27 December 2005

Book to movie review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

(I only review movies that are based on books, and I do not review them as independent works, but as inter-semiotic translations, interpretations or adaptations of books. Therefore a perfectly good movie (when seen independently of the book) may get a negative review for not being a good adaptation. Note that a “good translation/interpretation/adaptation” does not necessarily mean “scrupulously exact”. The two genres are to a certain extent incompatible and therefore a movie adaptation can never be completely true to the book.)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a visually great movie, full of action, and the young actors have come a long way from the first movie. The previous three Harry Potter movies could be watched and enjoyed by people who had not read the books, but this movie zooms along at such a great speed that an audience member who has not read the book has a hard time figuring it all out (this has been confirmed by several people), so fast does it flick from one scene to another, almost like a two and a half hour trailer for a longer movie.
Having seen the other movies but not read the books would help a bit, especially with the back-story, specifically the pre-existing relationships between the characters, which are so sketchily shown in this installation in the series that the depth of reference is lost unless you have knowledge of the prequels, and no-one who has neither read the third book nor seen the movie would be able to figure out the business with Sirius Black, which shows that the film-makers know that they already have an audience that knows the stories, and made this movie for them and not for new audiences.

It has been necessary to cut out large chunks of the book, simply in order to make the movie an acceptable length. This keeps those members of the audience who have read the book filling in the gaps and supplying missing scenes in their minds as they watch. For the most part the film-makers have made good decisions as to what to keep and what to discard, and in spite of the missing chunks of story, the movie does manage to preserve the spirit of the book, always a good thing when having to please readers. As a pair, I think book and movie complement each other, the book filling in the exposition and missing scenes in the movie and the movie helping readers to visualise the scenes from the book. If you plan to see the movie, be sure you have at least seen the last movie and preferably read the book. You will be doing yourself a favour.

12 December 2005

Bibliophile and audio books

I have long held a prejudice against certain audio books. Not for the common reason that listening to books is “cheating” – I grew up listening to the daily reading of books on Icelandic Channel 1 radio, and loved it. No, it’s because so many of them are abridged, or worse, retold. Imagine taking Jane Austen’s famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice (one of the most recognised in English literature):

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”,
and changing it to something like: “It is a well known fact that a single, rich man needs a wife”.

I can’t remember the exact wording of the mangling, but this invented example is quite as bad as the one I met with on starting to listen to what turned out to be a retelling of P&P (nowhere did it say so on the packaging). Needless to say, I returned the tapes to the library without bothering to listen to any more.
In spite of my aversion to abridged books, I can listen to abridged audio versions of stories I know well and that are well abridged (i.e. no obvious gaps in the story and missing characters or characters that suddenly pop up without explanation), because I can supply the missing parts in my mind, but with books I have not read before, I want an unabridged, unedited, unmangled version. And some books are just not easy to abridge well.

When I do come across an unabridged audio book in the library, of a book I like or want to read, I jump at the chance to listen to it. I love to sit or lie cuddled up in by bed and read a book, but I also love to listen while I do the housekeeping or work at my craft projects. I sometimes put a DVD in the player or a video in the VCR and listen to my favourite movies while I wash the floors or cook a meal, but an audio book is even better. There are no visual cues to worry about – it is all there in the reading, provided it is unabridged.

I am currently listening to an unabridged audio version of The Lord of the Rings that I got at the library. It is a massive audio book: The Fellowship of the Ring, which I finished listening to yesterday, takes up 16 CDs, and it takes about 36 hours to listen to. That’s about twice as long as it takes me to read the whole book. But it’s brilliantly read, which brings me to the most crucial point of an audio book: the reader.

A good reader can add an extra dimension to an audio book. Rob Inglis, who reads the HarperCollins unabridged edition of LOTR that I’m listening to, is very good, and gives one the feeling of listening to an old-time master storyteller telling stories in the dark. I have an audio book of P&P that is read so well by actress Susannah York that I sometimes quite forget it’s abridged. Some readers can even make you stop listening to the story and listen to the sound of their voice instead. Jeremy Irons is one - I could listen to him read from the telephone directory and not be bored.

Of course, a bad reader can utterly spoil an audio book. Last year, I tried to listen to a reading of Dan Brown’s bestseller The DaVinci Code, but gave up because the reader was so bad. He had the annoying habit of making women’s voices sound shrill, which made it torture to listen whenever the heroine spoke. I didn’t finish listening to it. (I doubt I will ever read the book – I heard enough to convince me that I would not like it).

