious section. Then there are the Links of Interest. Why there and not another section. The answer is: who knows. It is just a matter of where they seem to fit a the moment. We’re just the deeply flawed humans like the rest of you.
We’re not trying to downplay a story by not putting it in one place or another. We hope you’ll plow through the entire issue, clicking on things that pique your interest at first, maybe coming back to others over the month.
Lastly, as we hunt for stories to paste in for you, please note that we often don’t get time to read them ourselves. The hunt is the goal and the pressure, and while you have time to read one issue over the course of a month, we’re already building the next issue… The fun for us is the assembly of the whole. So look it all over and have fun!
paup (v.) “to walk about aimlessly” (Says You!); “probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse paufa to walk slowly, walk stealthily; akin to Old English potian to push, butt, goad ” (thanks to merriam/webster)
What would you do if you discovered the evidence needed to convict a murderer? Would you turn it in to the authorities? Of course, you would.
But what if…
What if you didn’t care for the victim? Found them off-putting and a tad smarmy? What if by turning in your crucial piece of evidence, you are condemning someone (someone you actually do admire) at the very outset of their life to the miseries of jail? Or even the noose?
Would you turn the evidence in then?
Or do you let the Fates work it out?
Because surely, if the gods wanted the murderer punished, the police would find other evidence…Right? According to every mystery novel written (other than Christie’s Curtain), every murder makes plenty of mistakes and leaves clues for the authorities to find…
But what if you found the only one?
This is the heart of Miss Pym Disposes – what would you do?
I cannot believe I’ve waited so long to read this book! Seriously it’s been sitting on my shelf for years – and I finally picked it up – and I have to say it is one of the most unique mysteries I’ve read in a VERY long time. It’s like a cross between Christie and Austen – kinda. Like Christie, Tey leads you inexorably towards the culprit – laying down twists, turns, clues, motives, and means without even seeming too. (And in such a way my veteran mystery lover’s eyes didn’t spot them as I was reading – but are super clear after I finished). It reminds me of Jane Austen a bit – because you’re nearly done with the book before the deed is done!
Seriously if you’re looking for an interesting and largely bloodless mystery (that is in no way a cozy in the sense of the genera nowadays) I would highly suggest Ms. Pym Disposes!
I don’t have a review, because in true 2020 fashion, my life has taken a turn for the weird, and my wife and I are moving to New Mexico.
It’s a big change, yes, but it’s a good one, and we’re mostly looking forward to it. It’s the right move.
Except, now I have to move my books.
See? It’s a problem! Because of my time at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, I have a LOT of books. And many of them are collectible first editions.
Oh sure, I’ve been culling, getting rid of the Advance Reader Copies I’ve held onto since 2004 that I have to finally face I’m never going to read. And the truly tattered copy of a mass market where I’ve got a better copy, but that tattered one was my first one and I love it.
But it’s still hard. And I keep running into treasures, and I love re-reading so I’m constantly having to force myself to stay focused. Oh, and I’m still working, so there’s that, and Lillian’s doing advance work down in New Mexico, so she’s busy too.
Still, the books are my problem. She’s got woodworking stuff to deal with when she gets back. And I’ve been faced with the problem of what to keep and what to *gulp* get rid of. Rehome.
I’ve given a lot of books to Page 2 Books in Burien, donated to help build their inventory during the plague. They became my go-to indie bookstore, and I want them to thrive. Fans of Jayne Ann Krentz will recognize the name. And I’ve also taken a lot of the ARCs to work so folks get books for free, and so far they’ve scooped up four boxes.
But you wouldn’t know it to look at my shelves. Did I mention I’ve got a LOT of books? And I’ve gotta get them safely packed soon. Like in the next two weeks soon, because we’ll be down there by August. We’re old farts and we’ll be hiring movers to haul down the heavy stuff, but I don’t trust them to pack my books! I barely trust ME, and I’m a professional! Well, you know, I was. Still am at heart, darn it.
And they’re heavy as all get-out, so that means lots and lots of boxes of books. Even paperbacks add up in weight after a while, don’t they? And oh look, I forgot I had this one; I wonder if it’s still as good as I remember…
Focus. Boxes. Dust jacket wrappers for the ones I missed. Each in a plastic bag. Well, not the paperbacks.
Oh hell, I just found my comic book stash.
So anyway, that’s why I don’t have a review this month. However, I am – now and always – a part of Seattle Mystery Bookshop, and I’m still going to be reviewing books, just from a different location.
Talk to you next month, and in the meantime, wish me luck!
I follow the thinking of Bill Farley when it comes to Robert Goldsborogh‘s Nero Wolfe books – they’re not up to Rex Stout but it is a way to spend time with old friends.
His last few have been very nice. Sorry to say the latest, Archie Goes Home, was a dud.
As the title says, a call from him aunt draws Archie back to his hometown to southern Ohio. His aunt – a world-class busybody – thinks something fishy with the death of the local, and loathed, banker. So, since the bank balance at the brownstone is healthy, and given the chance take the convertible on a trip to see his mother, off he goes.
The whole thing is flat. The characters aren’t very real, the plot zips along without any sense of depth, and I thought the lack of Wolfe was the problem. Well, even the arrival of Wolfe (driven by Saul) can’t spice up the book. It was dull, sorry to report.
On the other hand, John Meacham‘s The Soul of Americais must reading. Not only does the historian’s words flow with a smooth and delightful zip, he gives you seven sections that lay out periods in our country’s past when things were grim and the future of the democracy seemed dire, and how the leaders of the time rallied to pull the country and the people out of the muck. He doesn’t continually point to our sad, current state but it is clear that he’s showing us comparisons to now and telling us to not loose hope. If you’re at all interested in the grand sweep of history and how we can learn from past mistakes, pick it up. It is erudite and educational, and it will give you some faith in our “better angels.”
At the end of his last book, Joe DeMarco was driving off into the sunset. Without a job, he was just going to cruise and play golf. Sounded like a splendid retirement – for him. For me, I was horrified that a favorite series might be at an end. NOT TO FRET!
With the results of the 2018 election, Mahoney is headed back to being the Speaker of the House of Representatives and has promised to find a new, if meaningless title, for DeMarco.
Mike Lawson is an inventive writer. His ingenious plots shoot into doglegs and hook into unexpected roughs. The crash of a small plane starts House Privilege and quickly DeMarco is off to Boston and upstate NY to slice open the events and sink the villains. It’s a trap of money and heavies, and politics and power, and maybe a little bit of love for our lonely hero. He certainly deserves it, even if it requires hockey.
The only problem with a Mike Lawson book – ok, there are two – is that it is impossible to put one down once started, so it is over all too quickly. The other is that you have to wait a year for the next. Can’t wait to see where DeMarco is sent next.