September Newzine

biggest      This ‘n’ That

From the LA Times: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters

Michael Chabon Will Showrun Star Trek: Picard 

She fights every ‘troll, psycho and perv’ she can find – and uses the law to do it 

How to Cancel Your Amazon Prime Membership (and Why You Should): Here’s how to stop financially supporting a monopoly.

Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite

Not a murder in the story – so far as they know – but a fascinating one from National Geographic: DNA Study Deepens Mystery of Lake Full of Skeletons

Nineteen years ago, Tom Wales was shot dead as he worked at his computer in the lower floor of his Queen Anne house. This is notable for two reasons – first, he was and is the only Assistant United States Attorney to be murdered in office and, second, until Aug. 21 there had been no indictments. There’s a podcast which covers the case: somebody somewhere. The entire first season 12 episodes, covers the case.

NASA Said to be Investigating First Allegation of a Crime in Space

The Great Seattle Pot Heist

The ‘Breaking Bad’ Movie is Coming To Netflix In October and The Trailer Is Here

The Case of the Missing $7 Million Car and the Car Detective on the Hunt

       Words of the Month

jabber (v.)”talk rapidly and indistinctly,” 1650s, spelling variant of Middle English jablen (c. 1400), also javeren, jaberen, chaveren, jawin; probably ultimately echoic. Related: Jabbered; jabbering. The noun, “rapid, unintelligible talk” is 1727, from the verb. Related: Jabberment (Milton). [thanks to etymonline]

Foyles Sets Up Libraries for High-End Retirement Homes

Can Britain’s Top Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble?

JD Salinger: novels finally to be published as ebooks

Who needs bookshops anyway? Libraries Are Telling People How Much Money They Save by Not Buying Books 

The Tale of Genji: The world’s first novel? 

Why are women obsessed with true crime? Rachel Monroe has some answers

Ever Thought About Pursuing a Book Deal? Here’s How to Get Started

10 Great Books that Defy All Genres (thanks to Kat Richardson for this post)

Top Publishers Sue Audible (aka Amazon, aka SPECTRE), Alleging Encroachment On Text Territory

Why Beatrix Potter self-published Peter Rabbit

Parnassus Books Cares About Us. Does Amazon? [Thanks to Steve for passing this to us!]

Ringing the changes: how Britain’s red phone boxes are being given new life 

A California Type Foundry Is Keeping Vintage Printing Alive

      Manson: The 50th Anniversary

The Manson Family murders, and their complicated legacy, explained

How many more did Manson family kill? LAPD investigating 12 unsolved murders 

A ‘Mindhunter’ Fan Put the Charles Manson Scene Side-By-Side With an Actual 1981 Interview

      The Second Season of “Manhunter”

This one scene explains what makes Netflix’s “Mindhunter” so scary

Mothers cry out for justice as Mindhunter introduces the Atlanta Child Murders

The real Mindhunters: why ‘serial killer whisperers’ do more harm than good

Mindhunter star Holt McCallany: ‘I met Manson Family murderer Bobby Beausoleil – I’d bet my life he wouldn’t kill again’

      Words of the Month

gibberish (N) “rapid and inarticulate speech; talk in no known language,” 1550s, imitative of the sound of chatter, probably influenced by jabber. Used early 17th C. of the language of rogues and gypsies. (thanks to etymonline)

       Author Events

Sept 17 ~ Candace Robb (& Owen Archer!), 7pm, Third Place/LFP

September 17 ~ April Henry, 7pm, Powell’s/Cedar Hills

September 20 ~ Craig Johnson, 7pm, Powell’s/Cedar Hills

Sept 23 ~ J.A. Jance,  7pm, Third Place/LFP

September 23 ~ Amy Stewart, 7:30pm, Powell’s

September 27 ~ J.A. Jance, 7pm, UBooks/Mill Creek

September 28 ~ J.A. Jance, 4pm, Village Books

       Links of Interest

August 1: John Dillinger’s Relatives Say They Have ‘Evidence’ The Buried Body May Not Be His

August 1: The Fruitcake Prison Break That Reshaped Irish History

August 2: How a Group of Gamers Tracked Down a Quadruple Murder Suspect

August 2: Philadelpha Phillies Sue To Keep Beloved ‘Phanatic’ Mascot From Free Agency

August 3: Watergate Salad: A Fluffy Green Bite Of Washington, D.C.’s Past

August 3: Belfast City Cemetery: 150 years of buried stories

August 3: Concrete Carmel ‘Pueblo’ has a great view and a hidden room behind a bookcase – a steal at only $9.8 Million!

August 5: Red Sea Diving Resort: The holiday village run by spies


August 7: The Lies of the Irishman ~ Netflix and Martin Scorsese are making their biggest bets ever on the confessions of a mafia “hitman.” The guy made it all up.

