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Showing posts from November, 2007

Bibliophile reviews The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby

Year published: 1956
Genre: Non-fiction: Memoir, travel
Setting & time: Aboard ship and shore leaves in the UK and Australia; 1938-9

The Story:
In 1938, 19 year old Newby gave up his job as a clerk and signed on for a round trip as an apprentice seaman aboard the freighter Moshulu, one of the last sailing ships that plied the grain route between Britain and Australia. His descriptions of the excitement and hardships of shipboard life make for wonderful reading, and a documentary of a lifestyle that was soon to be extinct. The 1938-9 season was, according to Newby, the last time a fleet of sailing ships vied with one another for the fastest passage from Australia to Britain. After the Second World War was over, the fleet had broken up, many of the ships were destroyed, and ships with engines had mostly taken over the cargo routes.

Review:
Eric Newby had a wonderful way with words and this first book is no exception. He had the ability to make the things he wrote about come alive for the…

Mystery author # 41: Ann Granger

Title:Say it With Poison
Series detective: Consul Meredith Mitchell and D.I. Alan Markby
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1991
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur and police
Setting & time: The Cotsworlds, Britain, late 20th century (timeless)

Story:
Meredith Mitchell arrives in the Cotsworlds for the upcoming wedding of her cousin’s daughter. D.I. Alan Markby of the local police has been asked to give away the bride. Shortly after Meredith arrives, her cousin’s seemingly nice young neighbour is found murdered, and both Meredith and Alan start investigating.

Review:
This is a really good first novel, and a great mystery as well. The two don’t always go together, and it’s refreshing to see a book that has no noticeable symptoms of firstbookitis in neither writing or plotting. The characters are realistically drawn, the writing is good, the mystery has some interesting twists and the clues are devious enough to satisfy even the most demanding mystery lover.

Rating: A r…

Waste of trees and time (and petrol)

This isn’t directly about books, although I have read some that were a true waste of paper and by extension both trees and time.

I participate in two book trading societies on the web: Book Mooch and Title Trader. The books I get from my trading buddies abroad have to go through customs. The customs procedures are incredibly bureaucratic and not nearly as streamlined as they could be.

The system, as delivery concerns, goes something like this: Customs receives my package and the officer decides it could be a delivery from an Ebay seller, and thus fees and taxes would be due. A couple of days later I get a letter, telling me this and asking for permission to open the package to look for an invoice. The law for the protection of personal information is such that they need permission every time. As far as I can tell a standing permission is out of the question for individuals.

I sign the permission and fax it back, with an explanation saying I am being sent the books free of charge, whic…

Mystery author # 40: Edmund Crispin

Title:The Case of the Gilded Fly
Series detective: Gervase Fen, professor of English at Oxford University
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1944
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Gifted amateur
Setting & time: Oxford, England, during World War 2

Story:
An obnoxious young actress is murdered. Several people heard a gunshot, but no-one actually saw a thing, and with supreme assurance of his success, Oxford professor Gervase Fen steps in to solve the case.

Review:
The writing is not bad and the plotting is not too bad, but for some reason I found myself not liking this book. Possibly it’s because I have rarely come across a less likeable sleuth (not even Poirot or Gideon Fell), or possibly it is because there is something too smug about the tone of the book for my taste. Also, I dislike books where all the characters are described in detail right at the start, but the clincher was when I was still not able to tell some of them apart without looking at said descriptions. It did …

Mystery author #39: Michael Pearce

Title:Death of an Effendi
Series detective: Gareth Owen, head of Cairo's Political CID
No. in series: 12
Year of publication: 1999
Type of mystery: Murder, political intrigue, historical
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Cairo, Egypt; 1909

Story:
Owen is sent to keep an eye on a Russian businessman during a conference, but the man is short during a bird hunt and Owen suspects it is murder and not an accidental shooting. But proving it is another matter, especially when a man who may possibly have important information is being kept out of reach. It takes some clever manoeuvring to get to him, and what is revealed is a curious story of idealism, business and politics, but it it may be a small thing for Owen compared with the wrath of his girlfriend when one of the witnesses turns out to be a beautiful woman.

Review:
Pearce writes with a wonderfully light and airy touch, and his characters are three dimensional and human. He manages to tell a light-hearted story about a very se…

Mystery author #38: Elizabeth Daly

Title:Evidence of Things Seen
Series detective: Henry Gamadge, author and expert on rare books
No. in series: 5
Year of publication: 1943
Type of mystery: Murder, possibly supernatural
Type of investigator: Amateur sleuth
Setting & time: The Berkshires, NE-USA; 1940s

Story:
Mrs. Clara Gamadge is holidaying in the Berkshires. Her husband is away on government business and she is alone in a rented summer cottage with her maid. The two women feel a bit creeped out by a mysterious, ghostly figure in a sunbonnet that appears at sunset every 2-3 days, but not enough to flee the house. When the ‘ghost’ scares a horse outside the house, causing an accident in which the cottage’s owner is injured, they bring her into the house. During the night she is murdered, and the police seem to suspect Clara of having done it in a fit of madness. Her husband arrives at this point and immediately figures out whodunnit, but he needs proof, and spends the last half of the book looking for it (the villain is onl…

Reading report for October 2007

I finished 12 books in October, several of them mysteries by authors I had previously not read, so if I can get myself going with the writing, there should be some challenge reviews coming up. About time too, since I want to finish the challenge before the end of the year.

The books:
Anthony Bourdain: Bone in the Throat - hard-boiled crime.
Suzanne Brockmann: Everyday, Average Jones - romance with a touch of thriller.
Edmund Crispin: The Case of the Gilded Fly - murder mystery.
Mary Daheim: Auntie Mayhem - murder mystery.
Franklin Dixon: Frank og Jói á Íslandi - my first (and probably last) Hardy Boys mystery, read because it takes place in Iceland.
Ann Granger: Say it with Poison - murder mystery.
Andrew Greig: Kingdoms of Experience - travel and mountain climbing.
Tony Hillerman: The Blessing Way - mystery thriller.
Eric Newby: The Last Grain Race - memoir.
Nancy Pearl: More Book Lust - lists of reading recommendations.
Barbara Sjoholm: The Pirate Queen: In search of Grace O’Malley and other le…