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Tag: mystery

READING THE TBR, DAY 291: Sad Cypress (1940) by Agatha Christie

Well, this is yet another intriguing entry into the Poirot canon. A wealthy old lady dies on the brink of making a new will (because, duh), then a young woman close to her is poisoned, and the old lady’s niece is arrested for both deaths.

Unusually, this one spends more than a little time in a courtroom, which gives the tale an enjoyable Law and Order vibe. I actually figured out the murderer here, which I wish I could say was due to my general and abiding genius but I am afraid is more likely just because the plotting wasn’t quite as skillful as it usually is.

Nevertheless, this is yet another stellar installment in this continuing delight of a mystery series.

Well, except for all the people who get murdered, of course. That part is less a delight, obviously. 


TBR DAY 291: Sad Cypress (Poirot #21) by Agatha Christie
GENRE: Mystery, Cosy Mystery, Poirot
TIME ON THE TBR: ~6 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 286: Scandal in Bohemia – A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel (2014) by Petr Kopl

One thing that never occurred to me when I read “A Scandal in Bohemia” — the 1891 first Sherlock Holmes short story, coming after the novels A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four — in which Holmes is tasked with tracking down a photograph incriminating to the King of Bohemia is that there was never actually a king of Bohemia. 

Nor, it turns out, did I actually know where Bohemia was.

But in an afterword to his comic adaptation of the story — which he combines with that of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, not entirely successfully — Petr Kopl discusses this lack of King, because Bohemia is in the Czech Republic and it is important whether or not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew that or not. You know, to Czech people. Of which he is one.

I get it, but I tend to think… well, Doyle probably just figured everywhere in Eastern Europe was ruled by a King or Prince or Archduke or some such. It did seem like that, at any point up till World War I, at any rate. Did it really matter whether it was Bohemia, or Transylvania, for the sake of the story? Not really.

But it does matter to Kopl’s version of Sherlockian events, because in it he has brought in some other stalwarts of Victorian literature — hello, Dr. Jekyll! — and doubtless Dracula is waiting in the wings somewhere.

Will I read more of his slightly off-kilter take on the great detective? Probably, should they come in my way. A comic book adaptation is a very fun way to re-read some of the classics of literature, after all, and if I can march through the Holmes canon in such cracking style, and with the occasional League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style added bonus, why would I not?

Seriously, I’m asking. Why would I not? (I really need a reason to read less books, so if anyone can answer this in any definitive and convincing kind of way, please get in touch.)


TBR DAY 286: A Scandal in Bohemia — A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel by Petr Kopl
GENRE: Adaptation, Comics, Mystery
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: All Star Comics, Melbourne.
KEEP: Sure.

READING THE TBR, DAY 285: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1922) by G. K. Chesterton

I am so mad that I brought this book back with me from London more than a decade ago, and have given it shelf space ever since. WHY did I do that? Why did I not read it as soon as I bought it and learn how unutterably boring it was right away, and discard it with prejudice before allowing it to take up valuable baggage allowance on an across-the-world flight?

Oh, right. Because that’s what I do.

Damn it.

Anyway, this book. Dull, dull, dull. I cannot understand how Chesterton has become such a byword for English mystery writing, often spoken of in the same breath as Christie, Heyer and Sayers. His Father Brown series, which I have never read (but I’ve seen a few episodes of the TV series) might account for it. But this one–no. It is nothing more than a misbegotten collection of eight short stories that showcase the Discount Sherlock Holmes that is Horne Fisher solving crimes and posing metaphysical and/or moral dilemmas while attempting to deliver wry one-liners that simply never land. 

There is something very disconcerting about so thoroughly disliking a book by anyone universally accounted a “classic” author. You feel like you must be wrong, somehow. But, no. Surely you can’t be wrong when it comes to whether you enjoy something or not?



TBR DAY 285: The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton
GENRE: Mystery, Cosy Mystery, Classic
TIME ON THE TBR: ~15 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Charing Cross Road, London.
KEEP: Nope.