What do you think? Love them? Hate them? Hardly ever think of them?

06 December 2005

Mystery author # 5: Mary Roberts Rinehart

Here is my second classic mystery author. She wrote before, during and after the Golden Age of mystery fiction (the dates vary, but all agree that it covers the 1920s, 30s and 40s), and several of her books are still in print in spite of some rather harsh criticism of her work (to me an indicator that she probably had a formula that she overused). This, her second novel, is her most famous work and is considered to be one of her finest mysteries.

Title: The Circular Staircase
Year of publication: 1908
Availability: In print, copyright expired. Available for free online at Project Gutenberg
Pages: I read the e-book in Word, using the Geneva font. At 12 points it came to 201 pages. The Dover Mystery Classics paperback edition is 192 pages.
Setting and time: Eastern USA, contemporary to the writing
Type of mystery: Whodunit, country house mystery
Type of investigator: Amateur sleuth & a police detective
Some themes: Murder, fraud, embezzlement, superstition

The story (some may see SPOILERS):
When spinster Rachel Innes takes a house in the country for the summer, she expects to spend her time there in peace and quiet with her niece and nephew, Gertrude and Halsey. However, on the third night the son of the house owner breaks into the house and is shot dead by a mystery person. Halsey and Gertrude’s fiancé, Jack, had left the house in a hurry shortly before but there is only Gertrude’s word that they did. Naturally, suspicion falls on them, especially when Halsey fails to return home for some days and Jack is arrested on suspicion of having stolen security bonds from the bank he worked for and thus bankrupted the bank. After that, mystery keeps piling on top of mystery, until finally the case is solved with the co-operation of Rachel Innes and Detective Jamieson who is called in to investigate the murder.

Review: I encountered something unexpected here: an American country house mystery. I’m used to connecting the country house mystery to England and to authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, perhaps because manors and country houses are such English phenomena. But of course there are country houses in the USA and no reason why there shouldn’t be American country house mysteries.
The storyteller heroine is an odd and entertaining character, contrary as an old hen, brave and scared by turns. There are many claustrophobic doings in the dark and deeds worthy of darkness, and endless twists. An experienced mystery reader will have puzzled together the solution to most of the mystery by mid-book, but it is still interesting to watch it unfold. The “had I but known” foreshadowing device which is used several times by the narrator (although never using those exact words) gets to be a bit annoying by the end, and as a matter of fact it is one of the things Rinehart has been most harshly criticised for.

Rating: A fine mystery in the best country house tradition. 4 stars.

The human torch visits the library

This happened when I was about 15. Every year in December I remember and give thanks that no harm came of it.
We lived a short way from the municipal library and I would go on regular excursions to get something to read. This particular December day was cold and snowy and I put on my brand new warm pink sweater (this was in the 1980s and bright pink was THE colour) and my ugly but warm wool-lined winter coat. I had no idea at the time, but that coat would save me from much harm. Once at the library, I started browsing the shelves. The library is housed in a small room in the basement of the community centre and all the space is used to the fullest, meaning narrow and cramped aisles.
I went up to the shelves next to the librarian to browse and hardly noticed the Christmas decoration she had put on her desk, complete with lit candle. Then I walked over to the display of new books. Suddenly I felt very hot, so I took my coat off, only to discover that the back was on fire. I had obviously stood too close to the Christmas decoration on the librarian’s desk.
I am not the kind who panics easily, so I just held the jacket at arm’s length and calmly – almost serenely - walked out of the room and into the public toilets down the hall and extinguished the flames in the sink. The librarian, who had only noticed the fire at the same time I did, came running after me, pale as death.
I never went into shock because I was too upset about the huge burn hole in my warm, cosy jacket, the melted black spot on my beautiful acrylic sweater and my singed hair, but the librarian had a small breakdown.

Afterwards, I wondered about a few things:
a) what kind of person does not notice someone walking around with their clothes on fire, and the smell of burning wool in the air? Probably the same kind who does not notice her clothes are burning, i.e. a browsing bibliophile.
b) why didn’t the jacket go up in a blaze? I asked my mother, who told me that as well as being warm and insulating, wool also burns badly. It doesn’t really go up in flames, but smoulders. The insulating properties are probably the reason I didn’t feel hot until the fire had burned through the wool lining. The fire was in the cotton part of the jacket, not the wool itself.
c) do I have a guardian, an angel or a spirit? It is a blessing that I didn’t get badly burned or set the library on fire by walking too close to a shelf full of books.

