sucker (n.) A “young mammal before it is weaned,” late 14th C., agent noun from suck. Slang meaning “person who is easily deceived” is first attested 1836, American English, on notion of naivete; but another theory traces the slang meaning to the fish called a sucker (1753), on the notion of being easy to catch in their annual migrations (the fish so called from the shape of its mouth). As a type of candy from 1823; especially “lollipop” by 1907. Meaning “shoot from the base of a tree or plant” is from 1570s. Also the old name of inhabitants of Illinois. (etymonline)
folly (n.): From the early 13th C., “mental weakness; foolish behavior or character; unwise conduct” (in Middle English including wickedness, lewdness, madness), from Old French folie “folly, madness, stupidity” (12th C.), from fol (see fool (n.)). From c. 1300 as “an example of foolishness;” sense of “costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder” is attested from 1650s. But used much earlier, since Middle English, in place names, especially country estates, probably as a form of Old French folie in its meaning “delight.” (etymonline)
We’re eliminating this section of the newzine. What’s the point? They are into everything and will soon own everything. The windmill has won…
rube (n.): From 1896, reub, from shortened form of masculine proper name Reuben (q.v.), which is attested from 1804 as a conventional type of name for a country man… As a typical name of a farmer, rustic, or country bumpkin, from 1804. The Reuben sandwich of corned beef, sauerkraut, etc., on rye bread, an American specialty (1956) is the same name but “Not obviously connected” with the “country bumpkin” sense in rube [OED], but is possibly from Reuben’s restaurant, a popular spot in New York’s Lower East Side. Various other Reubens have been proposed as the originator. (etymonline)
August 29: Ed Asner, the Iconic Lou Grant on Two Acclaimed TV Series, Dies at 91 [Asner was born in Kansas City and his brother Ben owned a record store just across state line in Missouri called Caper’s Corners. It was the place we all went to get concert tickets and buy LPs. Later it was revealed that Ben Asner was one of the biggest fences in the city.]
con (adj.): “swindling,” 1889 (in con man), American English, from confidence man (1849), from the many scams in which the victim is induced to hand over money as a token of confidence. Confidence with a sense of “assurance based on insufficient grounds” dates from 1590s. Con artist is attested by 1910.
What We’ve Been Up To
A Noodle Shop Mystery (series) by Vivien Chien
One of the pitfalls of no longer working in a bookshop is that one occasionally falls behind in a series. Which I must confess – I don’t really mind. Why? Because when I eventually recall the temporarily neglected author, I’ve a backlog to zip my way thru! Thus allowing me to dive headlong and immerse myself in the world of an old friend and catch up with them…
This awkward phenomenon occurred most recently with Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop Mystery series. Where over a week, I devoured Fatal Fried Rice – where Lana’s cooking instructor winds up dead and lands Lana in very hot water. Killer Kung Pao – where the sourest business owner in the Asian Village is accused of murder, and her sister asks Lana to clear her name. And Egg Drop Dead – during Noodle House’s first catering gig, for the owner of the Asian Village, one of the owner’s staff ends up dead, and Lana’s detective skills are pressed into service.
I reveled in every word I read.
Here’s what I love about this series: Chien does a great job in varying motives, methods, investigative techniques (as Lana learns or stumbles onto new strategies), and culprits. Thus giving each of her books a sense of freshness, variety, and surprise – a feature often missing from other cozy mysteries. Another reason I enjoy this series is the fact the book’s solutions make sense. As in, I don’t need to suspend my disbelief in thinking an amateur sleuth could stumble onto the truth. Which, again, is a nice change of pace.
Above and beyond these aforementioned attributes – these books are witty, fun, and intelligent reads.
Okay, so the titles are punny – but I can assure you that’s where the cloying coziness ends. Lana just happens to manage her family’s noodle shop – it is the backdrop for the books, not the central theme. I promise.
I would recommend this series to anyone looking for a new cozy-ish series to immerse themselves in.
(BTW – I did make an entry in my phone’s calendar to remind me Chien’s new book, Hot and Sour Suspects, is out in January 2022 – so I didn’t accidentally forget again….)
Dorothy Uhnak was a real police detective in New York in the Sixties, when being a female detective was only marginally accepted. She turned her experiences into stories, several of which were turned into movies.
Victims wasn’t made into a movie, but it should have been, and honestly, still should be. Loosely based on the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese (you remember her, right? She was murdered and over 30 people heard it but did nothing), Victims follows the investigation into the murder of a young woman while people in the neighborhood watched but did nothing because they all thought it was “the Spanish girl”.