August 16: The Publisher of I Heard You Paint Houses Responds to “The Lies of the Irishman”


August 7: Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem

August 7: Scientists Discover Prehistoric Giant ‘Squawkzilla’ Parrot, As Big As Small Child

August 9: The Classic Novel That Is Most Often Abandoned By Readers

August 10: How death cafes are de-stigmatizing death

August 11: Interview with Martin Freeman ~ ‘The Detective’s Moral Dilemma Drew Me In’

August 12: Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard ‘done with zombies’

August 12: Pompeii archaeologists uncover ‘sorcerer’s treasure trove’

August 12: The Subversive Messages in the Wizard of Oz

August 12: A Novel Concept: Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize

August 13: Long overdue: Five library books returned a few decades late

August 13: DREAMY CLOSET LIBRARY IDEAS TO ADD TO YOUR HOME

August 13: The Women Who Tasted Hitler’s Food

August 13: Is the bystander effect a myth?

August 14: Letter from Africa: The power of an apostrophe

August 15: Leonardo da Vinci’s abandoned and hidden artwork reveals its secrets

August 15: Self-Proclaimed “Dobby’s Freedom Keeper” Regularly Replaces House Elf Headstone

August 16: 5 HISTORICAL MYSTERIES THAT COMBINE REAL HISTORY WITH WHODUNNIT

August 16: THE ANATOMY OF THE BOOK

August 17: “Lincoln’s Spies”: Elizabeth Van Lew, southern sexism and the winning of a secret war

August 17: Sherlock Season 5: Martin Freeman updates fans on chance of new episodes

August 18: ‘Is that bum trap missing a flesh-bag?’: a guide to Australia’s convict slang

August 19: ‘Murder She Wrote’ & Me

August 20: The mystery photos of a 1957 gay wedding

August 20: “No Time to Die” ~ What the new 007 title might mean

August 20: Film props from The Shining, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and more go up for auction

August 21: The Cold War spy technology which we all use

August 22: GREAT BOOKS ABOUT TRUE CRIMES

August 22: Physicists discover hidden text in what was thought to be blank Egyptian papyri

August 24: The Russian spy who posed as a Canadian for more than 20 years

 

       R.I.P

August 6: Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize-winning author dies at 88

August 9: Comic Book Creator Ernie Colón Dies at 88

August 16: Peter Fonda, star of ‘Easy Rider’ and scion of Hollywood royalty, dies at 79

August 17: Richard Williams, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ animator, dies at 86

August 20: We learned this day of the death of a long-time customer, Alison Moore.

Fran Here: I spoke with Alison on the phone frequently, and while it took a little learning to translate her Liverpudlian accent to American, she was an absolute delight. Because she was wheelchair-bound, and later bedridden, we shipped to her all the time.

But Alison wasn’t just an avid reader. She’d have us send books to friends of hers all across the US! Not necessarily mysteries – as you know, we would order anything in print – but always for birthdays and Christmas. It was interesting getting to know her friends. And they, in turn, would call to order gift certificates for her to use when she called to order for  herself. If was one of those sad souls who let us know she’d passed.

There were times after the shop closed when Alison would call me at home, just to see how I was holding up. And then we’d talk about how things were going with her. She never really recovered after her husband died, but she was feisty all the way. Home Health tried to insist she keep her husband’s hospital bed, but he was almost 6′ tall, and she barely hit 5′. She said she kept slipping off it. She won, of course.

We at the shop are sorry to hear of her passing, and it’s a personal loss to me. I’ll miss hearing the, “Hey, Fran, how’re ya doin’?” followed by “What’cha been readin’?” Wherever you are now, Alison, I hope there’s a HUGE library!

August 27: Richard Booth, self-styled King of Hay, who put the market town on the map by establishing it as a centre for the secondhand book trade

August 30: James R Leavelle, detective handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot, dies aged 99

       Words of the Month

polysemy (n) A condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. dictionary.com

polysemous (adj) 1884, from Medieval Latin polysemus, from Greek polysemos “of many sides” etymonline

       What We’ve Been Up To

   AmberFinder

Last Friday In Finder of Lost Things the Resident’s come to Phoebe’s aid since her crew took their pirate costumes entirely to much to heart – and imbibed in too much spiced rum!

This coming Friday Phoebe, Wood, Beatrice and Laney run for their freedom across the last stretch of Nevermore – trying to stay ahead of Little Ben and security!

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Rhys Bowen – Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

Georgie is off on a surprise honeymoon safari Darcy has arranged for them… Which they can only afford because Darcy accepted an assignment from his mysterious employers. Of course, Darcy attempts to keep Georgie in the dark about the arrangement, but his new wife has solved her fair share of mysteries. So his secret isn’t a secret for very long.