04 December 2005

Mystery author # 4: Edward Marston

Title: The Roaring Boy
Year of publication: 1995
Number in series: 7
Availability: In print
Pages: 291
Setting and time: England: A London suburb, Elizabethan times
Type of mystery: Murder (whydunit*), historical
Type of investigator: Amateur sleuth (crime magnet)
Deaths: 5
Some themes: Murder, acting, playwriting, miscarriage of justice, love, misuse of power

I actually read this right after the Hannah March book, but I wanted to review a different type of mystery inbetween so that I would not be clumping together three English historical sleuths.

Summary (slight SPOILERS):
A stranger approaches theatrical book-keeper Nicholas Bracewell with a draft of a play he wants the group’s playwright to fine-tune and the playgroup to stage. The play is about a miscarriage of justice: an unfaithful wife and her lover have been wrongly executed for the murder of the woman’s husband. His sister refuses to marry her fiancé until the real murderer, a nobleman, has been exposed. We then meet the supposed murderer (hereafter known as the henchman) and his protector, the real villain. They are not prepared to allow the henchman to be exposed (the villain’s involvement is not known to anyone but the henchman and readers at this point), and begin a campaign to intimidate the playgroup into not performing the play and the young couple to withdraw it. When an important witness who can prove the henchman’s involvement in the murders is murdered himself, and then another man, Bracewell realises that there must be something more behind all this than a mere personal dislike by the henchman of the first victim (who defended his sister’s honour against his advances), and he and his actor friends begin an investigation that leads them to the true villain.

Review (with slight SPOILERS):
When I saw that this book had been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, I thought it would prove to be good. In some ways it lived up to my expectations, and in some it did not. The historical detail and supporting characters are beautifully drawn, and the running tooth-ache joke makes for good comic relief of what, at times, is a rather grim tale.
Bracewell is a bit too stereotypical a John McClane type for my taste: big, brawny and brainy all at the same time. Although he is the leading character, he is not the only sleuth in the story – his actor friends take an active part in the investigation, and in fact, it is information uncovered by one of them that blows the case open. The plot is believable, twisted enough to keep one guessing (in my case until I found out what the real villain did for a living), and ties up nicely, although an unnecessary and ugly twist is used to take the girl away from Bracewell (don’t worry, she doesn’t die) when a simple difference in social status would have done it just as well.

Rating: 3+ stars.

*whydunit = why was the crime committed? Derived from whodunit.

03 December 2005

Books Bibliophile read this month

Looks like I’m slowing down. I usually read closer to 20 books per month, but I have had a heavy load of homework this month and pleasure reading has been pushed to the side.

Death in Fashion by Marian Babson. Whodunit murder mystery.
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. Young adult novel.
On Writing: A memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Non-fiction: memoir and writer’s manual.
The Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex by Piven, Borgenicht & Worick. Self-help. (I plan to review this with another title from the series that I’m currently reading).
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. Novel. (Finally got round to reading it after having seen two films. Not nearly as corny as I expected).
Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb. Futuristic police mystery thriller. With a Christmas theme.

If you would like to read a Bibliophile review of any of these books, let me know.

01 December 2005

Mystery author #3: Marian Babson

Title: Death in Fashion
Year of publication: 1986
Availability: Out of print, available second hand
Setting: England: London, mostly inside a fashion house, mid 1980's
Type of mystery: Murder and harassment (whodunit)
Type of investigator: No investigator
Deaths: 2
Some themes: Fashion, competition, homosexuality, jealousy, malice, daydreaming, practical jokes/harassment, murder.

When someone starts harassing the staff of a London fashion house during Fashion Week, everyone suspects the head designer’s malicious boyfriend. Someone has signed them up for all sorts of services, reported a fire, sent them a funeral wreath and half a ton of gravel. When the boyfriend dies horribly, everyone is shocked – they all wanted to get rid of him, but not in such a terminal way. And the harassment is not stopping...

