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Showing posts from June, 2006

Bibliophile reviews Kleifarvatn (mystery) by Arnaldur Indriðason

I have read all of Arnaldur's previous 5 books about Erlendur and co., but I have only reviewed one. I think maybe I should review the rest, at least the ones that have been translated into other languages.

German title:Kältezone Edit: the English title is The Draining Lake, translated by Bernard Scudder. Scudder died not long ago and will be sorely missed. He was an excellent tralslator.
Author: (alt. spelling) Arnaldur Indridason
Series detective: Erlendur Sveinsson and co.
No. in series: 6
Year of publication: 2004
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Reykjavík, Iceland, 2004; Leipzig, East-Germany, 1950's
Number of deaths: 2
Some themes: Espionage, missing persons, socialism

Story: A scientist checking the water levels of lake Kleifarvatn discovers a human skeleton in a dried-up section of the lake bottom. This marks the beginning of a murder investigation that attempts to connect one of 5 missing men to the Russian-made radio transmitter that was …

Reading challenges

I’ve been thinking about reading challenges. Not just possible future 52 Books challenges for myself, but reading challenges in general.

A reading challenge is a good way to get some focus into your reading if you feel you don't know what to read next, you want to expand your reading horizons, become an expert on a given subject, or break out of a bad reader's block. Hunting down the books can be half the fun if you assign yourself a specific set of books and they turn out to be out of print or otherwise hard to find.

Different challenges suit different people. Some may do a modest book-a-week challenge for one year or plan to read all of a specific author’s books, while others may be more ambitious and embark on a lifetime reading plan of every book mentioned in Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon. Some may want to cover every number in the Dewey catalogue. Including the fractions would be a bit too much for most, but by taking whole numbers only you would get 999 books and man…

Bibliophile reviews A Really Cute Corpse

Author: Joan Hess
Series detective: Claire Malloy
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1988
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur
Setting & time: Arkansas, USA, 1980’s
Number of corpses: 2
Some themes: Beauty pageants, politics (and politicians), the American Dream

Story: When Claire Malloy’s friend is hurt while showing a bunch of beauty pageant contestants their moves, she ropes Claire into helping her to get the pageant going. Someone seems to be trying to injure and/or scare the reigning Miss Thurberfest, who is in town to crown her successor. Some suspect the girl is just trying to attract attention, but when she is found dead in her dressing room no-one is sure what is going on any more. A local politician and his assistant may be involved and the owner of the theatre where the pageant is to take place has been behaving suspiciously. But Claire’s biggest worry is that her friend seems to be harbouring a secret she is unwilling to share.

Review: I first became acquaint…

Mystery author # 20: S.T. Haymon

Title:Death and the Pregnant Virgin
Series detective: Ben Jurnet
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1980
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural village in England, 1980’s
Number of corpses: 4
Some themes: Religion, greed, relationships

Picture pending.

Story: Five years before the beginning of the story, a dog digging in a badger run on the outskirts of the village of Mauthern Barbary unearthed a madonna statue thought to have been destroyed in the time of Henry VIII. The madonna, which looks more like an African fertility goddess than the usual demure Mary, is thought to give the gift of fertility to women who have been unable to conceive. On the fifth anniversary of the unearthing, thousands of couples flock to the village to pray to the madonna for her blessing. A young woman, Rachel Cass, works at the shrine and is loved and respected by all, some even claiming she is a saint. When the shrine is opened to the worshippers on the morning of the anniv…

Bibliophile reviews The Daughter of Time (mystery)

Author:Josephine Tey
Series detective: Inspector Alan Grant
No. in series: 5 of 6
Year of publication: 1951
Type of mystery: Murder, historical
Type of investigator: Professional, aided by an amateur
Setting & time: A hospital in England, 1950's
Some themes: History, regicide

Story: Inspector Grant is lying in bed, recovering from a broken leg and other injuries sustained while trying to capture a criminal. He suffers from boredom until an old friend suggests he try working out some unsolved murder. A portrait of Richard III and people’s comment that the picture looks more like the image of a victim or a judge than a cold-blooded killer gives him interest in trying to discover the true events behind the mystery of the princes in the Tower , possibly the most notorious regicide in the history of England. He needs someone to do research for him, and with the help of a friend he enlists the aid of a young historian who starts ploughing through old documents in search of the truth.

While t…

Bibliowords glossary

Since I sometimes use somewhat specialised vocabulary in my reviews that may baffle some of my visitors (read: I got a complaint) I decided to set down a glossary of words and acronyms I use that may not have made their way into mainstream dictionaries, just in case someone stumbles over them. Some I have used, some I may use later on.

In addition to specifically mystery-related vocabulary, I occasionally use more general literary terms like dénouement, foreshadowing or Deus ex machina. Explanations of these can be found in many dictionaries or any good glossary of literary terms, several of which can be found on the web. Or you can use One Look.

I will be adding more terms as they come along.

Glossary:

Bibliomystery: A mystery that features books, manuscripts, book writing, bookshops, libraries, publishers, booksellers, authors, reviewers or any other book-related subject prominently in the storyline or setting. 

Cosy (alt. American spelling: cozy): Short for cosy mystery. So called be…

My TBR stack just keeps getting bigger...

...and bigger, and bigger. I think I will have to go on a stricter book diet, because this one isn't working. Cancelling the library card has made me read more of my own books, but I am accumulating them faster than I can read them.