Plus Georgi has her little task to complete for the Queen.

One thing I love about the Royal Spyness series is how Bowen creates a subtle sort of anxiety within the pages of her book. By sticking relatively close to historical events, Bowen establishes a sense of tension within her series – a worry which grows in each installment as we creep inevitably closer to WWII.

This worry is in no small part due to Darcy’s secret overseas work, which in the coming conflict will place him directly in harm’s way. And by extension Georgie, who is keen to prove her deductive prowess to her new husband (who wasn’t always privy to all her previous investigations).

In Love And Death Among The Cheetahs amongst the exotic animals and even wilder Happy Valley set Georgie proved her worth right away. By helping both solve a murder and uncovering a spy within their midsts!

However, it’s not Hitler whom I theorize will affect Georgie’s immediate future. But her cousin David, that dreadful American woman (as she’s known) and the King’s declining health. What will happen upon the King’s death? How will the chaos, created by David’s unwillingness to give up his American divorcee and his political leanings, effect Georgie, her family, and England?

And when he abdicates will that be the last we hear of David?

Or his disapproving mother and sending Georgie to the continent to extract her errant son from trouble? Or will the new King look to her for help?

Only time will tell.

But until the next book, I will fret over the safety and well being of Georgie’s grandfather, Queenie, Zou Zou, her erratic mother, Binky, Fig, and everyone else. Because of the aforementioned cleverness of Bowen’s storytelling, I know what’s coming. Even if Georgie and Darcy only see the hints of Hitler’s plans right now.

However, I am still very excited to see where Bowen takes her Royal Spyness series next!

Especially since Georgie finally feels secure enough to reveal the steely spine she inherited from her Great-Grandmother Queen Victoria. Showing not only Fig she’s done with her backhanded compliments, but allowed her to deftly deal with an old bully, a determined letch, and a belligerent detective. All in one book!

I would recommend Love and Death Among the Cheetahs if you are looking for a country house style mystery. Well, country house adjacent. As Love And Death Among The Cheetahs is set in Kenya, not the United Kingdom. And rather than the fox hunting, horse-loving aristocratic set routinely featured in the style of book. We meet the wanton, dissolute and libertine set of Happy Valley expats. Who enjoy sex, drugs, and safaris instead.

(BTW – Georgie is utterly shocked at their antics!)

In point of fact, I would highly recommend this entire series to anyone looking for a lighter, historically mystery series. If you don’t want to start all the way back at the beginning, never fear! So long as you’re aware you aren’t starting with the first in series, you will do just fine!

One Last Note!

My other blog My 52 Weeks With Christie – in which I kept posting my original photos to and re-blogging other Agatha Christie enthusiast pictures, TV clips and other ephemera on – reached a milestone!

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I’ve posted a total of 8,000 items and counting! Which I’m told is quite something – since it was originally only suppose to have a total of 52 posts!

   Fran

You know my fondness for Joshilyn Jackson. It’s no secret, and hasn’t been since gods in Alabama. 9780446178167She’s always remarkable, taking on some really tough topics in that genteel Southern way she has.

With her latest one, Never Have I Ever (Wm. Morrow), she takes off the gloves. Always a Southern lady, mind you, but in this new book, Joshilyn Jackson comes out swinging! It’s a much, much darker books than any of her others, and yes, I’m including Between, Georgia in that. For those of you who haven’t read it, partway through I was muttering, “Trust Joshilyn, trust Joshilyn, she’ll make it right!”

9780062855312Never Have I Ever is much darker than a body dumped in kudzu or an airport gypsy explaining that murder is the best solution.  Amy Whey’s life starts unraveling in the first chapter. Are you familiar with the game “Never Have I Ever”? It’s kind of a middle school game, like Three Truths and a Lie, that can be adapted to an adult game quite easily. Someone says, “Never have I ever (fill in the blank with something you’ve never done)” and anyone who HAS done it has to drink. Kind of embarrassing but fun, right?

It’s a blast. You should play. It’s like Never Have I Ever, but for grown-ups. We skip the coy denials and go right to confession. You start by telling everyone the worst thing you did today.”

When Roux crashes the monthly book club meeting, takes over, plies most of the women with alcohol and gets them to tell their secrets, Amy knows she could have stopped her, but she didn’t. Like watching a car crash, she just let it happen.

Sure, I’ll play,” I said quietly, to Roux alone. “The worst thing I did today was let you get this pack of harpies drunk in my house.”

However, Amy has a serious secret. One her neighbors, her friends, even her husband have no idea about. Things are about to go badly for everyone.