Victims is set in the 80’s – which, sadly, I’ve lately heard called “vintage”, which I find appalling because it was just yesterday, dammit – but the only thing that differentiates the setting between then and now are cell phones and digital capabilities. It’s a solid police procedural, but with a twist.
As Miranda Torres investigates the murder of Anna Grace, journalist Mike Stein investigates the lack of response by the neighbors with an eye to a searing expose of the witnesses. Technically, they are not at cross-purposes, and for some reason, Stein has been allowed access to all of NYPD’s findings. Torres is meticulous, observant, and wickedly smart.
Between them, the two find out a great deal, but since their final goals aren’t the same, neither are their investigations.
Dorothy Uhnak brilliantly captures the delicate and pervasive racism, favoritism, back-room dealing, and political chicanery that invades all areas of society, and she makes it personal. I’ve always been a fan of her Christie Opera series, and you should read them, but Victims hits home with a gut punch that lingers.
When you finish it, if you aren’t mad as hell, you haven’t been paying attention!
There are series that I’ve read more than once, and there are series that I’ve read many times, six or more. This series I have read, I think, twice, and some of the books more than that. I like re-reading. It’s time spend with favorite characters, favorite voices. And now and then I still read a sentence that stands out. I’m not sure how I’ve not noticed it before. Maybe I did but this time it captured my eyes. “My thoughts struggled in my brain like exhausted swimmers.”
Maybe it locked me because it is how I’m feeling these days. I find myself having difficulty focusing on things – long books, long movies, even a ball game. It’s not those things, it’s my concentration. That’s when re-reading comes in handy. I don’t have to worry too much about tuning into the pages as I’ve been there before. That’s another reason why that line hooked me; I wasn’t looking for something remarkable and new, and it fit my present self.
Kennedy’s Avenger: Assassination, Conspiracy, and the Forgotten Trial of Jack Ruby by Dan Abrams and David Fisher was a compete waste of $27.99. I knew it from the first few pages when the authors started from the position that Oswald was the lone assassin. While Melvin Belli’s defense tactics were amusing, I quit reading before 50 pages. A waste of paper, printer’s ink, shipping, human efforts and, as I said, money.
I bought James Lee Burke’s A Private Cathedral the week it appeared in hardcover in the Summer of 2020. Just got to it now – and now it is in trade paper. I can’t quite explain why the long wait as I love the Robicheaux series. Doesn’t matter, really.
This is an odd one on two fronts. On one, it is set in the past, as if it makes any difference to Dave and Clete. Alafair is still in college and Helen isn’t the chief of police until the end, so maybe a ten, fifteen years? The other oddity is that this one deals more with the “electric mist” and it isn’t just Dave seeing figures out of time. It is almost fair to call this one a ghost story. Certainly the main characters are spooked by what they experience.
Still, for these differences, it was a great book.
dreadnought (n.): Literally (one who or that which) “fears nothing,” from the verbal phrase (drede ich nawiht is attested from c. 1200); see dread (v.) + nought (n.). As a synonym for “battleship” (1916) it is from a specific ship’s name. Dreadnought is mentioned as the name of a ship in the Royal Navy as early as c. 1596, but the modern generic sense is from the name of the first of a new class of British battleships, based on the “all big-gun” principle (armed with 10 big guns rather than 4 large guns and a battery of smaller ones), launched Feb. 18, 1906. (etymonline)
Murder Is My Business: In the true crime genre’s latest iteration, writers, reporters, bloggers, documentary filmmakers, and podcast hosts have taken a soiled brand and turned it into a collective exercise in retributive justice, recording and correcting the history of sexual violence.
daredevil (n.): 1794, “recklessly daring person, one who fears nothing and will attempt anything,” from dare (v.) + devil (n.). The devil might refer to the person, or the sense might be “one who dares the devil.” Compare scarecrow, killjoy, dreadnought, pickpocket (n.), cutthroat, also fear-babe a 16th C. word for “something that frightens children;” kill-devil “bad rum.” As an adjective, “characteristic of a daredevil, reckless,” by 1832. (etymonline) [The Marvel superhero first appeared in April, 1964.]
The third installment of the Heirs of Chicagoland was a fast, fun and enjoyable read!
I mean, what’s not to love when you’ve got vampires, werewolves and everything in-between? Even better, Shadowed Steel finally sees our heroes and heroines emerge from their legendary parent’s shadows (and plot lines) to explore the mysteries and problems facing their Chicago.
(If you’re not acquainted with the series – the characters in Heirs are the kids of the original series – Chicagoland Vampires. You don’t have to read the original series to understand the new one – but I highly recommend it as they’re brilliant and add extra layers of nuance and fun to the newer books!)
It’s the writing, you see
I’ve mentioned before how much I love Rennie Airth’s writing, and if you’ve read his work, I know you get it.