Tuesday I went to the charity shop and bought 9 books. Today, Friday, I went back there and was about to leave with one book, when they told me they were giving away books for the day. Back in I went and left with 19 books. That's more than I read last month.

This, of course means that there will be dozens, if not hundreds of new books there on Monday. Bbbbwwwwaaaaaahhhhhaaaaa!

Mystery author #19: Robert Barnard

Note: The reviews may not seem to be quite finished. This is because I want to discuss certain points of the books in the author review at the end, where I will try to tie everything together.



Title:Death of a Mystery Writer
Original (British) title:Unruly Son
Year of publication: 1978
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Main setting & time: Rural England, 1970’s
Number of corpses: 2
Some themes: Dysfunctional family, fame, mystery writing

Story: When famous mystery writer Sir Oliver Fairleigh-Stubbs is murdered with poison on his birthday, there are plenty of possible suspects, including all of his children. Inspector Meredith of the local police has to penetrate the tangle of family animosity and dig deep into the dead man’s past to find the motive.

Review: I have read that this is supposed to be a satire of the classic country house mystery. This is probably due to the rather dark, ironic and, yes, sometimes satirical humour in the story, and the rather exaggerated main…

Bad book-covers revisited

An irregular feature of the original 52 Books blog was Bad Book-covers, where I would pick an ugly, inappropriate or badly designed book-cover and criticise it to pieces. I think I will make this a feature of this blog as well, although it can not be a regular one as sometimes I don't come across a noteworthy bad book-cover for weeks on end. Mostly they just tend to be dull and uninspired, which makes it hard to say anything catty about them, but occasionally I come across a real doozy, which is when I start sharpening my claws...

As a life-long reader I feel that I and other readers deserve books with good covers. The cover is one of the selling points of a book, and is one of four features I consider when making an uninformed book-buying decision (to use marketing jargon). The title is another one, the back-cover introductory blurb a third, and a sample read is the fourth and final feature I consider (I only consider authors as a selling point if I'm familiar with them). If t…

Bibliophile reviews Murder Makes a Pilgrimage

I have a bit of a problem with the two Robert Barnard books I read for the challenge. The endings of both were not to my liking for a reason a regular reader of this blog will be able to guess, and I want to read a third and maybe fourth Barnard to reassure myself it was an unlucky coincidence and not something that happens in all of his books. I may even slip someone into the challenge ahead of him. But here is a review of a book by an author already included in the challenge:



Author: Sister Carol Anne O’Marie
Series detective: Sister Mary Helen, w/ Sister Eileen
No. in series: 5
Year of publication: 1993
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateurs, police
Setting & time: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Number of deaths: 1
Some themes: Abuse, jealousy, family

Story: Sister Mary Helen wins a trip for two to Santiago de Compostela in a sweepstake she doesn’t remember participating in, and invites her friend (and sidekick), Sister Eileen, along. At the airport they meet the rest of t…

Bibliophile's reading report for May 2006

I have now finished a quarter of the book I'm translating, by working for an hour most mornings before going to work and 2 hours after work. Since I no longer have a TV (long story), this leaves the evenings for me to read. I managed to read 17 books in May, and expect there will be more in June, because I am taking two weeks of my summer vacation this month. The plan is to finish the rough translation of the book by the end of next week, then finish some of the the documenting and write the first draft of my thesis. I will then have until August to polish the translation and finish the thesis. I am giving myself a full 8-hour work-day for the academic work, and will use the rest of each day to relax, read, take walks, go swimming and generally enjoy being on holiday. Here are the books I read this month:

Reviewed:
Death in a cold climate and Death of a mystery writer: Robert Barnard (mystery) (in progress)
Death on demand and Something wicked: Carolyn G. Hart (mystery)
The Englishwom…

Bibliophile reviews Man of Two Tribes

Author: Arthur Upfield
Series detective: Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte
No. in series: 20
Year of publication: 1956
Type of mystery: Murder, missing person
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Nullarbor Plain, Australia, 1950’s
Number of deaths: 1
Some themes: Kidnapping, fame-seeking, sexual power and it’s misuse, justice

Story: Bony is sent to try to find a murderess who was recently acquitted of the murder of her husband because she managed to win over the jury. She was last seen on a train going through the Nullarbor Plain, an arid, desolate area on the edge of the Australian desert, and then she disappeared mysteriously in the middle of nowhere. There is evidence that she may be involved in espionage and therefore Bony disguises himself and sets out into the Plain, ostensibly to check on some dingo traps, but really to look around for signs of the missing woman and to try to locate a mysterious helicopter known to have been in the area that night. What he discovers is something …

Mystery author # 18: Carolyn G. Hart

Title:Death on Demand
Series detectives: Annie Laurance and Max Darling
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1987
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateurs, murder magnets
Setting & time: USA, S-Carolina, 1980’s
Number of deaths: 4
Some themes: Books, blackmail, malice, secrets, having to prove one’s innocence

Story: Annie has recently inherited Death on Demand, a specialist mystery bookshop on the small S-Carolina island of Broward’s Rock. She has been holding regular ‘Sunday Night Specials’, a gathering of crime writers who live on the island, but when one of them threatens to expose the other’s dirty secrets, he is murdered. One of them did it, but who? Police chief Salter’s bet is on Annie, and she has to scramble to find the real killer before he arrests her. Fortunately her ex-boyfriend from New York, Max, has tracked her down and is more than willing to help.

Review:
This is the sixth crime magnet story I read for the challenge, and the second bibliomystery. In The Roari…