Make no mistake, this is still the Joshilyn Jackson we know and love, and her trademark humor is still present. There were times when I snorfled so loudly I startled the dog. But this is, at its heart, a much darker novel than we’ve seen before.

And it’s about time. Joshilyn Jackson is becoming one of the great literary voices of our time; she’s a storyteller of exceptional depth and quality. You’re going to love Never Have I Ever, even when you’re not entirely sure you can like Amy, and that juxtaposition is what will keep you eagerly turning pages.

Never Have I Ever lied to you about reading Joshilyn Jackson. You won’t be disappointed.

   JB

Aug 8th gave me another shop dream. I’d been away for some weeks for some reason and the “shop” was small, narrow place with shelves around the walls and the new release paperback table taking up most of the floor space. The table was a mess. Titles that should’ve been removed weeks ago were not only still on but had been re-ordered. Some single paperbacks were spine up between stacks of others. Duplicate copies were stacked randomly on a shelf near the door and Amber and Fran were desperately trying to get it squared away. I started trying to work out what should be removed AND returned AND sorted by publisher, but people were in the way and where was I going to be able to do all of this… It was a dream of chaos.

I’ve been weaving back and forth from this book to another for several months. Still
haven’t finished the Mueller Report, or 9th Street Women, or the second-to-last Philip Kerr. Guess I’ve been a restless reader. Something new crops up – such as the O’Neil book on the 60s – and it is easy to set down what I’m in to go to something else. But there are other reasons, too. Most of what I’ve been reading for the last few months have been thick and heavy hardcovers. For the trip to San Francisco, I wanted smaller and lighter. So I picked up a couple of mass market books I’d meant to read for, well, decades, and they were as great as I expected. Both were used paperbacks I’d brought home when the shop closed.

U8ayPh3U2P8COne was Donald Westlake’s Lemons Never Lie, one of his Grofield books published in 1971 as by Richard Stark. Grofield first appeared in one of Stark’s Parker books. I’ve read all of them and loved them but somehow never got to these. Mistake. This one is the last of the four separate books and now I’ll have to track the other three down. As with the Parker books, this one was a finely-crafted story of a professional thief with a highly developed sense of how his world should work. Unfortunately, Grofield violates his own rules a number of times and pays for his errors. But gets his justice at the end. It seems odd to talk about “honor” and “justice” with a crime novel about a thief…but that’s the world we’ve picked for our entertainment.

The other was Timothy Hallinan’s final Simeon Grist novel, The Bone Polisher. Early shop colleague Tammy had gotten me into these back in the mid-90s. I immediately loved them. Grist is an LA private eye who never got a college degree though he’s studied many different fields – this allows Hallinan to have him be erudite and literate and amusing without him coming off as pedantic. This last one I’d salted away because I’d never wanted the series “to end”. But it was time and it was a thrill.

And as to that trip to that Big Bay to the south, there are two posts about it, #1 and #2. Check them out should you be curious – – – – – – —


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An Extra Review!

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(The cookies in the picture are garam-masala chocolate gingerbread cookies – I use a different recipe than the one Nancy Atherton put in her book because it required nuts and I’m allergic!)

Aunt Dimity & the Heart of Gold 

by Nancy Atherton

Did you ever wonder how Miss Marple honed her investigative abilities? Or in fact, how she remained so sharp in between each case?

I believe she kept her wits keen through continual practise. Miss Marple not only investigated the occasional murder that crosses her path – but all the little mysteries that popped up in her village of St. Mary Mead as well.

Now you shouldn’t confuse the word little with unimportant.

As Miss Marple’s learned the small mysteries (and therefore their solutions) are often analogous to the bigger mysteries, like murder and blackmail.

Which I think explains how Miss Marple was able to solve Colonel Protheroe murder in her first full-length mystery, Murder At The Vicarage. She’d already had decades worth of parallels to draw from and years of practice finding answers to prickly questions.

Now you might be wondering why on earth I am talking about Miss Marple in a review for an Aunt Dimity mystery.

The answer is this: Lori Sheperd (our sleuth), in many ways, reminds me of Miss Marple.

Go with me for a minute here.

Married with three children, an American and decades younger than the Grand Dame herself – I know superficially, Lori doesn’t appear to resemble Miss Marple in the slightest. However, if you take a closer look at their traits, striking similarities start popping out of the text.

Both women are fixtures in their community, volunteer their time, help their friends, and enjoy a good chat with their neighbors.

This “chatting” is where we find one of the most significant similarities between these two extraordinary women – their marked partiality to obtaining and occasionally disseminating village gossip. This “newsgathering” allows them both to acquire a richer view of the villages in which they reside and a better understanding of human nature – which is essential in solving mysteries.