If you haven’t, start with River of Darkness, and just keep going with John Madden’s investigations. You’ll be immersed in post-WWI life, and all the repercussions of the Great War.
I just finished The Decent Inn of Death, and it’s got some lovely surprises. Not whodunnit, at least not for me. But like every book by Rennie Airth, it’s not the surprise at the end but the whole journey. And here he takes us to visit Agatha Christie. Not literally, but The Decent Inn of Death definitely reminded me of Mousetrap.
One of the surprises is that, for the most part, the story doesn’t follow John Madden. Instead, we’re following his old chief and friend, former Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair, who goes to visit friends while the Maddens are away, and who gets caught up both in a mystery and a snowstorm, where there’s definitely something suspicious going on. And Angus has a murder to solve, but his health isn’t good, and these are stressful times.
It occurred to me while I was reading The Decent Inn of Death that I really like how Rennie Airth writes women. They’re strong, opinionated, forceful, and each woman is an individual character. They’re never cookie-cutter. And often, they’re surprising.
For example, Lucy Madden, John and Helen’s daughter, says this about marriage:
‘The trouble is I can’t see myself tied to any one man.’ She sighed. ‘The shine wears off so quickly. What I’d really like is to be one of those sultans who had scores of wives and kept them in a harem. I could probably manage with four or five – husbands, I mean. It would be so nice to be able to say, I’ll have you today…No, not you…you.’
‘You’re joking, of course.’
‘Am I?’ She sent a sly glance his way.
There are several women whom you will meet during your visit at The Decent Inn of Death, and each one is unique and, in her own way, perfect, although they have all manner of flaws. But you won’t become confused as to who is whom; Rennie Airth really does write women well!
Bill Farley always said that they weren’t Stouts but it was always nice spending time with old friends. Robert Goldsborough’s Trouble at the Brownstonekeeps up that trend. In his latest Nero Wolfe novel, the group on West 35th is disturbed when master gardener Theodore Horstmann is found nearly beaten to death. Only recently had he moved out of the brownstone into his own apartment and so the questions of where and how it happened are multiplied. All hands are called in to help and even Insp. Cramer is working with them – grousing a bit, of course, but everyone is working hard to find the culprit even as Horstmann remains in a coma. The solution may be unsurprising but is still satisfactory.
Stephen Hunter moves into a new world with Basil’s War. The book is set during WWII, the central character is an upper-class, cheeky and glib Brit, and the action is as speedy as the plot is convoluted. It is all about getting a clue to who is the Soviet spy in British intelligence not to expose them but so that information can be slipped to them that will convince Stalin to do what the Brits need him to do. They’re certain that if they just ask, he’ll think it is a devious plot and refuse, so they concoct this elaborate scheme to nudge him. Got it? Don’t worry, you’ll see once Basil’s carried out his mission. It’s a delightful book – none are exactly who you assume them to be…well, maybe van Boch of the SS. It is a very different turn from Hunter but its every bit as imaginative and serious as any of his other books, but this one is topped with a deceptive icing of nonchalant, even sporty, wit.
Respected independent scholar Jonathan Marshall is also an award-winning journalist. The reviews of his new book, Dark Quadrant: Organized Crime, Big Business, and the Corruption of American Democracy piqued my interest. It’s a fascinating book, beginning with FDR and moving forward through the growth of the Federal government, the Mob, the military-industrial complex (we really need to use Eisenhower’s original choice of “military-industrial-congressional-complex” all the time), and the parasites who affix themselves to all concerned. He brings it forward into the Trump administration and few come out of the book not covered with filth. Many of the names you’ll know – Roy Cohn, Howard Hughes, Tommy the Cork, Robert Maheu, Joseph McCarthy, Meyer Lansky, J. Edgar Hoover, Sam Giancana, Richard Nixon, on and on. Congressmen, Senators, CEOs and appointees. It’s all about greed and power, without an ounce of loyalty or civic responsibility. Talk about a shadow government… The depth and scholarship of his indictment is staggering. It’s simply staggering.
Granted, his tale is takes up nearly a century, and the players weave themselves deep into the country’s government and fabric, surfacing here and there through the decades and, following the money, entwine themselves with a variety of public figures from different facets of power. But it was disarming to continually run into his notes of “See chapter X” throughout the book, from the beginning chapters to the final ones. It gives the book a disjointed feeling, as if you’re to stop in chapter 2 to go to chapter 9 or go back from chapter 10 to chapter 5. Don’t, just keep plowing through sordid history of disgusting muck. It is an infuriating read due to subject and due to his scholarship. It’s an important subject and therefore an important book.