READING THE TBR, DAY 279: The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler

Crime Noir is one of those subgenres that I have never particularly taken to, whether on film or in literature. I think it’s because, in its purest form, it’s so very masculine in nature. Now, it’s not that I have an inherent problem with that — I read a lot of Military Science Fiction, after all, and I don’t think stories necessarily have a gender. But are there actually noir novels, especially those written in its heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, in which women are portrayed as anything other than femme fatales, helpmeets or victims?

If so, I have never heard of them.

Based on this example, Raymond Chandler, perhaps the leading exponent of noir fiction, certainly had no vision of femininity that could be in any way considered equal to men. His women are all manipulative yet hapless, and all are targets of near constant casual violence; even his “hero” Philip Marlowe has no compunction about slapping winsome cheeks or shaking lithe bodies vigorously, for little to no reason. Not that there could ever be an acceptable reason.

The mystery is not bad, and honestly, I didn’t predict the outcome at all, but the brutality, ruthlessness and bleak misanthropy of the story’s central figure just did not appeal to me at all, and I am not at all conflicted about crossing this author completely off my TBR list forever. 


TBR DAY 171: The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe #1) by Raymond Chandler
GENRE: Mystery, Noir
TIME ON THE TBR: ~7 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Nope. I actually disliked this book so much that I will be discarding my copy of it, despite the fact that it forms part of my extensive Penguin Classics collection. Just looking at it makes me shudder.

READING THE TBR, DAY 270: Planetside (2018) by Michael Mammay

I love it when genres merge, and here Military Science Fiction meets Mystery as Colonel Carl Butler, no nonsense, competent and honourable (if kind of an alcoholic, in the tradition of many detective types), is sent to investigate the disappearance of a well-connected lieutenant during a battle on a war ravaged occupied planet.

The war that ravages is conducted between the human invaders and the indigenous species, and it is very interesting to see us portrayed as the aggressors, and moreover ones that are generally accounted as justified, due to the mineral deposits on the planet and the fact that some of the locals appear to welcome human colonization. 

Butler finds himself stymied in his investigation for much of the novel, but his investigative work never gets dull, and neither do the secondary characters, many of whom are very well fleshed out, who populate both the space station on which he is mostly based and the planet around which they orbit.

A stunning debut, I was close to blown away by this book — that ending! Woah! — and am now very excited for the sequel.


TBR DAY 270: Planetside by Michael Mammy
GENRE: Science Fiction, Military Science Fiction, Mystery
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.  
KEEP: Sure.

READING THE TBR, DAY 258: The Last Policeman (2012) by Ben H. Winters

I first encountered Ben H. Winters in his collaboration (I guess…) with Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. And while the conceit of that book palled after a while — and the Classics Gone Wild trend quickly burned out — it was evident that Winters had a quirky sense of humour and sufficient talent to almost hold his own alongside one of the greatest writers who ever lived.

A year later, I read his Android Karenina, another classic mashup, and enjoyed it very much, so when Amazon alerted me that this author whom I had previously purchased was releasing an original book of his own in 2012, I clicked Pre-Order speedy quick. And then I bought the sequels as they were released over the following couple of years.

Today, a mere seven years later, I finally began to read the trilogy.

I have a problem.

But, to the book. Our first person hero, who isn’t quite the last policeman when the book begins, is Detective Hank Palace, who is investigating a suspicious death during the End of Times, in which a lethal asteroid is on course to smack into Earth not very many months hence, and so what is the point of solving crimes anyway? But Hank is the conscientious sort, not very many years out of the academy and eager to prove his worth. The mystery is ultimately pretty obvious, and Hank’s investigative skills questionable at best, but the world in which the story is set, one of decay and despair and one of “imminence”, in the evocative word of our tale’s inevitable femme fatale, is completely fascinating in its bleak ennui.

I will definitely be carrying on with this trilogy, as much to see whether the asteroid actually hits as for any other reason. Because what if it doesn’t? That is going to be one messed up non-apocalypse, for sure. 