The other important trait Lori shares with Miss Marple is her love of solving little mysteries. Any curious puzzle that pops up in Finch – Lori wants to solve it. From a quilting bee that ends with a revelation of a widow’s curse to a mysterious wishing well – very little can stop Lori from pursuing the truth.

And by keeping this murderless mystery series, Nancy Atherton has successfully avoided the Cabot Cove Syndrom which oftentimes plagues series of this length (24 books and counting). Meaning? We aren’t left wondering why anyone would live in the small village of Finch if people keep getting shot, stabbed, poisoned or garrotted in it.

Similarly, Agatha Christie was able to neatly sidestep this Syndrome by only penning twelve full-length titles and of those she set a fair few of those outside the borders of St. Mary Mead. (Atherton’s done this as well only her mysteries are set outside Finch – though wouldn’t it be fun if Lori visited St. Mary Mead? Or is that to on the nose you think?)

The most notable difference between these two ladies that I think needs addressing is their outlook on life. Miss Marple’s take on the world is one of pronounced pragmatism. Over the years, Miss Marple’s heard a plethora of rumors and solved a multitude of crimes. This knowledge has lead to the understanding that while not always pleasant, the dimmest view of someone’s motives is often the most accurate. While Lori, who hasn’t seen nearly as much, holds a far more upbeat vision of the world and the people in it. Perhaps in time, Miss Marple and Lori’s world views will align, but only time will tell.

Until then Lori will continue to hone her skills (much as Marple did) solving every niggly little puzzle that creeps up in Finch.

Such as the latest installment, Aunt Dimity & The Heart of Gold. A lovely mystery which uses Christmas/winter as a backdrop/springboard to propel this mystery forward. Where a mysterious motorist crashes a Christmas party, then discovers a Hindu alter hidden in a priest hole no one, including the homeowners, knew was there!

Lori really has her hands full in this one…

I thoroughly enjoyed every page in this book. Atherton does a great job in balancing the mystery with the Christmastime theme. Happily, she never succumbs to the syrupy sweetness that often plagues book set in December! Again using the time of year to move the mystery forward – not stall it under a ton of garland.

Now, if Atherton’s backlist daunts you, don’t worry. So long as you understand you are not starting with the first book and are willing to roll with it, you’ll be fine. As it was, I was a few books (six) out of date and had no problems picking up the thread of the series again. Now I normally recommend you start with the first book first, so you understand the hint of magic eddying around the fringes of this series, but it’s not required.

All that being said, I must say I couldn’t put this book down until I finished the very last (and highly satisfying) page. And the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is that I needed to get some sleep!

I would recommend this book to anyone like me who loves a great mystery and/or enjoys reading Christmas books in July!

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Don’t Forget to check out my other blog – Finder of Lost Things!

This week, Dourwood decided is the perfect time to execute The Brace Affair…what could go wrong?

Hallowe’en Party: Part Two – Snapdragon

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      My 52 Weeks With Christie:

Hallowe’en Party

   Random (And Almost Relevant) Facts: 

Anyone out there ever heard of Snapdragon before? Yes? No? Well, prior to reading Hallowe’en Party I never had. The only reference point I had was the British tradition of dousing a Christmas Pudding with brandy and setting it alight at the end of Christmas dinner. But Snapdragon, from Christie’s description, sounded far more boisterous, chaotic and merry compared to my single point of reference.


Fun Fact: Apparently Christmas/Plum Puddings never caught on on this side of the pond due in large part to the U.S.’s Puritan & Quaker roots, as they considered it, “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon”. Which seems a rather harsh view of a pudding.


Anyways…

Since Snapdragon played such a crucial role in Hallowe’en Party, by giving the murderer the perfect distraction/opportunity to commit their dastardly deed, I decided to investigate.

And much to my surprise I discovered this description in an 1855 party guide called:

Home Games For The People: A Collection of Family Amusements For The Fire-Side, Parlour, or Pic-Nic Parties; Consisting of Games of Action; Games simply taxing the Attention; Catch Games, depending on the assistance of an Accomplice; Games requiring the Exercise of Fancy, Memory, Intelligence and Imagination. For The Use of the Old and Young.

(Yes, that’s the title.)

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This guide’s instructions (along with several others I discovered) tallies with Christie’s description of events at that fateful Halloween Party attended Ariadne Oliver – pretty blue flames which posed a slight risk of injury, alcohol saturated raisins which cause a mess when plucked from the bowl and participants who enjoyed the diversion immensely.

However, what I found most surprising, after reading the lengthy title page, was the fact the publisher was located in New York! So with a bit more perusing, I discovered Snapdragon was played from about the 16th to 19th centuries in England, Canada, and the United States. (Apparently, the Puritans and Quakers found fault with a pudding but filling a bowl full of spirits, raisins and fire then sending their children to play in it was fine.)

