HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! WELCOME TO 2019!
Winner: Stephen Mack Jones, August Snow (Soho Crime)
The 2018 Nero Finalists:
Warren C. Easley, Blood for Wine (Poisoned Pen Press)
Loren D. Estelman, The Lioness is the Hunter (Forge)
Matt Goldman, Gone to Dust (Forge)
Kathleen Kent, The Dime (Mulholland Books/Little, Brown)
Michael Connelly is starting a podcast called Murder Book. Sounds like fun! It starts January 28th.
Word of the Month
nick-fidge: a child who is always getting scolded (thanks to Says You, episode #815)
January 9: Christopher Sandford, Third Place Books/SP
January 11-20: Tasveer South Asian Literary Festival
January 18: Lindsay Faye, Powell’s
January 18: Gail Carriger, UBooks
January 29: Ian Rankin in conversation with Phillip Margolin, Powell’s
Links of Interest
December 2: Is Your Holiday Gift Spying On You?\
December 3: 2018 Bad Sex Writing
December 6: How We Got Hooked On Grisly True Crime Murders
December 9: The Man Making Art From Government Surveillance
December 10: John le Carré’s Next Novel to Land in 2019
December 11: What’s eating this 400-year-old painting?
December 12: Chocolate meltdown closes German road
December 12: 25 Movies Added To National Film Registry
December 12: When out-of-date code causes chaos
December 13: Roald Dahl’s war medals finally arrive, 73 years on
December 13: New Zealand anger over Google naming murder suspect
December 13: New York Times London crime Twitter appeal backfires
December 19: Lee Child on HARDtalk
December 27: James Lee Burke ~ By the Book
December 28: This American Life ~ The Room of Requirement: “Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required.”
December 28: Notes from the Book Review Archive: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Thought Sherlock Holmes Was ‘a Lower Stratum of Literary Achievement’
December 28: Glasgow’s LGBT book shop a ‘wonderful success’
December 28: Josephine Baker’s secret life as a World War II spy
Word of the Month – Continued
Murdermongress – (nonce-word) A female writer of murder stories.
Origin: From murdermonger + -ess. Earliest use found in Ogden Nash’s (1902–1971) description of Agatha Christie in a 1957 work.
(Thanks to Oxford English Dictionary)
December 18: Penny Marshall: US TV star and director dies aged 75
December 27: Seattle loses its chronicler of vice: journalist Rick Anderson This is a photo from our old blog: “Journalist, columnist and all-around-writer Rick Anderson was in to sign ‘Seattle Vice’. The sub-title says it well: ‘Strippers, Prosititution, Dirty Money and Crooked Cops in the Emerald City’. 11.20.10”
Word of the Month – Lastly
scot-free (adj.) Old English scotfreo “exempt from royal tax,” from scot “royal tax,” from Old Norse skot “contribution,” literally “a shooting, shot; thing shot, missile” (from Proto-Indo-European root *skeud- “to shoot, chase, throw;” the Old Norse verb form, skjota, has a secondary sense of “transfer to another; pay”) + freo (see free (adj.)). First element related to Old English sceotan “to pay, contribute,” Dutch schot, German Schoß “tax, contribution.” French écot “share” (Old French escot) is from Germanic. (thanks to etymonline)
What We’ve Been Doing
Don’t forget to check out my original mystery! Finder Of Lost Things
This Friday Phoebe meets her mystery during an unexpected FLYT fare!
Murder At The Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
Murder At The Brightwell is a rare treat, a contemporaneously written mystery which feels as if it were penned during the nineteen-thirties. A closed caste of characters, subtle violence, and with the very glamorous upper-crust class of English society – all of which are hallmarks of the era (of writing).
What I find fascinating is the author’s ability to slip in complex emotional ties without ever detracting from the story: the not-so-subtle marital issues, the love triangles and a finely illustrated double standard applied to husbands & wives of the period – all of which concern, in one way or another, our band of vacationers. But Weaver does such an excellent job of using these same motives in a variety of ways it adds to the underlying tension without ever once becoming monotonous.
I loved it.
Her styles reminds me a bit if you crossed Georgette Heyer’s mysteries with Agatha Christie’s. Not romance as such portrayed on the page, but the detailing of complex relationships shared by people which can give rise to all kinds of unresolved or unexpressed feelings which in turn can lead to happy endings if hammered out or dangerous, dark emotions if left to fester.