Review: Well written and entertaining. While it qualifies as a whodunit mystery, it is not a detective story as such. There is no sleuth, the police play a minimal role, and both murder and harassment cases really solve themselves. In this case it is the great characters, the build-up to the murder, and the fascinating look behind the scenes of the fashion world that provides the entertainment.

Rating: 4 stars. Quite good, would not mind reading more by Babson. Maybe one of her cat mysteries?

Currently reading: Balham to Bollywood by Chris England, plus about 9 other books. Also listening to the unabridged audio book of The Lord of the Rings while I do all the Xmas chores.

24 November 2005

Bonus book review: What do you say to a naked elf? (romantic fantasy)

The best I can say abut the title is that it’s certainly inspired.
Actually, it is among the tackiest and most embarrassing book titles I have come across, so tacky it made it onto my top 5 Tackiest Book Titles list. In fact, had I not read a favourable review of the book by a reviewer I trust, I would have dismissed it as über-tacky and never read it. I’m glad I did, because behind that tacky title there lurks an entertaining romantic fantasy that I wouldn’t mind re-reading at some future date.

Author: Cheryl Sterling
Year published: 2005
Availability: In print

Jane Drysdale is driving home late one night after a successful home sales party, her trunk full of samples of the sex toys and lingerie she was selling. Suddenly a rabbit jumps in front of the car and appears to turn into a man moments before disappearing under the car. Not unnaturally, Jane panics and ends up off road. She is promptly arrested by a group of elves and brought back through an inter-dimensional portal to the elfin land of Lowth where she is to be tried for the murder of the shape-shifting elf she hit. Jane is of course unhappy about this, but the portal has closed and she is stuck, so she decides to make the best of things. She is given a public defender, Charlie, who is half elf/half fairy, whom Jane thinks looks quite a bit like Legolas from The Lord of the Rings (presumably meaning Orlando Bloom in his blond wig, Jane being more likely to have seen the movie than read the book ). Mesmerised by his toned body and sexy wings, she sets out to seduce the stuffy lawyer, but their romance is complicated by the verdict at the trial and before too long they are swept into an adventure of epic proportions that involves, among other things, her supply of sex toys, the true identity of someone, a journey, and a magician who wants Jane delivered to him, presumably for some nefarious purpose.

Review: Quite a good read, not as side-splittingly funny as the other reviewer led me to believe, but there are still some good laughs in it. Sterling has managed to produce a solid, original fantasy with some rather good twists that will surprise many readers. Part of the resolution is something of a surprise, even for adept clue spotters.

Don’t let the title deter you – this is an entertaining fantasy and although romantic, there is also plenty of action and adventure. 4 stars.

16 November 2005

Mystery author #2: Hannah March

Title: Death Be My Theme
Year published: 2000
Number in series: 3
Availability: In print
Pages: 278
Settings and time: England: Chelsea (mostly) and surrounding country, London (a little), 1764.
Type of mystery: Murder (whodunit), historical (Georgian era England)
Type of investigator: Amateur sleuth/crime magnet
Deaths: 4
Some themes: Murder, music, obsession, love, false identity, forgery

Summary (no spoilers):
In the summer of 1764, private tutor Robert Fairfax has been sent by his employers to Chelsea, then a rural health spot, to recuperate from a serious illness. He discovers that a woman he is very much in love with (I assume he met her in one of the two previous books), is staying there as well, in the same house as the Mozart family. Herr Mozart is recovering from an illness, and when little Wolfgang claims to have seen a man coming out of a room in an inn moments after the man staying there had a stroke and died, and the dead man’s wife denies the existence of any such man, Fairfax becomes suspicious. When an unemployed housemaid is found murdered, the local magistrate (upon discovering Fairfax has helped Justice Fielding solve a case) hands the investigation over to him. He begins to sniff around, and finds a twisted tale of love and obsession simmering under the seemingly placid surface of the peaceful suburb. (I’m not sure whether Chelsea had become part of London by then – in the book it seems to be a suburb rather than a town).

Review: With interesting twists and red herrings aplenty, the mystery part is good. The Mozarts are shown as typical jolly Germanic stereotypes and could easily have been left out. Sometimes, even if an author can include someone who really existed, it is better not to if they can not be used in an interesting way. Here they merely lend colour.
Unfortunately Robert Fairfax is a rather uninteresting character. Maybe it’s because all the interesting things about him have been said in the previous two books in the series, in which case it is presumptuous of the author to assume that the reader will have read them. As it is, there is nothing in his character that would induce me to want to read more about him.
One minor character sort of gets lost – his thread in the story is not resolved, and neither is Fairfax’s love for a married woman. This being a series, both story threads could (I suppose) be resolved in later books, but the lack of resolution still nags me.
Not an author I would particularly seek out more books by, but neither would I refuse to read another one.