Raisins were the preferred treat. However, currents, figs, grapes, plums or almonds could be substituted if needed or suited the audience better. Originally a Christmas Eve activity it eventually evolved into a Twelfth Night and Halloween diversion as well – which Christie’s mystery illustrates.


Fun Fact: Our esteemed authoress keeps great literary company, both Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll mention Snapdragon in their works as well.


Three guesses why this tradition died out…and the first two don’t count.

While the liquor, flames, and fruit delighted the younger set and made holiday parties a smashing success, these very same elements often made the day after a bit of a misery for the unlucky. Who wants to spend Christmas Day nursing singed fingers and blistered mouth? (And depending on how quick you snatched the raisins out, the younger participates might get a slight hangover – the spirits don’t burn off as quick as you’d think.) So around the beginning of the twentieth century the observance of this custom begun dying out.

Interestingly, its decline in popularity coincides when Christie was growing up – so perhaps she played Snapdragon as a child? No clue. But due to its waning popularity, it explains why the none of the Halloween party-goers notice the killer leading their victim from the room – because Snapdragon could indeed have been a rare treat by 1969!


Fun Fact: According to Atlas Obscura, Snapdragon had an adult variant called Flapdragon. In Flapdragon a lit candle was dropped into a mug of ale, then the individual attempted to down the contents without setting their mustaches, beard or hair on fire.


Now to give you guys a complete picture of this Victorian holiday tradition, I took it upon myself to play a game of Snapdragon.

Purely for due diligence purposes, you understand.

I did, however, decide against playing Flapdragon. Which either proves I am now an adult with an iota of common sense or am merely reluctant to explain to every ER doctor/nurse/lab assistant on duty that I sustained my burns by willingly drinking a beer with a lit candle in it – could go either way.

Plus I already have enough outrageous emergency room anecdotes, thank you.

When I proposed my thrilling new Wednesday night adventure, my husband regretfully declined my invitation. Stating that watching me dip my fingers into fire, popping something on fire into my mouth, while undoubtedly standing to close to the fire was incompatible with one of his primary drives – my safety.

He did not find Snapdragon a safer alternative to Flapdragon.

So while he sat in the other room playing video games, and definitely not making sure the fire extinguisher and car keys were handy – I played Snapdragon on our balcony!

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The flames were lovely. And even better? No burns or blisters to report! Though I am glad, I decided to light the bourbon (we didn’t have any brandy) outside, because a little bit goes a long way, and I used a bit too much! The flames got a bit higher than anticipated but other than that it went great!

I can definitely see why both the children & adult’s full attention was on the Snapdragon in Hallowe’en Party! It’s entertaining and scary all at the same time!

*BTW – Don’t try this without a Responsible adult present! Fire is still dangerous, the Victorians were just plain crazy or bored, either way, while this post (is hopefully) funny – this activity is not to be taken lightly. Burns and/or real fires can result. So be it on your head if you try it!

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Hallowe’en Party: Part One

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      My 52 Weeks With Christie: Hallowe’en Party

   First Published:

November 1969

   Series:

Hercule Poirot with Ariadne Oliver & Superintendent Spence

   Summary:

During the preparations for a Halloween party Joyce Reynolds (thirteen), trying to impress Ariadne Oliver, brags that she witnessed a murder. But that she didn’t know that it was a murder at the time, because she was, “…quite young at the time.” 

Everyone agreed at the time that Joyce was just telling tall tales again – but when she’s murdered a few hours later, Ariadne isn’t so sure she was. Disturbed by the child’s murder, indeed enough to swear off apples, she descends on Poirot asking for his help in solving this mystery.

   My Review:

In school did you ever have a teacher who assigned a report with a minimum page count? You do your research, write it out and print it up – only to discover your draft is eight pages, and the minimum is twelve?

Rather than rewriting a substantial section of your paper, you employ the time-honored tactic of padding. You add superfluous examples, extra quotes from primary sources and tangentially relevant information to your final draft. Which allows you to make your required page count – but unintentionally weakens/dilutes your thesis.

This is precisely how Hallowe’en Party felt to me. The entire time I was reading it, it felt like a short story padded out with extra bits until it reached the required length of a novel.

Which, after some research, I discovered is pretty much what happened.

Hallowe’en Party’s main plot springs from a 1935 Poirot short story called How Does Your Garden Grow?. With its keystone firmly in place, Christie then engaged in more literary recycling by stitching in elements from Dead Man’s Folly, published in 1965, to impart a sense of urgency to her narrative.