TBR DAY 275: The Last Policeman (Last Policeman #1) by Ben H. Winters
GENRE: Apocalypse
TIME ON THE TBR: 7 years. 
KEEP: Sure.

READING THE TBR, DAY 242: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938) by Agatha Christie

When, oh when, are cantankerous and controlling old men, rich beyond reason, going to learn not to advertise an imminent change in their wills when surrounded by their not-so-loving families?

Of course they end up dead whenever they do that.


Not that it’s always the motive. But it often seems to be, at least for much of the book. It’s just stupid. Stop doing it, cantankerous and controlling old men!

The motive of this one actually took me by complete surprise, as did the culprit, and wow, Christie was a genius. Despite its title, however, the book is not especially Christmassy, and poor Poirot doesn’t get to do much in the way of decking halls or dashing through snow, but then, he’d probably much prefer to solve a murder than indulge in such frivolity.

He really is a holiday miracle.


TBR DAY 242: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie
GENRE: Cosy Mystery, Mystery, Poirot
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 241: The Thirteenth Rose (2013) by Gail Bowen

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Charlie D’s guest on his late night talk show is his boss Misty, a former escort who’s rich husband bought her the station as a wedding present. The topic is satisfaction, and there is much discussion of how intimacy goes beyond the physical. But meanwhile, a vicious organization spearheaded by Charlie’s right wing colleague is targeting sex workers, Jack the Ripper-style, and makes sure Charlie D knows all about it.

There’s not that much of a mystery here, and the way it all wraps up is neat and efficient, as one might expect from a “Rapid Read,” while the barely-there romance between Charlie and his producer Nova is nicely played. This is the fourth and, it seems, last Charlie D mystery, and it’s been so long since I read the third one now — well over two hundred books ago — that it took me a little while to get back into this late night talk radio host’s head, and world. But once I got there, I liked it enough that I am sad that this is the end.


TBR DAY 241: The Thirteenth Rose (Charlie D #4) by Gail Bowen
GENRE: Mystery, Crime
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Garage sale.
KEEP: Sure.

READING THE TBR, DAY 233: Appointment with Death (1938) by Agatha Christie

How do these Poirot books just keep getting better? There were so many twists and turns in this mystery that my head is spinning just trying to put it all together. 

Poirot is in the Middle East again, and he again overhears some people plotting to do someone in. (This has been used before a few too many times in this series, methinks, but we’ll let the recycled unlikeliness of it pass.) A horrid old woman who is a sadistic tyrant, and who lords her wealth and viciousness over her adult relatives, is unsurprisingly murdered, but what is a surprise is the culprit. 

At least, it was kind of a surprise.

This outing took rather longer to get to the point than others of its ilk, mostly because there was never any direct proof that murder had actually been committed, and apparently EVERYONE had a motive and opportunity, which just made Poirot’s conjuror’s trick of solving the crime so handily all the more impressive.

Really, Christie’s mind was a marvel, and each one of these Poirot stories (most of which it transpires I have definitely not read before) just proves that over and over again.


TBR DAY 232: Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot #17) by Agatha Christie
GENRE: Mystery, Cosy Mystery
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 224: Double Shots, Donuts, and Dead Dudes (2017) by Harper Lin

Fran is at the site of yet another death. But this one… well, the conclusion to this one surprised me completely. It’s not often that the eighth novel in a series — especially in a cosy mystery series like this one, which is as light as the confections that adorns its covers– is its best, but such is the case with this one.* 

And now I really want donuts.

* Well, except for the claim that Fran’s cafe could possibly be the only place in Cape Bay to get a donut. WHAT?!? Is Cape Bay not in America anymore?


TBR DAY 224: Double Shots, Donuts, and Dead Dudes (Cape Bay Cafe #8) by Harper Lin
GENRE: Mystery, Cosy Mystery
TIME ON THE TBR: ~1 year.  
KEEP: I’ll pass it on.