Rating: 3 stars (i.e. not good, but not bad either)

10 November 2005

Bonus book review: It’s Not About the Tapas (travel)

Author: Polly Evans
Year published: 2003
Pages: 304
Genre: non-fiction, travel, Spain

Polly Evans, fed up with her stressful job as a journalist/editor in Hong Kong, decided to take a nice, long holiday. The obvious choice was Spain, where she had once spent a year, and so spoke the language after a fashion. She had a road bicycle built, light and strong, that would be her conveyance for the journey, and set off. The book tells of her journey, her adventures, people (and animals) she met, places she visited, along with some snippets of history. The first leg of the journey took her along the border with France, and the second through the Extremadura region in southern central Spain.

It was the title that grabbed my attention when browsing for books on TitleTrader. I checked the reviews on Amazon, saw the book was about travelling in Spain, where I spent two enjoyable weeks a couple of years ago, so I sent in a request and got the book within two weeks. For once, I was not disappointed.

Several times I have seen travel books that looked interesting, and which turned out to be disappointing. One such was a recent highly lauded book about cycling the route of the 2000 Tour de France, Tim Moore’s French Revolutions. I have no intention of comparing the two in detail, but I will say that when it comes to being funny, Polly Evans kicks Tim Moore’s sore arse. She is in some ways not as skilful a writer as Moore (this being her first book and suffering slightly from firstbookitis*), but she makes up for it by being far funnier, and I fully expect that her writing skill has improved with her next two books (about China and New Zealand, both of which I am looking forward to read). She certainly has mastered the quip, often dropping one when least expected. She also never crosses the line where self-deprecating humour turns into a self-pitying whinge. Neither does she gloss over her problems, of being out of shape and having forgotten, during her training period, that she was going to be riding with panniers full of stuff that would weigh down the bicycle and change its balance, or the fact that she knew nothing about bicycle repair - both, incidentally, problems shared with Moore.

As I mentioned before, there is are slight symptoms of firstbookitis, nothing that writing a second book can’t fix. The story feels a bit fragmented in places. There is also some unnecessary repetition (her problems with big traffic roads, for example, are repeated so often that you expect a big climactic scene of either conquering her fear and loathing or having an accident, but nothing comes of it). But these are minor problems. For the most part the book is well written, and she cleverly interweaves the historical information with her own experiences of the places she visited. 4 stars.

* firstbookitis = common mistakes in author’s first books

03 November 2005

Mystery author #1: Wilkie Collins - The Moonstone

As the first book of my challenge I chose a classic of the mystery genre. It has been called the first mystery novel ever written, which is not entirely correct, but it is true that it is the first mystery novel known to include all of the most important features of the modern crime mystery. Some of these features had been used in previous mystery stories, but some were new.

Title: The Moonstone
Year (originally) published: 1868
Availability: In print, or, since it has passed into the public domain, you can read it online or download it here
Pages: 518 pages in the e-book version, downloaded and read in Word (font: Geneva, 12 pt). The Penguin Popular Classics version is 464 pages.
Settings and time: English country manor and surrounding area (mostly), London (a little), India (scene setting and conclusion), mid 1800's.
Type of mystery: Whodunit: theft
Type of investigator: Amateurs and a professional detective
Some themes: Justice and injustice, misunderstanding between lovers, unrequited love, religious mania, hidden identity, addiction, money troubles, hypocrisy, scientific principles, death.

Summary (no spoilers):
A foreword tells the story of how the Moonstone, a fabulous yellow diamond, is taken from its rightful place in the forehead of the idol of an Indian moon-god, by a Mughal conqueror, and passed on from one owner to the next, along with a curse of bad fortune. It is also followed by three Brahmins, the stone’s guardians, who are intent on recovering the stone should the opportunity present itself. Generations have passed when a British officer steals the stone and takes it to England with him, followed by its current guardians.
Here the story proper begins. Upon his death, he wills the stone to his niece, Lady Rachel Verinder. It is delivered to her by her cousin, Mr. Franklin Blake, who is in love with her and vice versa. Rachel is given the stone on her birthday, but only gets to keep it for one day, as someone steals it during the night. The investigation is thorough and a detective is called in from London, but not even he can find the stone or get a confession out of the person he decides is the prime suspect, and so the stone seems to be lost forever. But that is only the first half of the story. The second half describes how the mystery is finally solved.