Christie then moved onto her cast of characters, Poirot’s there (obviously) but she also included two previously introduced detectives; Ariadne Oliver (who’d appeared in five other novels prior) and Superintendent Spence (who appeared in two others himself). Both easing her writing burden because we already knew who they were and allowed Christie to achieve more depth in her story through the further fleshing out of established characters.

Further augmenting the book’s length Christie embroidered in a sliver of the atmosphere from her 1961 classic The Pale Horse thru one oblique and one overt reference to Macbeth (which is a vital element of the 1961 classic). She also dedicated several paragraphs to our detective’s recollections of four previous cases and two other characters (beyond our writer and retired policeman). And to round out her page count Christie placed in some commentary on the stated of the world and the British legal system.

All of these tricks allowed her to transform an eight-page short story into a two-hundred-and-sixty-six-page novel (I am using the page counts of my editions). It wasn’t a bad story, but it’s nowhere close to the brilliance of Endless Night, or The Pale Horse both penned in the same decade as Hallowe’en Party.

However.

What I ultimately think sinks this book to the bottom of the Potroast Level is the same thing that keeps it out of the Meringue Level. (If unclear about these levels read my review from last week, I detail them there.)

I think Hallowe’en Party is a Miss Marple mystery dressed in Poirot clothing.

Stick with me here.

Despite all the Poirot-ness crammed into Hallowee’en Party, from the reprocessed plot to the upcycled cast of detectives, I think the bones of this book actually lie in the Miss Marple canon (which made this an odd read since it took me a while to put my finger on exactly what was going on). But it started to clear up the night Oliver and Poirot drank brandy before his warm fire while she recounted the elements of the mystery to him, which sent echoes of The Tuesday Night Club thru my mind.

What clarified everything for me was Poirot’s summation of the case, which showed me that the real foundation of Halloween Party lies not with Poirot’s short story Where Does Your Garden Grow? but in Miss Marple’s “last case” Sleeping Murder.

Because it’s not the financial/inheritance shenanigans which set events in motion in Hallowe’en Party – but the eyewitness claims of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Still skeptical? Well, compare the two books. Both feature little girls who’ve witnessed a murder but due to their age don’t understand what they’ve seen until much later. When this revelation finally comes to light the killer, who up until that point believed themselves free from suspicion, murder again to cover up their initial crime. Additionally, the two stories also feature victims who supposedly ran off never to be seen again but are eventually discovered to have met grisly ends, then end up buried in places of natural splendor.

Now before you start shouting at me thru your computer, saying what about Dead Man’s Folly? It was published thirteen years prior to Sleeping Murder and contains these same elements!

But here’s the thing not everyone knows (and which I find vastly irritating about most Marple reading lists), that while Sleeping Murder was published after Christie’s death, she penned it well before its publication, somewhere about the mid-1940s to early 1950s then held onto it for posthumous release. In reality, Sleeping Murder is a mid-series book while Nemesis is the real end of Marple’s series. Published two years after Hallowe’en Party, Nemesis features similar underpinnings and literary padding techniques but is a far more sound book – I believe – in part because the correct detective is at the helm.

Either way, whether you think Hallowe’en Party a padded Poirot short story, based on the Sleeping Murder or a practice run for Nemesis I think this quote from Hallowe’en Party sums the book up best, “The past is the father of the present…” (pg. 128).

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      Don’t Forget

Check out my other fiction blog: Finder Of Lost ThingsThis week Beatrice is “helping” Phoebe out!

My 52 Weeks With Christie…

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      Amber Here:

So here’s the deal, five years ago my blog series My 52 Weeks With Christie officially ended (though I’ve kept photographing Christie books and posting them on Tumblr). But it’s always nagged at me that I never completed reading/reviewing the entire Christie canon. I’ve missed a few of the full-length Poirot’s, all his short stories, the latest Sophie Hannah Poirot mystery and I never even started the Parker Pyne’s or her Mary Westmacott’s! Even worse? Recently, I’ve had a hankering to reread some of my old favorites (a complete bibliophile problem – when you have a stack of new titles ready to read and all you want to do is reread old books)!

So I thought I’d finally finish what I started.

Not a weekly post, because I don’t have enough time, but sprinkle these posts thru the year (along with my regular reviews) until I completed Christie’s entire body of work!

Huzza!

Tune in tomorrow to see which book I’m reviewing next! (BTW it will be a two-part review – so the length is more manageable!)

Another February Review!

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      Amber Here!

This came out mid January and I couldn’t wait another week to tell you guys about this book! 

Don’t forget to check out my other blog – Finder of Lost Things! This week you learn why Phoebe learned as a child to loathe sheds…

      Behold A Fair Woman – Francis Duncan

It’s been a while, five years in fact since I used my Christie rating system, but I think its applicable to Francis Duncan’s Mordecai Euripedes Tremaine mystery series.