This understated attention to the interpersonal relationships and social mores makes for fascinating and rich reading.
Because our detectives are suffering the woes of marital strife, much of the book feels a touch melancholy. Which is not usually my cup of tea, but because the mystery and the people are so interesting, for once this didn’t bother me. Which is a huge tribute to the author, because the prose never tipped into the trap over overstated sadness or despair – or having the heroine witter on about what a bad wife she thinks she is (taking on blame that isn’t her own trying to justify her husband’s bad behavior is an irritating read, in my opinion).
In any case, I would recommend this first in series to anyone who enjoys reading a great classic/historical mystery set in England!
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine. Of course, I always thought of it as “Way Back” machine, but it did make history interesting.
Fun Fact (before I actually start talking books): For a long time, nobody knew what WABAC meant, just that computers of that period generally ended in AC – ENIAC, UNIVAC, which lead to “brainiac”, where AC stood for Analog Computer – so of course WABAC had to end in “AC”. It was theorized at one point that WABAC stood for “Wormhole Activating & Bridging Automatic Computer”, but in 2014, DreamWorks created the “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” movie, and they announced that WABAC actually stands for “Wavelength Acceleration Bidirectional Asynchronous Controller”. So now you know.
Anyway, we hop into the WABAC machine, and we head to the 1970’s, which is farther back than I’d prefer to remember it being, and the sentence that always led to brainiac exercises was, “How do you justify your existence?”
That was the question that was asked of guests at every meeting of the Black Widower Society, a fictional monthly meeting of men who were based on the real life society Isaac Asimov belonged to at the time, although the cast was never based on his compatriots.
Tales of the Black Widowers and More Tales of the Black Widowers are frequently overlooked by both science fiction and mystery lovers, which is unfortunate because they are some fabulous little mysteries. At each meeting of the Black Widowers, a puzzle is presented, whether deliberately or not, and all of the wildly intelligent members of the Black Widowers takes a turn at trying to solve it. In the end, it’s the waiter, Henry, who comes through, because he sees things simply and straightforwardly.
Okay, before someone starts shouting at me about sexism and whatnot, remember the time this was written. Yes, it’s sexist. Not necessarily misogynistic, but definitely sexist. My response is that’s the time it was written, it’s a period piece – you’ll notice no one has cell phones either – and just enjoy the puzzles. The personalities of each of the characters is well-defined, and as a treat, in one of the stories in the sequel, Asimov inserts himself as a guest, although he uses the pseudonym “Mortimer Stellar”.
Seriously, take a trip back to the mid 70’s and have a few evenings with the Black Widowers, if you can. The books are largely out of print, to the best of my knowledge, so you have the added delight of tracking them down, like the detective you know you are!
(BTW: Amber Here – I read all these short stories at Fran’s urging and she’s right – as always – these are Fine mysteries! Which are well worth the extra effort of tracking down!)
I’ve read most of the books by Ben MacIntyre. I missed the book on the formation of soldiers during WW2 of what would become the SIS. That came out when the shop was closing and I just didn’t get to it. His newest is The Spy and the Traitor. It’s a very timely book as it deals with Soviet espionage and the Russian spy who became an important double agent for the West at the end of the Cold War.
It’s full of Soviet aims and Soviet skills, as well as the mixed efforts of their side. For every die-hard Soviet agent intent on defeating the West there was one who didn’t care and worked more for themselves. This story of Oleg Gordievsky is illuminating because he was from a KGB father and had accepted the entire Soviet line about the decadent West. While he did see as much decadence in the West as in his own country, he was staggered by the freedoms, the art, the music, and the happiness of the West.
In an age where Russia seems to be turning back to Soviet life under Putin, MacIntyre lays out the fruitlessness of this. It’s all about control at the top and power and those who suffer are those ordinary citizens, not the elite. In this, the mirror is held up to the West these days and we have to ask where we are going.
The truly alarming section of the book deals with the Andropov era and how he steered the Soviet world into a concrete belief that the West under Reagan was about to preemptively launch a nuclear attack against the Warsaw Pact and orders were sent out to be alert for certain signs that the attack was near – signs that largely were of everyday actions and policies of the West that had no part of an attack. It’s a chilling account that I had not heard about before.
I highly recommend this book, indeed, any book by Ben MacIntyre. You can’t call them “true crime” but fascinating history told well they are.