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Showing posts from December, 2006

Bibliophile reviews To love and be wise by Josephine Tey

A belated Merry Christmas!

I apologise for the long break, but I have been working on a translation and have had neither time nor inclination to write reviews.

Series detective: Inspector Grant
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1950
Type of mystery: Missing person, possible homicide
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural England, 1950s
Some themes:

...there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, that it is impossible to love, and to be wise.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), "On Love"

I thought it suitable to give the relevant full quote from which the book's title is derived, as it has a bearing on the story told in the book.

Said story is a delicious detective tale that knowingly and effectively breaks one of Van Dine's principal rules of detective fiction, but since it would give away too much to reveal which one, I will leave it to you to find out. I will say that a characte…

Bibliophile reviews the movie Mýrin (Jar City)

The film Mýrin (The Mire)is based on the book of the same title by Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason. It was published in English as Jar City (also as Tainted Blood). I read the book a couple of years ago but never got round to reviewing it. Here is a link to Maxine's review: Jar City review.

The story begins with the discovery of the body of a murdered man in a basement apartment in a neighbourhood known as Norðurmýri, The North Mire, so-called because that is what was there before the houses were built. He turns out to have been a vicious thug and the investigation soon leads the police to start trying to find the victims of crimes he committed years before and which may explain why he was murdered. They also decide to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of one of his cronies many years before, an investigation that was closed with what Erlendur, the leading investigator, thinks is suspicious haste.

The movie was directed by Baltasar Kormákur who is probably …

Bibliophile reviews The Roads to Sata (travel) by Alan Booth

Subtitle: A 2.000 mile walk through Japan
Year published: 1985
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Japan, 1980's

Booth had been a resident of Japan for 7 years and spoke the language fluently when he embarked on a walk from the country's northernmost corner at Cape Soya, to it's most southernmost, Cape Sata, in an effort to learn to understand Japan and the Japanese better. The book describes his mostly lonely journey of several months, his visits to tourist sites along the way and to places no tourist would ever go, and his encounters with people that ranged from absurd to funny to near tragic. He met people who refused to believe he spoke Japanese even though he did, people who viewed him like a circus freak and people who were afraid of him, but also people who accepted him with open arms and showed him kindness and friendship.

The most striking things about this travelogue, apart from the high quality writing, is the author's feeling of alienation towards hi…

Mystery author #26: Catherine Aird

Title:Henrietta Who?
Series detective: Detective Inspector Sloan
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1968
Type of mystery: Murder, identity
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural England, 20th century, post WW2

Story: Grace Jenkins is found dead, a hit-and-run victim, in the middle of a village road, and her autopsy shows two things: her death was no accident and she can't possibly be the biological mother of Henrietta, the young woman she has brought up as her daughter. But who was she then, and what's more important: who is Henrietta? She and her boyfriend, and DI Sloan and his men race to try to find the answers, which prove to be, if not entirely unexpected for the reader, rather shocking for the characters.

Review: Here is a genuine old-fashioned mystery with a classical twist. I can't say too much about it, as the whole story hinges of it, but it is about identity that may or may not have to do with the murders that take place in the story. The reader of co…

Bibliophile reviews The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

This is the first of my From the Stacks challenge books I finish reading.


Year published: 1959
Genre: Biography, expatriate memoir

Robin and Tilly Grant and their 5 year old daughter, Elspeth, came to Thika in Kenya in 1912 to start a coffee farm. The book tells the story of the first years of their life on the farm until World War 1 started and Robin joined the army and Tilly and Elspeth left for England. With great clarity and beautiful prose Elspeth writes about the people, both Africans and European settlers, about nature and animals and events. She writes about what she saw as a child, but with an adult’s insight. The narrative is somewhat disjointed at times, as she often jumps years forwards in the middle of a sentence to show what the future outcome of some action or event was, and sometimes I was not sure she had gone back to the same place in the narrative where she had been before the jump. Her story gives an insight into the problems faced by the white settlers of Kenya and o…

November 2006 reading report

I read 21 books this month, mostly mysteries. I am behind with my reviewing, for which I apologise, but I have been reading, which is much more important that writing (for me). I read books by five new mystery authors last month, and will be writing reviews on them soon.

Reviewed and upcoming:
After effects and Henrietta who?: Catherine Aird
The Demon Archer: Paul Doherty
Detection Unlimited: Georgette Heyer
The Flame Trees of Thika: Elspeth Huxley
Death in the Andamans: MM Kaye
Prepared for Murder: Cecile Lamalle
The Dogs of Riga: Henning Mankell
Gideon's Day: JJ Marric
To love and be wise: Josephine Tey

Unreviewed:
The Cat who talked to ghosts: Lilian Jackson Braun
The Homecoming: Marion Chesney
Sex, lies and online dating: Rachel Gibson
Unreliable memoirs: Clive James
Cleopatra's sister: Penelope Lively
Notes from an Italian garden: Joan Marble
Living with books: Alan Powers
Korea: A walk through the land of miracles: Simon Winchester

Rereads: (unreviewed)
Eric: Terry Pratchett
Interesting time…

Bibliophile reviews News from Tartary (travel) by Peter Fleming

Year published: 1936
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: China & India, 1930's

In 1935 the author and his travel companion Ella "Kini" Maillart set off from Peking to travel across Chinese Turkistan (Sinkiang) and all the way to India. The journey took them 7 months, alternatively by truck, on foot, on horseback and by camel, and without major mishaps (but many small ones). The author tells the story with wry humour (mostly at his own expense) and is often full of indignation at the natives for their treatment of their animals, while he carefully avoids admitting that he himself and his companion were also guilty of mistreatment of their own pack and riding animals. The descriptions of the landscapes are often beautiful, while the descriptions of the people they meet are unsentimental and sometimes somewhat coloured by British feelings of superiority, i.e. because he was British he seems to have felt that naturally he knew better how to do things that the na…