Now let me remind you of the three categories…

My highest accolade, Shrimp Level. Which hearkens back to a wonderful dinner in which I ate shrimp sauteed with a delicate steak in butter. Seriously, years later I can still picture the plate and almost remember the taste! Christie’s Murder of Roger Ackroyd, A Murder Is Announced, Crooked House and Endless Night all fall within the Shrimp category (and many others besides).

Still superior, but not achieving the dizzy heights of Shrimp is the Potroast Level. Lovely warm and filling, I’ve never eaten a bad bite of this comfort food. For Christie, this category helps to level out the towering heights and bottom scraping lows of her long career. Peril At End House, Sleeping Murder, The Man In The Brown Suit and Cards On The Table fall into this category for me.

Then there’s the Meringue Level. Which are all fluff and no substances an ultimately disappointing type of cookie. I do not care for meringue in any form, whether baked as a cookie or topping a pie. This level is where I place Christie’s Passenger To Frankfurt, Destination Unknown and N or M.

Now, why am I speaking of Christie during a review of an entirely different author?

(Besides the fact I’ve been devouring some of Christie’s works again?)

Because I feel Duncan’s books can stand toe to toe against any of the books in the Potroast Level (one or two even hovering just under the bottom line of the shrimp level) of the Christie canon! Francis Duncan’s books are all an excellent read.

Each of the five Mordecai mysteries fall within the purview of the classic British mystery Christie helped to evolve. A closed cast, multiple suspects who often possess “unshakable” alibies and each one interestingly enough occurs on a holiday of one kind or another. One fascinating feature of Duncan’s mysteries are the motives. Often stemming from the same emotion, the author is able to show the nuances found within that single emotion and how each may or may not lead to murder. Which I find fascinating to read.

Now onto Behold A Fair Woman.

I am bereft, as this is the final Mordecai Euripidies Tremaine mystery! Francis penned five in total, and I relished reading each one. I cannot recommend them highly enough! Perhaps Source Books will discover other titles, possibly written under another pseudonym, and republish them as well? Please?

But in any case back to Behold A Fair Woman – where Mordecai is taking a holiday away from his hobby of murder. The sorrow left in his heart after a successful investigation always weighs on him, despite the succor his other secret passion, romantic tales, brings him.

But as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men…Soon Mordecai is embroiled in a murder investigation when he discovers the body of a local hotel owner in the water tank of a neighboring tomato grower.

What I found most astonishing in this installment was how fair Duncan plays with his reader and yet is still able to pull off a bait and switch in the end – which makes complete sense with the evidence compiled by our intrepid amateur sleuth! It has been a very long time since I’ve read anything which pulled this feat off so well, perhaps dating all the way back to my Christie reading.

Which is why I pulled out the Christie rating system because I felt the classic nature of Duncan’s mysteries, deserved to be tallied against The preeminent classic British mystery writer!

I would recommend Behold A Fair Woman, or any of his other titles, to anyone looking for a lively classic mystery!

Agatha’s Announced!

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One of the best things about this time of year? Awards! You get to see all your old friends getting recognized for being outstanding writers (of which you already knew!)!

Announcing the 2018: Agatha Award Nominees

   Best Contemporary Novel

Mardi Gras Murder – Ellen Byron
Beyond the Truth – Bruce Robert Coffin
Cry Wolf – Annette Dashofy
Kingdom of the Blind – Louise Penny
Trust Me – Hank Phillippi Ryan

   Best Historical Novel

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding – Rhys Bowen
The Gold Pawn – L.A. Chandlar
The Widows of Malabar Hill – Sujata Massey
Turning the Tide – Edith Maxwell
Murder on Union Square – Victoria Thompson

   Best First Novel

A Ladies Guide to Etiquette and Murder – Dianne Freeman
Little Comfort – Edwin Hill
What Doesn’t Kill You – Aimee Hix
Deadly Solution – Keenan Powell
Curses Boiled Again – Shari Randall

   Best Short Story

All God’s Sparrows – Leslie Budewitz (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
A Postcard for the Dead – Susanna Calkins in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)
Bug Appetit – Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
The Case of the Vanishing Professor – Tara Laskowski (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
English 398: Fiction Workshop – Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

   Best Young Adult Mystery

Potion Problems (Just Add Magic) – Cindy Callaghan
Winterhouse – Ben Guterson
A Side of Sabotage – C.M. Surrisi

   Best Nonfiction

Mastering Plot Twists – Jane Cleland
Writing the Cozy Mystery – Nancy J Cohen
Conan Doyle for the Defense – Margalit Fox
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life – Laura Thompson
Wicked Women of Ohio – Jane Ann Turzillo

Winners will be announce this May! For more info on the Agatha Awards, click here!