Finally, we’ve run into “issues” with WordPress. They’ve changed the way the program works making it less user friendly. To top it off, there was some sort of glitch and I lost reviews and links that I’d added. It’s been very frustrating. If this newzine seems thinner and less packed with goodies, that’s why.
screwball (n): crazy, insane, odd or eccentric, predates the “screwball comedy” of Hollywood. From baseball, a pitch that breaks the other way from a curve ball, invented in the 1890s. (Says You! #1523)
blockhead (n.): 1540s, also block-head – a “stupid person,” someone whose head is impenetrable, from the head-shaped oaken block used by wig-makers and hat-makers, though the insulting sense is equally old.
nincompoop (n.) 1670s, nicompoop; modern form from 1713. Despite similarity [noted by Johnson] to Latin legal phrase non compos mentis “insane, mentally incompetent” (c. 1600), the connection is denied by the OED’s etymologists because the earliest forms lack the second -n-. Weekley thinks first element may be a proper name, and cites Nicodemus, which he says was used in French for “a fool,” or Nicholas. Klein says it is probably an invented word. Century Dictionary has no objection to the non compos mentis theory. (etymonline)
whackjob (n): one whose beliefs are not based in reality, first used in Elmore Leonard’s 1992 Rum Punch. (Says You! #1523)
What We’ve Been Up To
The Broken Spine – Dorothy St. James
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this mystery.
Tru, our librarian heroine, spoke to the not-so-secret rebellious streak housed in my heart of hearts. By not only saving hundreds of books – that her town’s leading lights consigned to the dump for being “obsolete” – then used said books to open a secret lending library! (Can it get any better?) As the aforementioned leading lights, decided to transform Tru’s beloved library into a bookless technology center.
But no good deed goes unpunished.
Just as Tru and her cohorts are spit polishing the brass for the secret opening of their clandestine reading room – one of the driving forces behind this abominable shift in biblio-philosophies is found crushed beneath a shelf of DVDs. And Tru, who didn’t mince any words about his bookless library scheme, is suspect numero uno.
So now, unless she’s willing to rat-out her secret project (Which isn’t going to happen even if it gives her an iron-clad alibi) Tru must figure out who actually did the deed to save her own bacon!
While this is a cozy mystery, it’s not a cute one, and it’s a fine first in series. St. James does a good job in adding layers to her characters and nuance to her plot. If you enjoy reading biblio mysteries, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with The Broken Spine.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a cat named Dewey that has his paws all over things?
It’s summertime, vacation time, time away from school. So let me drag you back to high school via the inestimable Lisa Lutz. Trust me, even if you’ve been to boarding school, you haven’t been to Stonebridge Academy, a New England prep school with a terrible secret.
Alexandra Witt didn’t really want to teach at Stonebridge, but her famous author dad knew she needed a job after things went sideways at her last teaching gig, and he got her a place at the Academy. Alex takes the job, but with serious reservations; she and her father have a difficult past.
It doesn’t take Alex long to figure out the usual issues: teens with issues and egos, teachers with issues and egos, and an eccentric curriculum designed to allow students freedom of expression, which doesn’t always bring out the best in, well, anybody
But there’s something else going on, and because of Alex’s unorthodox teaching methods, she is soon privy to information she didn’t want to have. With strong-willed students going their own ways, Alex is caught up in a really ugly situation, and getting out of it could be incredibly difficult. And dangerous
The Swallows is Lisa Lutz at her best. It’s dark, true, but her trademark humor is liberally sprinkled throughout the novel, and her pacing is breathtaking Told from several points of view, not just Alex’s, you get a good look at what goes on at Stonebridge Academy, and it’s a testament to Lisa’s talent that each voice is unique. There’s never any doubt as to who is talking.
If I have a complaint, it’s that there are so many people – not narrators, but characters in general – that there were times when, having put the book down because stupid life dragged me away, that I had to figure out who was whom again. But then, I’m getting older. These things happen.
The mere fact that The Swallowsis a Lisa Lutz novel should be enough to recommend it to you, if you’ve read her other work. If you haven’t, then by all means, grab it and dive in. Oh, you’re in for quite a ride, even if you’re back in school during summer vacation!
Around the time the shop was closing, the second novel by Andy Weir was set to be published. I’d loved both the book and the movie The Martian, and had high hopes for this new one Artemis. Over three years later I picked up a copy and have to say it was a disappointment. The science that underlies the fiction, as with The Martian, gives it the foundation of believablility. But the voice of the central character is annoying. The story would’ve been better, sleeker, had it been written in third person. But there you go. If you want a crime story set in the first settlement on the moon, and what the science and physics of it would be, give it a try.
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.
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*
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.