This books is not considered a classic just because it is reputed to be the first mystery novel. It has other merits as well.

The whole novel is written in an epistolatory form, first hand accounts by several witnesses and participants in the story, most addressed to and written at the behest of Franklin Blake. The mystery has been resolved when the writing of these epistles and letters takes place, but the writers are only allowed to tell of the events as they saw them unfold. This brilliant stylistic trick of changing narrators as the story unfolds makes the story all the more interesting, as each writer is very much a representative of his or her age, class, gender and environment. It also makes it possible to include some clever foreshadowing that would have been unconvincing in a story that is happening as the epistles are being written. Using first person narrators also inserts some irregularities into the story, caused by different viewpoints and varying levels of narrator credibility. Some of the narrators are, for example, opinionated and sometimes rambling (Betteridge, for example, who tells the first half of the story), while others are succinct and to the point (such as the faithful family lawyer). Some of the narrators, Betteridge especially, have a sense of humour that carries the reader along with it, while other narrators are more to be laughed at.

As with many mystery novels, the story itself requires some suspension of disbelief. There are strange coincidences and quite a lot of melodrama, in addition to (to a modern reader) a somewhat improbable solution to the problem of the theft and the thief’s identity. It abounds in twists and red herrings (even the clever detective falls for some of them), and some of the characters are not what they seem at first.
Unlike many modern mysteries, this one is in no hurry to get solved. The story moves slowly, giving the reader plenty of time and opportunity to try to solve the mystery. While the story itself is enjoyable, it is the narrators and characterisation that provides the real entertainment.

An entertaining, real mystery, a classic of the genre. 5 stars.

01 November 2005

52 mystery authors

(If you’re wondering about the abrupt start to this blog, it’s because I have just moved it from another blogging service. To visit my old blog and see my original reading challenge, essays and book reviews, click here)

I just realised I have a perfect new reading challenge lined up. A while ago I asked the members of my favourite book forum to recommend to me some good mystery authors in the hope that it would yield a good number of “new” authors. The result was a long list of authors, some of whom I was familiar with, some I had only heard mentioned, and many I knew nothing about. I compared the list with the library database and found books by more than half the authors on the list. In addition, I have several books by mystery authors I have not read before in my TBR pile. Since I have this many authors and books lined up, and all in one genre, I decided to make it a challenge to discover new mystery authors (new to me).

I am not going to be strict about the time I give myself to read each book, so although the challenge will cover 52 authors, it will not take 52 weeks to finish like the previous challenge. It will probably take longer, depending on how many other books intrude on the challenge, and how my studies are going (my Master’s dissertation looms up ahead and will take at least a couple of months to finish). I may read more than one book by some authors, if they are available. Whenever I discover a new series, I like to read 2-3 books from that series, one after the other, to get a feel for the author, the development of the series characters and the improving or declining quality of the writing and the plotting.

I will read mysteries from my TBR pile, and fill up the list to 52 with authors from the Reader’s Paradise list that are available at the Reykjavík city library.

The authors are varied. Some are modern, others date back to the Golden Era of detective fiction, and at least one is so old that his books are in the public domain. Several write cosies (mysteries with little or no violence and amateur investigators), others write police procedurals, books based on scientific principles, spy mysteries, futuristic stories or historicals. It’s possible that some of the mysteries may not even be crime related, or not about murder, although that is certainly the most common crime in mysteries. The investigators are a mixture of accidental innocents and amateur sleuths (what I call crime magnets in the case of series characters), private investigators, lawyers, police officers and professional witnesses. I’m sure other kinds of investigators will surface once I start reading.

I will reveal the author’s names only as the challenge progresses, and I will not read them in alphabetical order. I will continue to read and review other books as well.

For my regular readers from Tblog (I’m sure there are still a few, even after my prolonged absence): I am changing the format for the information I give for the books, so that there will be more detail about which mystery sub-genre the book belongs to and what kind of investigator is involved.